Sin

The Gospel of John – True Vision

Advertisements
photo of person using walking stick, blinded, blind
Photo by Eren Li on Pexels.com

Open Your Eyes

Our own vision is blinded by a world where people look down on those who have any form of disability, but let us realise the greater disability is when we are not able to see ourselves for who we are and are unable to recognise God for who He is.

Often when we meet or pass by someone who has any sort of disability, how do we react to that person? Do we overlook them, look at them curiously, feel a tinge of pity, wonder what caused their disability or do we go out of our way to be loving to them? Sadly, in many cultures of the world, there is a widespread belief that disability is a consequence of sin, or the result of some curse on the family, or the individual. There are also those who go so far as to think that the differently-abled were not even created by God.

John Chapter 9, I believe, opens our eyes to see things from a different perspective, and help us understand the heart of God towards those struggling with disabilities, and in the process have a better understanding of where we stand before Him.

Follow the series on John here

Excuses and Criticisms

 This passage describes the Pharisees’ reaction to Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. Rather than being swayed by an obvious sign of divine power, they look for excuses and criticisms. Seeking to discredit the miracle, they interrogate the man’s parents, who timidly defer back to their son. The healed man knows nothing more than this: ”though I was blind, now I see.” His matter-of-fact responses to the Pharisees highlight their obvious prejudice. As a result, they excommunicate the healed man from the synagogue. Jesus will meet with the man in the next passage to give more context for the miracle.”

God’s grace to those who least expect it

Jesus chose a man who was blind from birth (John 9:1–2) and granted him sight (John 9:6–7). This echoes the way in which God, through His grace, offers salvation to those who would otherwise never have had it. It also gives a potent example, proving that not all suffering is a punishment for that person’s wrongdoing (John 9:3–5). The people of the city recognize the man and are shocked that he is now able to see. Though a few doubt that this is the same person (John 9:8–9), most are more interested in knowing how he came to be healed. The man—who left Jesus to wash his eyes while still blind—knows little about how his eyes were cured, other than the fact that it was Jesus who spoke to him (John 9:11).

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

As with other incidents, it’s important not to automatically condemn everything the Pharisees do, just because. The religious leaders of their people, these men are supposed to investigate these kinds of incidents. As was the case with John the Baptist, the Scribes and Pharisees are completely justified in asking what has happened, and why. The problem is not in asking questions—it’s in the hardened hearts and hypocritical attitudes they bring. And there are those within this sect who are more open to the truth.

Advertisements

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. John 9: 13-34


Advertisements

The sixth miraculous sign

This man will be the subject of Jesus’ sixth miraculous “sign” as recorded in the gospel of John. Almost every aspect of this story has spiritual implications, which is why John devotes an unusually long passage to the miracle and its immediate aftermath. The important detail is that this man is blind, a condition often used in Scripture as a metaphor for those who lack saving faith in God. The Old Testament predicted the Messiah would cure blindness (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). In all of Scripture, only Jesus is seen miraculously healing the blind—further proof of His identity (Matthew 11:5; 12:22–23).

It’s also key to notice that this man was born blind. He’s not about to regain something he lost at some point in the past. Jesus is going to give this man an ability that he has literally never had. This provides a powerful parallel to the role of God in bringing us to saving faith, and to salvation by grace.

This man was never able to “see the Light,” until Christ stepped in.

Be consistent and truthful

This is the second time that a man, born blind and healed by Jesus, has been asked to explain “how” he was healed (John 9:10). He’ll be asked yet again in this story, by these same Pharisees (John 9:26), and after his parents have posed the same question (John 9:19) – his answer is consistent and truthful: Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash, resulting in sight.

This is a dangerous line of questioning from the Pharasies – it is self-centered and bound in “tradition-spiritually”. The Pharisees claim that Jesus’ actions directly violate their traditional interpretations of holiness—and they’re right. Jesus’ actions do conflict with their traditions. This, in fact, seems to be the point – as Jesus purposefully tries to show that their shallow approach is not what God intends (John 7:22–24). Human beings easily choose to equate their own opinions with those of God. John includes seven “signs” in this gospel. These are seven miracles meant to prove that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah. The Old Testament predicted that the Promised One would heal blindness (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).

Jesus the Messiah

Jesus’ miracles are meant to prove that He is the Promised One—the Messiah. Since this event is sensational and occurred on a Sabbath day (John 9:14), the people bring the man to be interviewed by the Pharisees (John 9:15).

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees actually had a very positive reputation. They were extremely moral, living by a strict set of rules which had grown out of their traditions. Those traditions were aimed at “protecting” obedience to the law of Moses. In practice, however, the Pharisees treated those traditions as if they were equal to the actual Word of God. Not only did this result in a cold legalism, it led to the arrogance of an “us-versus-them” version of spirituality.

As a result, even when faced with a miracle, these men define right and wrong, and good and evil, according to whether or not the messenger agrees with their interpretations. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem even today. Many groups choose a particular “pet doctrine,” such as a particular day of worship, or a translation of the Bible, and use that as the first test of truth. Those who disagree with that stance are immediately dismissed as sinners, heretics, or false prophets. In effect, this makes that tradition, or doctrine, the real “god” of that sect, blinding them even to miraculous evidence of the truth.

Advertisements

The interrogation continues

The interrogators continue to press the formerly blind man for answers. Throughout this story, the once-blind man is consistent, sincere, and honest. He does not pretend to know anything other than what has actually happened. His conclusion, stated here, is common sense. Jesus has done something profoundly good, and supernaturally powerful. Therefore, the man believes that Jesus is “a prophet.” Since he hasn’t actually seen or spoken to Jesus since being told to wash mud off of his then-still-blind eyes (John 9:11–12), this is as much as he can really assume.

What happens next proves how hard-headed and stubborn religious sceptics can be. People in the crowd realise this is a man who was born blind (John 9:8–9). Even those who doubt have to admit that he certainly looks like the same person—suggesting some explanation other than a miracle. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are so cynical that they want to interview the man’s parents, just to confirm that this is, in fact, the same beggar everyone recognizes!

Advertisements

Extreme sceptics

 Jesus’ harshest critics and greatest resistance come from the very people who ought to know better.

