There are many attributes of Jesus which I admire, and try to emulate. Like most people I gravitate toward the Jesus who is full of love and grace. I don't even mind the Jesus who challenges me to live a more Kingdom focused life. I really like the Jesus who challenges the religious leaders. The Jesus I am most challenged by is the the one who is the master of confrontation.
In the beginning of chapter 8 we have the account of the woman caught in adultery. Here Jesus confronts the accusers but in a very indirect way. Later in the chapter the confrontations become more heated. A group of Jews is gathered around Jesus and a friendly discussion breaks out. There is discussion about Abraham, who many called father. Then the discussion gets heated when Jesus says their father is the devil.
I am not always good at saying the right thing at the right time. There is always a chance I am going to offend someone. When a person starts saying your father is the devil, this will not go over real well, especially if the are devoted to following God. To add to the insult, Jesus tells them they do not even know God the father. It is no wonder the people are getting a little aggressive. Then the final straw is when Jesus says, "Before Abraham was born, I am." This is not merely saying he was around before Abraham, Jesus used the term I am. That is the name God gave Abraham when he asked who should I tell them sent me.
Jesus not only claimed to know God. It was not only that he said those listening didn't. The questioning of the religious status quo was for the most part workable. The claim to be I am, is just too much, and the confrontation moves quickly to violence. They prepare to stone Jesus to death, but he gets away.
I understand the feelings of those angry with Jesus. Anytime someone questions my connection with God, I get a little more than polite with them. Yet Jesus has the authority to ask such questions. I wonder is Jesus is asking us right now, do you really know God, or are you settling for an empty ritual or tradition you have mistaken for God? Abraham was not the problem, it was that the people of Jesus day had replaced God with Abraham, making him an idol. Even good and godly things can become a idol, and when it happens Jesus will confront us through the Holy Spirit. Will you pick up a rock, or find freedom?