As chapter 8 opens, we find Jesus once again locking horns with the Pharisees. If this current debate sounds familiar, it is the same one we discussed in chapter 5 (vss. 31-47). The Pharisees want witnesses to testify that Jesus says He is. In this chapter, Jesus says:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The Pharisees rejected the light that Jesus is trying to give them, not only about His identity but also about their salvation and so, they remain in darkness. Even though Jesus makes the point that not one of them could find fault in Him and He was guilty of no sin (“Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” [John 8:46 ESV]), they still did not believe His testimony about Himself, as if He was guilty of lying. Once again, these people thought they knew all there was to know about Him just as they assumed they knew all they needed to know about God. Jesus lets them know otherwise.
“Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also'” (John 8:19 ESV).
To know the Son is to know the Father. To know the Father is to know the Son. You cannot know one without the other. And in verse 24 we find a crucial point of the whole gospel message:
“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24 ESV).
Unless we choose to see the light, to believe in it, we will die in our sins. We will die in darkness.
Truth vs. Lie
After Jesus says these things, many begin to believe in Him, but to believe is only the beginning:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31 ESV).
To know Jesus, to know the Light, is to know the truth. The Jews respond, “But ‘we are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone’“(John 8:32 ESV). How many times had Israel, these children of Abraham, been conquered by another nation? And for what reason?
Jesus responds, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin“.
Ah, yes. For that reason.
Everyone who practices sin is a slave to it.
These Jews were blind to their slavery. Blind to what held them captive. How about us? Are we ever held captive by sin? Maybe when we don’t even see it? Sometimes, we aren’t even aware of our bondage until we try to break free.
But there is hope.
“…the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36 ESV).
When Jesus frees us from sin, there is no going back. We are free. Completely and totally. We are not slaves anymore. We are not children of a man like Abraham with an earthly inheritance. We are heirs with Christ, children of God, with an eternal inheritance.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”(Rom. 8:14-15 ESV).
Amen. We are free.
The Father of Lies
For the Jews, their whole identity was wrapped up in their claim in the inheritance of Abraham. It was their right, their promise. It was who they were. And it was also what kept tripping them up over and over…
“They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did…'” (John 8:39 ESV).
The works Abraham did. What works were those?
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:2-5 ESV).
The works of Abraham? He believed. In order to claim Abraham as their father (the one they follow), the Jews would have to believe. Because they do not believe truth, they can only claim another “father”.
“You are of your father the devil, and… there is no truth in him…. for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV).
There is no other option. You are either of God or the devil.
“They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.’
Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here’” (John 8:41 ESV).
Because these Jews did not love the things that come from God, namely Jesus, they cannot claim to be of God and thus they can only be of the devil.
“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47 ESV).
Just as many conversations Jesus has with the Pharisees and the Jews this one escalates to a climax. Those who are listening are beginning to get offended and often when that is the case people stop listening or wanting to listen. Some even turn to insults.
“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon!?” (John 8:48 ESV).
But Jesus doesn’t stop. His interest doesn’t lie in bandaging bruised feelings or cushioning hurt egos. His only interest is in the truth.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51 ESV).
Oh, what a wonderful promise! And yet often what is most encouraging to us post-resurrection proved the worst stumbling blocks to the poor Jews. They cannot believe anyone can live forever. Once again they are thinking in earthly terms. Earthly inheritance. Earthly life.
Everything comes to a head when Jesus says one of the most profound things in the book of John.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58 ESV).
The words echo across all time and reverberate in the creation of the world.
Do you have goosebumps? I do!
There are several “I am’s…” in the gospel of John, but none of them have as much significance as this one. And you can be sure, there would have been NO confusion among the Jews as to the meaning here. They knew exactly what Christ meant.
“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”‘” (Exodus 3:13-14 ESV).
Jesus was claiming deity itself. He was claiming to be God! Nothing is as important to us as this one fact. Christ is God. Fully and completely. Only God would have the power to save us from the slavery of sin. Only God could offer eternal life.
And the response to this amazing revelation?
“So they picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59 ESV).
Heartbreaking. And yet, is it any different today?