The fact that this man had always been blind, and was known to be blind, leads to extreme scepticism. The religious leaders of Jerusalem simply refuse to believe that this man has been given sight, so they summon his parents. Their goal is to confirm—or, in their case to hopefully disprove—that this is the same man who was known as a blind-from-birth beggar. The scepticism of these leaders is not entirely unjustified. Their role is to shepherd the people of Israel, and that includes investigating spiritual claims. Where they go wrong is not in asking questions; their error is in taking their scepticism to such extreme levels that they refuse to believe, no matter what.

Advertisements

Controversy and insincerity

The parents of the man born blind are being interrogated by local religious leaders. When Jesus grants the man eyesight, the sceptical scribes and Pharisees want to be sure that the now-seeing man is, in fact, the same person who was known as a blind beggar.

Questioning a spiritual claim is not a problem. These men are charged with leadership over the people of Israel, and they are supposed to investigate these kinds of events. Where they go wrong is not in being thorough. Their error is not being sincere; these men have no actual interest in the truth. They are looking for reasons to reject Jesus and His miracles.

The way these leaders phrase their questions to the blind man’s parents betrays that prejudice. Rather than simply asking, “Is this really your son?” they suggest that the parents themselves might be lying. The healed man is referred to as the one “who you say was born blind.” The hidden suggestion is that, perhaps, the man was not really blind, or not always blind, giving these men further opportunity to discredit Jesus.

This disrespect also includes a sense of intimidation. As further verses show, these same religious leaders had already declared that those who supported Jesus would be excommunicated (John 9:22). The formerly blind man’s parents answers will show they’re fearful of the Jewish leaders and want no part of this controversy.

Advertisements

These parents have been called before a council of Jerusalem’s religious leaders. In an effort to investigate—and hopefully to discredit Jesus—the religious leaders interrogate the man’s parents to see if the person claiming to have been healed really is their son, and if he really was blind his entire life.

The parents’ response is timid and short for a reason. The religious leaders of Jerusalem have already declared a punishment for anyone who follows Jesus: excommunication. The formerly-blind man’s parents seek to tell the truth, but they’re clearly not willing to say anything beyond the bare facts which they, themselves, can know.

The meaning of the miracle—the message behind the “sign”—is lost on the Pharasies, since they refuse to believe in Jesus

The parents pointedly state that they don’t know “who” healed their son. While this is almost certainly true, it might also be part of their effort to avoid trouble.

Give Glory to God

The command “give glory to God” here is a way of demanding that a person speak the truth. Typically, using it implies that the other person needs to confess some sin or deception (Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 6:5). In modern days, this is somewhat like a judge telling a defendant, “come, now, tell the truth…” The religious leaders further prove their prejudice by stating “we know…” Jesus is a sinner. This echoes their initial rejection of the miracle: they refused to accept it because they had already decided that Jesus didn’t agree with their traditions (John 9:16). By hinting that the man is lying, and claiming to “know” that Jesus is false, the scribes and Pharisees are trying to intimidate the formerly-blind man into changing his story.

Spectacular faithful response

This effort backfires spectacularly. The healed man will produce a profound summary of saving faith, and his simple, common-sense approach to facts will embarrass the hard-headed, willfully ignorant religious leaders. The man’s response here is an excellent summary of how saving faith operates. Scripture often uses sight—or light—as a metaphor for faith. This man is not a trained scholar, or wealthy, or well-read. He knows nothing about Jesus’ prior ministry or the details of Jesus ministry. But what he does know, he knows for sure:

He had been blind, and now he can see!

The profound, inexplicable change brought by an encounter with Christ was beyond debate. For Christians, this is the cornerstone of our testimony: the influence of Christ in our own lives. This is what opens our conversation with others about the reality of the gospel (Mark 5:19), and which leads into all of our other evidence and arguments

1 Peter 3:15–16 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Jesus’ healing of a man born blind is clearly miraculous

The repetitive, casual, confident response from the man sends the religious leaders into a tantrum. Rather than acting as impartial judges, these men will resort to insults (John 9:28; 34). Unfortunately for them, this will only make the situation worse, as the beggar continues to counter their bile with common sense truth.

The same man who sarcastically challenged the scribes and Pharisees earlier now responds to their insults. Once again, his tone is sardonic, biting, and confrontational. All the same, his point is much the same as the one he previously gave (John 9:25). Despite what people might claim they don’t know about Jesus, what we do know about Jesus is more than enough to make the right conclusion! The religious leaders are trying to dismiss Jesus for being an outsider—the healed man is pointing out that this is a poor excuse.

The once-blind man isn’t done, either. In the face of abuse and interrogation by the religious leaders of his home, this man will proceed to teach the self-styled teachers of Israel what they ought to understand.

The beggar is pointing out that even if they don’t know everything about Jesus, the fact that He’s performing healing miracles is evidence enough.

This man will continue to apply this theme by pointing out that Jesus’ miracle is not only a potent sign—it’s a unique sign which no other prophet had accomplished before.

Advertisements

The “bottom line” 

The formerly-blind beggar, for his part, responded with bravery and remarkably clear thinking. His overall point, delivered with heavy sarcasm, has been that Jesus’ miracles themselves ought to be evidence enough that He’s been sent by God.

Here, the healed man makes this statement in clear and direct terms. This is almost identical to the conclusion Nicodemus brought to Jesus earlier in the gospel of John (John 3:1–2). This verse is the summary of the man’s response to the insults of the scribes and Pharisees, who tried to reject Jesus as a “sinner” instead of accepting His miracles.

At this point, the religious leaders of Jerusalem have been thoroughly embarrassed. They have failed to debunk Jesus’ miracle. They have responded in angry insults to one of their witnesses. And, they’ve been “taught” some common sense spiritual truth by a man they consider beneath them.

In a very practical sense, this man’s experience is a compressed version of what it means to convert to Christianity. He has given a “sight” he never before possessed (John 9:1–2), by someone he had never before known (John 9:11–12). The only thing he knows for certain is the effects of this change on his own life (John 9:25). And, when he stands up for the truth of his own experience, the world insults and abuses him (John 9:28, 34), much the same way it did Jesus.

