The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Gospel of John
What are we to make of silence? Jesus is accused of being a Samaritan and demon-possessed, as if either one or the other was not bad enough. He responds directly to one charge and not at all to the other.
If Jesus is able to convince the accusers he is not demon-possessed, does he mind being considered a Samaritan?
The news of his extended stay in Samaria — and of those baptized there — has almost certainly followed Jesus. In chapter 8 he has returned to Jerusalem, and the scribes and Pharisees seek to hold him accountable for associating with the heretical other.
To deny the charge of being a Samaritan would have implied support for the prejudice against Samaritans. The silence of Jesus implies there is no dishonor in being a Samaritan.
His argument against being demon-possessed would – if accepted – have compelled the scribes and Pharisees to see Samaritans and even Gentiles as having the same claim to God’s glory as the Jews.
“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him,” Jesus proclaims. It is knowledge of God that constitutes true faith. Other tests are merely forms of religious self-glorification.
This is the fourth post in a weekend series that will conclude on December 24. The purpose is to examine possible principles for inter-religious relations emerging from six scriptural texts.
The first post on December 3 was Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.
The second post on December 4 was Avoid Samaritan Towns.
The third post on December 5 was The Woman at Jacob’s Well.
Tomorrow: A Samaritan town rejects Jesus.