Advertisements

Latest from the Blog

Release Your Regrets

Advertisements Once you have recognised your regret for what it is, you are then ready for the next step: release your regrets. Ask yourself these five questions: Do you regret committing a sin? Your regret may have been something you did that put distance between you and God. Letting go of that regret will requireContinue reading →

Recognise Your Regrets

Advertisements I have been thinking of regrets lately and I hope to take my experience with empowering you to respond constructively to any type of regret. Recognise your regrets for what they are. What exactly is it that you are feeling badly about? Have you either underestimated or overestimated how serious it is? What powerContinue reading →

Loving Your Regrets

Advertisements Regrets. We all have them. It may be something you wish you hadn’t done, or a missed opportunity where you didn’t take action and wish that you had. It might be something that was done to you; you were the victim, yet you still feel regret. The Sorry Cycle Whether it’s something from lastContinue reading →

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 1 comment

The Gospel of John – Like Father, Like Son

Advertisements

Father and son

In the next part of the gospel of John, the word “father” appears over a dozen times.

This passage really is about “fathers” and “sons.”

It deals with those crucial issues which caused many to reject and resist Jesus Christ as the Messiah, while at the same time bringing others to faith in Him. The issues dealt with in this passage are those with which many in our culture struggle today. Let’s learn what the Word of God has to say to us about “fathers,” “sons,” and “freedom.”

This is a passage which dovetails with John 2:13–22, where Jesus drives corrupt businessmen from the temple. These Scriptures disprove any myths that Jesus was weak, timid, passive, or soft.

Jesus felt every emotion we feel today.

In this exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus pulls no punches. Jerusalem’s religious leaders, and their followers, continue to resist Jesus’ preaching. They rely on arrogance and insults, to which Jesus responds with blunt, unfiltered condemnation. This culminates in Jesus making an overt statement of His own divinity, punctuating the debate by declaring ”before Abraham was, I am!’

Follow the series on John here

Advertisements

Dispute Over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

Advertisements

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Jesus’ Claims About Himself

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 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 obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8: 31-59


Advertisements

The Father and Son continues

However, the last post left you to believe – there are those who “believed” in Jesus were expressing saving faith. However, the Bible distinguishes between those who believe in a shallow, superficial sense from those who express legitimate faith in Christ. Verse 31 explains one of the ways to know the difference: those who truly submit to Christ “abide in [His] word” (John 8:12; John 5:38; 1 John 2:14).

The conversation Jesus has now is still mostly aimed at the Pharisees, but it actually includes all of the hostile crowd which has now gathered.

The truth will set you free

The most enticing aspect of sin is the promise of freedom. Even from the first temptation, in the garden of Eden, man has assumed that defying God is a way to control his own destiny. In fact, the opposite is true. Nothing enslaves like sin—it corrupts our thinking, controls our actions, and destroys our peace. Worst of all, it separates us from God (Ephesians 2:12 – “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world”) and condemns us to an eternity of loneliness and shame (Matthew 8:12 -But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”).

Jesus, on the other hand, represents the truth—that is, Himself.

This is a theme Christ will return to often in His teachings. No other claims are true, and nothing but truth can really free us.

The truth can hurt or provide comfort

Comforting lies are never as beneficial as loving truth. Even when the truth is not what we want to hear, we can’t expect to make good decisions or correct choices when we’re operating under the control of a lie. As Christ stated earlier in this dialogue, He—alone—is the “light of the world,” the one and only means to apprehend truth. True freedom is found in the forgiveness of sin and service to God, and this is only found when we accept Jesus.

However, the information being discussed here is not the same kind of knowledge for which Jesus offered human evidence. Those were issues such as eyewitness to miracles and the content of the Scriptures. Here, as Jesus will respond next, only one person has ever actually seen the truths being claimed, so only that person can speak of them.

Advertisements

Spiritual freedom

The “they” referred to is a collection of Jewish religious leaders and their followers. Jesus is debating them in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1–2). Prior to this moment, Jesus has claimed to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and therefore the only source of spiritual truth.

In the prior verses, Jesus reemphasised this point by claiming that those who “abide in [His] word” are those who know the truth, and are set free by that truth.

Later, He will clarify that those who have not accepted this truth are still slaves to sin (John 8:34). The response from the hostile crowd is not merely bizarre, it demonstrates a lack of insight.

The “freedom” Jesus has spoken of is spiritual: those who reject Christ are still enslaved to sin. This results in both eternal damnation and earthly consequences (Romans 1:26–27“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”). The people who remark back about their freedom seem to think that if they are not actual slaves, in a social sense, they have no need to be freed. In this way, their reaction proves that they do not understand the point Jesus is making.

It’s absurd

The absurd side to this argument is that it ignores both Israel’s history and her current situation! In the past, Israel was often subjugated to other nations—the entire book of Judges describes the nation’s cycles of sin, oppression, and rescue. At one point, the vast majority of the Jewish people were carried off into captivity (Daniel 1:1; Esther 2:5–6). And, most obviously, the nation of Israel had been enslaved by the nation of Egypt prior to the events of the book of Exodus. At the very moment these words were spoken, Israel was under the absolute control of the Roman Empire. It’s mind-boggling that they could claim to have “never been enslaved to anyone.” Then again, so is their inability to recognise their enslavement to sin.

We’re all slaves to sin

Advertisements

Jesus uses the phrase translated as “truly, truly,” or “very truly.” This is from a doubled use of the Aramaic word amēn. Used at the end of a statement, as many cultures do in prayer even today, it suggests a hope that the words will be fulfilled, or that they are true. Used at the beginning of a statement, it is a claim to absolute, original, first-hand knowledge.

It’s important to realise what Christ is saying here, and what He is not saying. . Without question, Jesus is pointing out that sin is a mark of following darkness, instead of His light (1 John 1:5-10).

Sin, by definition, means choosing earthly, worldly things over heavenly things.

What Jesus is not saying is that all sin, at all times, should be interpreted to mean that the sinner has no relationship to Christ. The Greek of this phrase makes this nuance much easier to understand than any English translation. The exact phrasing used is pas ho poiōn ho hamartia doulos ho hamartia. Literally, this means “everyone who keeps practicing sin is a slave of sin.” In other words, Jesus is now speaking of a habitual, persistent sin. Those who are free in Christ may stumble into darkness, but they do not perpetually “walk” in it (John 8:12).

Enslaving nature of sin

Advertisements

Jesus explains the enslaving nature of sin, as compared to the freedom He offers in salvation. He has already claimed to be the one and only source of spiritual truth (John 8:12), and that accepting this truth would rescue a person from sin and spiritual slavery (John 8:31–32). His noting that those who habitually practise sin are slaves to sin—these are not people who have been “set free.” He draws out the distinction between a household servant and an actual son of the house.

Slaves—from the Greek term doula–meaning a “bondservant”—were the equivalent of employees in the ancient world. They lived in the master’s house, and had a certain kind of relationship with the master. However, they were not actually part of the master’s family. Eventually, these bondservants would leave, or be dismissed. Only the actual children of the master had a permanent right to live in the home. The classic example of this is found in Genesis 21, where Ishmael, Abraham’s son through the servant Hagar, is dismissed from the home; his son Isaac, through his wife, remains. This, according to Jesus, applies to our spiritual relationship to God.

Specifically, Jesus is referring to the crowd’s earlier claim to being the children of Abraham. As Jesus will soon point out, His critics may be “in the house” of Abraham, but they are not really “children” of Abraham, since they are not spiritually part of God’s family.

Sooner or later, as with any other “slave,” they will find themselves cast out.

The son sets you free

John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” is one of the most inspirational phrases in all of Scripture. While sin enslaves us, true freedom is found only in Christ. Sin deceives by promising freedom when all it does is control and corrupt us. Those who don’t have faith in Christ are bound by sin (Romans 6:18), and subject not only to slavery but to spiritual death. Those who find Christ, the one and only source of spiritual truth (John 8:12), will be “truly” free.

The Father’s will

When Jesus claims to be doing the will of His “Father,” these critics responded by laying claim to their ancestry through Abraham. Christ’s reply is that biological fatherhood is not as important as spiritual fatherhood. Jesus has just used the example of a household servant, who is not a permanent part of a family, in contrast to a son, who is always guaranteed access to his father (John 4:15–16). This was an analogy to the difference between those who merely know “about” God—including the spiritually obstinate Pharisees—in contrast to those who truly know God because they know Christ.

Christ is the real, promised “son” of Abraham (Galatians 3:16).

So, the “real” children of Abraham are those who obey God, by accepting Christ (Galatians 3:26“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”). This is the subtext behind the rest of Jesus’ dialogue with the crowd.

Advertisements

 Spiritually the sons of God

Jesus’ analogy highlights the difference between a household servant and the master’s son. One is not a permanent part of the family, while the other is guaranteed a place with the master. The “true” sons of Abraham, then, are those who are spiritually the sons of God—a status only available to those who trust in Christ.

Jesus is aware that the religious leaders of Jerusalem, and their followers—called “the Jews” here in the gospel of John—are the descendants of Abraham. However, they are not really part of God’s family, since they don’t accept the message of God. That message includes Christ (John 6:29). Since they reject Jesus, they also reject God, and cannot claim to have His truth, or His light, inside them. Jesus’ challenge to their spiritual arrogance has led them, not only to reject Him, but to attempt to kill Him.

This leads Jesus to continue the analogy of “fatherhood,” by making a brutally condemning remark – Jesus will suggest that the people opposing Him are following the example of their spiritual father…who is neither God nor Abraham. Rather, according to Christ, their father is the Devil (John 8:44)!

Misinterpreted references

As the man given a promise by God, Abraham represents an anchor point for the Jewish understanding that they are God’s chosen people. In trying to dispute Jesus’ claims to spiritual truth, the religious leaders of Jerusalem have misinterpreted His references to His “father.” Their claim, in response, was to profess their descent from Abraham. As Jesus has pointed out, however, being a part of God’s family is driven by faith and spirit, not by genealogy. The “true” children of Abraham are those who obey God, which includes following His son, Jesus Christ. As Abraham followed God, so too will his spiritual children.

After claiming that the people opposing Him are not really sons of Abraham, Jesus now begins to refer to “your father,” meaning the spiritual father of these obstinate critics. While Jesus comes by the will of God and does what His Father wants Him to do, the people who seek to kill Him are acting in the example of their father. Jesus will subtly make this point several times before outright naming the true spiritual father of His enemies: the Devil.

Unsurprisingly, this escalation leads Jesus’ critics to resort to insults, accusations of insanity and another attempt on His life.

Insulting Jesus

The critics, seemingly confused about the meaning of this, once again state that they are children of Abraham. This repeated reference might also be a subtle insult to Jesus, by hinting at His scandalous birth. Later, this subtlety will be gone and the crowd will outright accuse Jesus of being an illegitimate child.

Here, Jesus takes a slightly different approach. In the prior verse, He spoke to the hostile crowd about “your father,” meaning someone other than Abraham or God. Here, He begins to point out that the actions of these critics prove their real spiritual state. They don’t do as Abraham did, so they are not Abraham’s children. Instead, their actions imitate the Devil, their true (spiritual) father.

Advertisements

The twist

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

The conversation takes a nasty turn. Prior to this, the crowd’s attacks on Jesus have been somewhat formal. They have disputed His claims, condemned His words, and even tried to have Him arrested or killed. At this moment, though, they resort to outright personal insults. The statement “we were not born of sexual immorality” is a direct slur against Jesus, whose birth was a subject of some controversy. In short, the critics are smearing Jesus’ reputation by calling Him an illegitimate child.

Jesus’ response shows that He is not the passive, soft, weak-eyed cartoon character so often imagined. Instead, He forcefully repeats His claim that these men reject Him because they reject God—they are the spiritual children of Satan (John 8:44)! This turmoil will escalate until Jesus once again claims to be God incarnate, at which point the crowd will resort to violence.

Adamant resistance

Jesus’ critics have adamantly resisted His teachings. Since Abraham believed God, and these men do not, they are not part of Abraham’s spiritual family. Instead, they are the children of some other father. So far, their conduct has been marked by violence (John 5:18), deception (John 7:21–24), and hypocrisy (John 8:1–11). They reject the message of Christ because they do not want to hear it (John 8:43). They’ve even insulted Jesus’ family by insinuating that He is an illegitimate child—a “son of fornication” (John 8:41). Here, Jesus completes His statement about the true spiritual father of these critics, in spectacular fashion.

In no uncertain terms, Jesus states that these hateful enemies are, in fact, the spiritual children of the devil. He refers to murder, resistance to the truth, and lies—all of which were part of His earlier criticism of these men. This is not a soft, timid response on the part of Jesus. This is an open, overt rebuke delivered against religious leaders who are leading others to hell (Matthew 23:15). Contrary to the caricature of Jesus as a fragile mystic, passages such as these prove His ability to present righteous strength.

Advertisements

Jesus sinless life

Jesus now brings out another major piece of evidence which supports His claims: His sinless life. If the religious leaders had a single incident which they could use to accuse Jesus of immorality, they would have already brought it out. This is why they resorted to cheap tricks and challenges—they had no other “dirt” to throw. Here, Jesus brings this up directly: none of these men can accuse Him of any sin!

This ties into the hypocrisy of their rejection. If Jesus is attested to by miracles, displays a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), and speaks the truth, why would they not believe Him? The answer will be repeated: they are not of God and do not want to hear.

The men opposing Jesus sink even lower in their approach. The Jewish people saw Samaritans as despised half-breeds. This cultural hatred was a major reason why Jesus’ actions in the Samaritan town of Sychar were so controversial (John 4:1–9). Calling Jesus a “Samaritan” combined two insults into one: mocking His birth and accusing Him of heresy. Referring to someone as demon-possessed was, in that day, equivalent to calling them crazy. Unable to give reasonable answers to His teaching, those opposed to Jesus are resorting to petty insults. Unfortunately, this tactic is still common in debates today, where mocking and slurs take the place of actual discussion.

Jesus vs His critics

Jesus makes an important distinction here, which further shows the difference between Him and His critics. Everything Jesus did in His earthly ministry was intended to glorify God the Father. And, Jesus always pointed His mission, His words, and all of the credit for those accomplishments to God (John 8:50). The Pharisees, like other religious leaders of that era, were more interested in their own power and prestige than in the truth (Matthew 20:25; Luke 11:43; Matthew 23:6). Since Jesus’ message conflicts with what they want to believe, they refuse to understand it (John 7:17). This is why Jesus was comfortable in saying that they were, spiritually, the children of the devil, not of Abraham (John 8:44).

Recently, this same hostile crowd has resorted to petty insults. These critics have insulted Jesus’ birth and accused Him of being insane. This only goes to prove the point Jesus has made over and over: those who reject the One sent by God are also rejecting God (John 3:36). To dishonour Jesus is to spit in the face of God the Father.

God being the judge is brief and often overlooked. However, in the context of this conversation, it is extremely important. The men arguing with Jesus at this moment are beyond reason (Matthew 7:6) and have begun to use vile insults (John 8:41; 8:48). Jesus’ remark defers judgment for those actions to God (Romans 12:19). Instead of becoming flustered or enraged, Jesus shrugs those slurs off and leaves the consequences to God.

Advertisements

One way to Salvation

Jesus’s words here are in contrast to those who do not “hear,” “walk,” or “believe” according to His message. Those who “keep His word,” in this context, are those who express saving faith in God’s Son. Those who reject Christ, however, are condemned to spiritual death.

The critics once again invoke the superiority of their ancestors. The question asked is phrased in such a way that it expects a “no” answer. This is like asking “you don’t think…do you?” in English. Jesus has claimed that those who follow God, by accepting His teachings, will not “taste death” (John 8:51). These men are challenging that by pointing out—in their confusion—that Abraham and the prophets died. Is Jesus claiming to bring a superior message?

Ironically, this is exactly what Jesus is doing, which is the main theme of the book of Hebrews.

However, in this case, Jesus is speaking of a consistent message from God. This is one that Abraham, and all the other prophets, were aware of. Jesus is about to follow the crucial question asked here—”who do you think you are?”—to a spectacular and outrageous conclusion.

These men, who hypocritically protect their own power instead of following the truth, do not know God.

 In other words, these men haven’t even encountered or learned about God, while Jesus has personal, direct knowledge of Him. The gulf between Christ’s understanding of God and their understanding is not just intellectual, and not just spiritual. The difference is fundamental: Jesus knows God because He is God. This is a point Jesus will make very directly in the closing of this passage.

Closing

Jesus clarifies by saying that Abraham’s faith looked forward to the Promised One—and Jesus is that One. Therefore, when Jesus claims to bring a message which frees men from death, that message includes those who came before Him, such as Abraham. In making this statement, Jesus implies that He witnessed Abraham’s life in a direct, personal way.

Jesus responds to disbelief from His critics. He indicates that Abraham looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, and “rejoiced” to see Jesus’ day finally arrive. His word choices, in the original Greek, imply a kind of knowledge that is inborn, innate, and natural. This led His critics to jeer: “you’re not even fifty, how can you have seen Abraham?”

Jesus answers with what some refer to as the “hidden ‘I AM'” statement, since it’s not typically counted among the others. Ironically, this is perhaps the most direct of all of Jesus’ uses of this phrase. The meaning is certainly not lost on His critics. When Jesus claims the title of “I AM,” everyone listening knows exactly what He means: that He is God (John 10:33). Those who suggest that Jesus never actually claimed to be God should consider the reaction of the religious leaders to His words, shown in the next verse. They are so enraged that they attempt to stone Jesus (John 8:59) right then and there.

Advertisements

Smite me, oh Mighty Smiter

Advertisements Oh mighty smiter! Smite me! Oh wait, you keep doing it! Bring it on. I can take it! Remember that line from the movie “Bruce Almighty”… “smite me oh mighty smiter”. Well… I got some questions for God, some questions for fellow believers. God makes promises throughout the Bible. Are those promises meant forContinue reading →

In The Garden

Advertisements “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses…and the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses…And he walks with meand he talks with me…and he tells me I am his own…and the joy we share as we carry there…no other has ever known……HeContinue reading →

Psalm 23 – The Great Shepherd

Advertisements The great Shepherd, The Lord  In Him I do not lack I rest in His presence in pastures green, and I am given the water of life Water refreshing my soul My guiding light on paths right Valleys are darkest – I fear nothing    For the great shepherd is nearest A rod and a staff,Continue reading →

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 2 comments

The Gospel of John – I Am The Light of the World

Advertisements

Seven times in the gospel of John, Jesus makes the powerful statement beginning with the phrase “I am.” These comments echo the words of God to Moses in Exodus 3:1414 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”. There, when Moses asks who he should say has sent him to Israel, God tells Moses to tell the people “I AM WHO AM…Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” This phrase implies the simplest expression of God’s nature: He just is, He must be. When Jesus uses this phrasing, He is deliberately invoking that same essence.

Follow the series on John here

Advertisements

Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.


Dispute Over Who Jesus Is

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him. John 8:12-30

Advertisements

What happened?

This incident occurs during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Jesus uses the festival rituals as analogies for His role as the Messiah (John 7:37–3837 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”). Lamps would be lit using wicks made from priestly garments as part of this major festival,. In addition, light was a powerful metaphor in Hebrew thinking.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless; Malachi 4:2 – But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.

“Light,” for the Jewish person, was the ultimate ideal, a representation of salvation, knowledge, and goodness. For Jesus to claim to be the “light of the world” was no small thing. In fact, it is a claim to equality with God. Even further, the Greek of this passage indicates Jesus’ claim to be “the” light, not merely “a” light. In the text’s original Greek, Christ says “Egō eimi to phos tou kosmou,” which explicitly claims He is the single, solitary source of “light.”

Escalating conflict

This statement sparks a dialogue which continues to escalate, until the Pharisees are enraged enough to attempt to kill Jesus then and there.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus was challenged by religious leaders for proof of His claims. There, Jesus agreed that it was necessary to have evidence—a person could not simply take someone’s word when they made bold claims. In that exchange, not long after healing a man crippled for decades, Jesus offered three separate lines of evidence supporting His ministry (John 5:30–47). In that context, and for those issues, Jesus agreed that other evidence was not only available, but necessary. This is the same basic argument being made here, this time by the Pharisees.

However, the information being discussed here is not the same kind of knowledge for which Jesus offered human evidence. Those were issues such as eyewitness to miracles and the content of the Scriptures. Here, as Jesus will respond in the next verse, only one person has ever actually seen the truths being claimed, so only that person can speak of them.

Advertisements

Jesus is his own witness

Some time ago, Jesus had debated with local religious leaders over His teaching and healing ministry. At that time, Jesus appealed to three separate lines of evidence to support His claims (John 5:30–47). At that moment, the topic at hand was a topic which other people had seen and witnessed. Namely, the content of the Scriptures, the occurrence of Jesus’ miracles, and the claims of other people. In the prior verse, after Jesus claimed to be “the light of the world,” the Pharisees have challenged Him with that standard of proof. Their claim is that this remark is just like Jesus’ earlier claims, and so He cannot “bear witness” about Himself.

For these statements, Jesus and Jesus alone had the authority to testify.

Here, however, Jesus takes an approach to evidence which is drastically different, but compatible with His prior remarks. In earlier debates, Jesus was discussing issues which the Pharisees had an equal access to knowledge. They could just as easily read the Scriptures, see the miracles, and hear from other people as anyone else. In this case, however, Jesus is speaking directly of things which no person on earth has first-hand knowledge of.

Judge Appropriately

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Something that I have always believed is this – judge not, unless that judgement puts a person back on the right track to Jesus.

Advertisements

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not give a blanket command that Christians ought not judge at all. Rather, Jesus’ remarks about judgment were in the context of judging appropriately (John 7:24). Here, Jesus points out that the Pharisees are using flawed, unspiritual judgment.

He, on the other hand, is not yet executing judgment, even though He has the right and the authority to do so! At this point in His ministry, Jesus role is not to bring judgment for sin (John 3:17 – “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.“)—this judgment comes later, on those who reject Him and His message (John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.“; John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”).

Jesus gives this response to the Pharisees who challenge His claim to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12 – “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”). While issues such as miracles and Scripture are subject to human testimony (John 5:36–41), Jesus speaks of heavenly matters. On those, only He has true knowledge, so only He can speak truthfully about them. Even so, Jesus can point to two separate “persons” to support His claim: Himself and God the Father (John 5:18). The Pharisees earlier claim that Jesus’ “I AM” statement cannot be accepted, then, is missing the mark. Jesus’ unflattering remarks about these religious leaders are part of an escalating pattern in this dialogue, which will end with the Pharisees in a murderous rage.

Jesus is God

A common claim of those who reject Jesus’ divine nature is that “He never claimed to be God.” Verses such as this show that to be false. When a person claims to do what only God can do, or to know what only God can know, that is the same as claiming to be God. Jesus’ enemies know this all too well, and it’s the reason He is accused of blasphemy by those who seek to have Him killed. Jesus claims to speak with divine authority—that His judgment is identical to that of God the Father, and that He was in fact sent by God the Father.

This makes Jesus’ judgment, and His moral authority, far superior to that of the religious leaders who are opposing Him. Even by human standards, they are using the wrong kind of discernment: they are judging “by the flesh.” Jesus is not only using “right judgment” (John 7:24), He has access to judgment based in the very will of God.

Advertisements

Testimony of two and himself

It is interesting that Jesus uses the phrase “your law”. Most likely, He is referring to Deuteronomy. Generally, when Jesus refers to the Old Testament, He calls it “the law” or “the Law of Moses,” or “the Scriptures.” The words used here means that Jesus is speaking of some other, non-scriptural Rabbinic law. In this conversation, the Pharisees will question Jesus’ birth (John 8:41), His sanity (John 8:48), and even try to kill Him (John 8:59). Jesus has already criticised the judgment of these opposing religious leaders (John 8:15). Later, He will claim that they do not know God (John 8:19), that they are children of the Devil (John 8:44), and that they are liars (John 8:55).

Specifically, the Pharisees have challenged Jesus claim to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12). This is quite a grand suggestion, implying that Jesus is the sole source of both salvation and spiritual wisdom. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus noted that some claims should be supported with earthly evidence, which He provided to prove His claims (John 5:30–47). Now, however, Jesus is speaking of heavenly issues, which no other person has seen or experienced. To testify about Himself, then, is perfectly legitimate. Even more so, Jesus has the testimony of a second person: God the Father (John 8:18).

Jesus is defending an inherently spiritual claim. Earlier, Jesus said He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). This is knowledge which no other person could have—so for Jesus to testify about Himself is legitimate.

Further, those who oppose Him are using improper judgment in order to dismiss Him. Not only is it valid for Jesus to testify about something He alone has seen, He also has the support of an additional witness: God the Father. In this case, Jesus is once again pointing to the miracles He has performed as evidence that God supports His ministry (John 20:30–31). This is a key part of the gospel of John’s proof that Jesus is not only Messiah, but God incarnate. Even by the Pharisees own law and logic, miracles as proof of God’s approval should be an acceptable argument (John 3:1–2).

Of course, logic and law are not the primary goal of the Pharisees in this moment. Rather than wrangle this point, they will attempt to shift the conversation, challenging Jesus’ references to God as His father.

Advertisements

Where is your Father

Jesus defends His claim to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus claimed to have equal judgment to God, whom He called His “Father.” This was part of Jesus’ argument that, as the only man who had actually seen the heavenly things He was speaking of, it was acceptable for Him to “testify” about Himself. The miracles He performed were proof—by the Pharisees own logic (John 3:1–2)—that His mission was approved by God. In response, the Pharisees have diverted the conversation to question what Jesus means when He speaks of His “father.”

This terminology would have been both confusing and controversial for the Pharisees. They did not think of God in terms of a Father-Son-Holy Spirit trinity, and certainly did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. The question asked here might also be a subtle dig at Jesus. One of the insults these men will throw at Him later is an allusion to His birth, hinting that His lack of an earthly father was, in fact, because He was an illegitimate child.

Jesus continues to directly castigate these critics. Jewish people, especially those highly educated in the Law of Moses, prided themselves on “knowing” God. For Jesus to claim that they do not know God is a cutting remark. Beyond that, Jesus adds to His claims of divinity. Those who know Jesus Christ know God (John 1:14), and those who reject Jesus Christ are turning away from God (John 3:36).

His hour had not yet come

The conversation between Jesus and his critics—in this case, the Pharisees—continues to escalate. Jesus is directly condemning their judgment (John 8:15) and their spirituality (John 8:19). After claiming to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus says that these men do not know Him, nor do they know His Father.

Despite suggestions that Jesus never claimed to be God, this is part of Jesus’ consistent pattern. In this conversation, He professes to have the judgment of God (John 8:16), to have knowledge only God can know (John 8:26), and to be the sole source of spiritual truth (John 8:31–32). That controversy is not lost on Jesus’ opponents, who often attempted to have Him arrested (John 7:32). In some cases, they even became angry enough to attempt to stone Him (John 5:18). Here, as in some other cases, the Bible gives no specific reason why they are not able to take Jesus into custody. Whether by natural or supernatural intervention, or simply out of fear of the crowd, Jesus’ enemies are not yet able to silence Him.

From God’s perspective, of course, the reason Jesus is not yet being taken captive is simple: this is not yet His time. That moment will come (John 17:1), but for now, God the Father has other plans for His Son.

Advertisements

These men do not know Him, nor do they know His Father

The conversation between Jesus and his critics—in this case, the Pharisees—continues to escalate. Jesus is directly condemning their judgment (John 8:15) and their spirituality (John 8:19). After claiming to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), Jesus says that these men do not know Him, nor do they know His Father.

Despite suggestions that Jesus never claimed to be God, this is part of Jesus’ consistent pattern. In this conversation, He professes to have the judgment of God (John 8:16), to have knowledge only God can know (John 8:26), and to be the sole source of spiritual truth (John 8:31–32). That controversy is not lost on Jesus’ opponents, who often attempted to have Him arrested (John 7:32). In some cases, they even became angry enough to attempt to stone Him (John 5:18). Here, as in some other cases, the Bible gives no specific reason why they are not able to take Jesus into custody. Whether by natural or supernatural intervention, or simply out of fear of the crowd, Jesus’ enemies are not yet able to silence Him.

From God’s perspective, of course, the reason Jesus is not yet being taken captive is simple: this is not yet His time. That moment will come (John 17:1), but for now, God the Father has other plans for His Son.

Jesus specifically condemns the Pharisees and their lack of faith. Sooner or later, their time to accept Christ would end, and even though they might seek Him, they’d be damned for their sins. Later, Jesus will re-emphasize this point, telling those who reject Him that they are destined to die for their spiritual stubbornness (John 8:24).

You are from below; I am from above

Jesus not only makes grand claims about Himself, He also directly attacks the spirituality of the Pharisees, His primary critics. This conversation will continue to escalate, with Jesus making His claims more outrageous, and His attacks more pointed. The Pharisees will counter with insults and accusations of insanity, before once again attempting to have Jesus stoned for blasphemy.

Jesus has recently referred to Himself as “the light of the world,” which implies that He is the one, single source of spiritual truth. Jesus has also claimed to have been sent by God the Father (John 8:16), as evidenced by miracles. For this reason, Jesus claims to be able to speak of things which others on earth have never seen. Here, He makes a similar remark. The men attacking Him are part of the “the world,” which carries a dual meaning in Scripture. “The world” can refer to the human, fallen, sinful mindset. It can also mean this physical realm. Both descriptions apply to the men Jesus is debating, but primarily, He means that this lowly place is where these men are from—where they were born. Jesus has His home in heaven, and is not bound by the sins and errors of His detractors (Hebrews 4:15).

Advertisements

One way to Salvation

One way sign with copy-space.

Once again, Jesus professes to be the one and only option for salvation. Earlier, when claiming to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12), He made the same suggestion. Then, while debating with the Pharisees, Jesus directly said that those who reject Him “will die in [their] sins” (John 8:21). Since Jesus is sent by God the father (John 8:16), comes from heaven (John 8:23), and does the will of God (John 7:28–29), those who reject Him cannot be saved (John 3:36). To turn your back on Christ is to turn your back on God Himself (John 6:29).

This is the context of Jesus’ recent comments about going where He cannot be followed. First and foremost, this means returning to heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection (John 20:17). However, it also reflects the fact that these men are running out of time to accept their Savior. At some point, they’ll realize they need to seek Christ, but it will be too late (Luke 16:19–31).

Interestingly, Jesus once again uses the “I AM” phrasing here. In the gospel of John, there are seven highlighted moments where Jesus describes Himself using this specific expression. While this is not one of those, the meaning is the same. When God stated His identity in Exodus 3:14, He referred to Himself as “I AM,” using a Hebrew phrasing implying necessary existence and absolute truth. When Jesus states in this verse that one must believe “I am he,” it’s yet another instance where He does, in fact, tell others that He is God.

Walk away…eventually

It’s important to note that, at this point, Jesus does not offer additional proof or argument. This is a useful principle for modern Christians to keep in mind: at some point, those who ask for even more proof are not being honest. Those who refuse to accept what they’ve been given won’t benefit from being given even more (Matthew 7:6). As Jesus will point out in the next verse, there is much more which could be said, but hardened hearts like theirs would make such efforts a waste of time.

All of this, sadly, is lost on the men attacking Jesus. As the next verse indicates, they simply do not understand. At the same time, Scripture makes it clear that a person’s intent comes before their ability to understand. The evidence is there, and the truth is there, but those who do not want to understand cannot understand (John 7:17). Jesus is not going to waste additional time giving proofs or evidence to those who have no interest whatsoever in truth (Matthew 7:6).

The men debating with Jesus are not interpreting His words with an understanding that He is the Promised One. Nor do they understand that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Knowing this clarifies both their resistance, and some of the questions and challenges they are posing. When Jesus speaks of His “Father,” their minds jump immediately to an earthly, biological father. For them, it is confusing to hear Jesus speak of God, and then use the term “father,” in this debate.

However, simple misunderstanding is not the root cause of their disagreement. This is not unintentional ignorance—this is purposeful, stubborn refusal to see the truth. As Jesus has said before, only those who want to do the will of God can truly understand His words (John 7:17). This means, simply, that a person’s intentions are more powerful than someone else’s evidence. The Pharisees do not want to know Jesus, and that is why they cannot understand His message.

Lifted up

Jesus predicts His own death, lays claim to being the fulfillment of prophecy, equates Himself both with Messiah and God, and professes that His words and actions are those of God Himself.

In Jesus’ day, crucifixion was considered to be so vile, so brutal, and so shameful that people rarely spoke of it directly. Instead, they would use various metaphors, such as being “lifted up.” This is particularly common reference for Jesus, who often speaks of how the Messiah—Jesus Himself—must be “lifted up” in order to accomplish His mission (John 3:14; John 12:32).

The term “Son of Man” was one Jewish listeners would have immediately recognized. In Daniel, the Messianic figure is described as “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7:13–14). When Jesus uses this phrase, His audience knows precisely what He is referring to. Many of them, also, know that Jesus was fond of using this expression in reference to Himself (Matthew 8:20; Mark 8:21; Luke 12:10; John 3:13–14).

In verse 24, Jesus had used the expression “I am he” in reference to His role as the One source of salvation (John 3:16–18). This echoes the famous words of God, who identified Himself to Moses by stating “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Jesus echoes this same claim often. In the gospel of John, seven such statements are given special attention, including one earlier in this very conversation (John 8:12).

Jesus also makes another comment linking His words and His teachings, to those of God the Father. In the next verse, Jesus will continue to explain how He is eternally, continually in communion and agreement with His heavenly Father.

Sent by God

A major theme of Jesus’ teaching in this debate with the Pharisees is the fact that He has been sent by God. The miracles Jesus has done, in and of themselves, should tell these critics that He is operating with the blessing of God (John 5:36). Jesus has also been consistent in professing to have God’s judgment (John 8:16), power (John 5:19), and knowledge (John 7:16). He has overtly stated His role as the one and only source of spiritual truth (John 8:12). And yet, critics such as the Pharisees reject Jesus—they fail to grasp His message (John 7:17), not because they cannot know, but because they do not want to know.

Even when human friends abandon Him, Jesus will still be with God the Father (John 16:32). This ties directly into Jesus’ constant reminders that His mission is to do the will of God (John 6:38). This makes those who reject Him all the more rightly condemned; to reject Jesus Christ is to reject God Himself (John 3:36).

Believe but not truly believe

Many, if not most, of the people listening to Jesus in this particular moment will not maintain their support for Him in the coming days. Just as some expressed a shallow sort of “belief” after Jesus fed thousands (John 6:22–25), but then turned away when they did not like His teaching (John 6:66), the people Jesus speaks to know will, for the most part, turn their backs on Him as He continues to confront Pharisaical attitudes towards God.

Advertisements

Late Mother’s Fight Against Cancer

Advertisements Hi brothers and sisters in Christ Donate here I am making a personal appeal for your help for my financial recovery. Why am I in financial distress? My Mom was diagnosed with esophagus cancer in December 2017. As a family, we pulled together what immediate money we had available to start her radiation treatmentContinue reading →

Learning from Christian Persecutions- Radical Faith!

Advertisements Christian Persecutions Persecution of Christians remains one of the biggest humans rights issues in the world. If the recent reports in Afghanistan are to be believed, that is a prime examples of Christian Persecutions. There are millions of Christian’s living worldwide in countries where high levels of persecutions are experienced. We have much toContinue reading →

The soil of Your Heart – God’s Voice

Advertisements It is vitally important for ever Christian to grow spiritually. We ought to seek growth in our relationship with God. We do this by preparing the soil of our hearts. That is the theme of this post – prepare the soil of your heart. Today, we look at God’s voice and how God’s voiceContinue reading →

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 1 comment