John Chapter 8

The-Gospel-of-JohnThe truth shall set you free.”  “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”  “I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  These are the statements we will examine at today.    WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Are you trusting Jesus to be your Savior because he knows best, or are you reserving final judgment just in case a “better” option comes along? Are you trusting God to graciously meet your needs even when you do not fully understand them, or are you clinging to the belief that you know best what God can do for you? Are you still shopping for a better offer? Only Jesus can give forgiveness and eternal life. 

This is one today’s *Life Applications.  Read on for more great insights.

Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman / 8:1–8:11

 8:1–8:3 The teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders did not bring this woman to Jesus to promote justice; they used her to try to trap Jesus. Though indignant toward this woman’s sin, the religious leaders brought her to Jesus with political, not spiritual, motives in mind. They forgot the obvious fact that catching someone in the very act of adultery involves catching two people. Their devaluation of the woman (while ignoring the man’s sin) made her no more than a pawn in their efforts to trap Jesus.

*LIFE APPLICATION: DOUBLE STANDARD

The details of this event are painfully common.  Placing more blame on one person than the other covers a hidden motive: blaming others shifts the load of our own guilt. God stands against double or separate standards for women and men. He rejects the hypocrisy that holds others to a different standard than we hold for ourselves. When we accept our own blame, we take the first step toward experiencing forgiveness.

8:4-6 The Jewish leaders had already disregarded the law by arresting the woman without the man (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). Both were to be stoned. But the proceedings before Jesus had little to do with justice. The leaders were using the woman’s sin as an opportunity to trick Jesus and destroy his credibility with the people. If Jesus were to say that the woman should not be stoned, they could accuse him of violating Moses’ law. If he were to urge them to execute her, they would report him to the Romans, who did not permit the Jews to carry out their own executions (18:31). But Jesus was aware of their intentions and did not give either of the expected responses to the dilemma they placed before him. He simply stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. Many have speculated what he wrote: maybe he was listing the names of those present who had committed adultery (and scaring them to death that he knew it); he might have been listing names and various sins that each person had committed; maybe he was writing out the Ten Commandments to point out that no one could claim to be without sin. In any case, Jesus made the accusers uncomfortable.

8:7-8 The religious leaders could have handled this case without Jesus’ opinion. Jesus was fully aware that the woman was only brought to him so the Pharisees could test him. Jesus’ statement of permission, “All right, stone her,” balanced several crucial points of truth. He upheld the legal penalty for adultery (stoning), so he could not be accused of being against the law. But by requiring that only those who have never sinned throw the first stones, Jesus exposed what was in the accusers’ hearts. Without condoning the woman’s actions, he highlighted the importance of compassion and forgiveness and broadened the spotlight of judgment until every accuser felt himself included. Jesus knew the execution could not be carried out.

How are we to apply Jesus’ statement about only sinless persons rendering judgment? Jesus was not saying that only perfect, sinless people can make accurate accusations, pass judgment, or exact a death penalty. Nor was he excusing adultery or any other sin by saying that everyone sins. This event illustrates that wise judgment flows out of honest motives. Jesus resolved an injustice about to be committed by exposing the hypocrisy of the witnesses against the woman. By making the accusers examine themselves, he exposed their real motives.

Jesus did confront the woman’s sin, but he exercised compassion alongside confrontation. As with the woman at the well (chapter 4), Jesus demonstrated to this woman that she was of greater importance than what she had done wrong.

*LIFE APPLICATION: INEPT JUDGES

The religious leaders who tried to trap Jesus were treating neither the sin nor the sinner with the necessary respect. The same blindness that caused them to not see their own sins made them unable to recognize who Jesus was.

Sin calls for compassion as well as judgment. But final judgment is God’s prerogative alone. Sins may be abhorrent, but sinners have been offered forgiveness in Christ. When we must confront sin, we ought not condemn, but rather present the need and opportunity for forgiveness.

8:9-11 When Jesus invited someone who had not sinned to throw the first stone, the leaders slipped away one by one, from oldest to youngest. Evidently the older men were more aware of their sins than the younger. Age and experience often temper youthful self-righteousness. We all have a sinful nature and are desperately in need of forgiveness and transformation. None of us would have been able to throw the first stone; none of us can claim sinlessness. We, too, would have had to walk away.

*LIFE APPLICATION: HYPOCRISY

How quickly and self-righteously we bring before Jesus the sins of others while overlooking and denying our own sins. These hypocrites were guilty of sin in their own lives and were unwilling to face it. They claimed concern for truth and justice, but were arrogantly using the woman who had fallen into their hands. In their anger at Jesus they made her life cheap.

When you find yourself enraged at others, you may be on the verge of a healthy discovery. You should examine what is behind the rage. Are you covering sins or excusing faults that have made you unusually sensitive to the faults in others? What wrong motives are you masking by your anger?

Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Apparently no one could claim sinlessness so as to stone this woman. Jesus had exposed their hypocrisy and embarrassed them, and there was nothing for them to do but go back and try to think of some other way to trap Jesus.

No one had accused the woman, and Jesus kindly said that he would not condemn her either. But there was more—she was not simply free to go her way. Jesus didn’t just free her from the Pharisees, he wanted to free her from her sin, so he added, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t condemn her, but neither did he ignore or condone her behavior. Jesus told the woman to leave her life of sin.

*LIFE APPLICATION: NOT SIN AGAIN

God hates sin; we must make no mistake about that. But he loves sinners—and that includes each of us. In fact, he loves us so much he sent his Son to die—to take the penalty our sins deserved. Jesus stands ready to forgive any person, but confession, repentance, and a change of heart are the properly prepared ground for forgiveness.

Our intention must be to not sin again. This does not mean that God expects us to never sin again, but he does expect that our life-styles are no longer sinful. Our desire should be no longer to live for ourselves and our pleasures, but to live for God. With God’s help we can accept Christ’s forgiveness and stop making a practice of wrongdoing. Only then will we be really free to not sin again.

Jesus Is the Light of the World / 8:12-20

In no other chapter of the Bible does Jesus make so many declarations about himself.

8:12   This records the dialogues that Jesus had with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem during the Festival of Shelters. In addition to the ceremony with water, huge lamps in the Court of Women in the Temple were lit in commemoration of the pillar of fire that led the Israelites in their wilderness journey (Numbers 9:15-23). The light from those lamps lit up much of Jerusalem. In declaring himself to be the light, Jesus was claiming divinity. In the Bible, “light” symbolizes the holiness of God (see also Psalm 27:1; 36:9; Acts 9:3; 1 John 1:5). As the light, Jesus illumines the truth, gives people spiritual understanding, and reveals to us God himself and what he has done for us.

*LIFE APPLICATION: FIRE AND LIGHT

Jesus was speaking in that part of the temple known as the treasury, where the offerings were collected (8:20) and huge torches or lamps burned to symbolize the pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22). In this context, Jesus called himself the Light of the World. The pillar of fire in the wilderness had represented God’s presence, protection, and guidance, though the holy flames were almost as dangerous to the Israelites as they were to their enemies. They were reminded that: “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24 niv).

Because we no longer depend on fire as a source of light, we might miss the connection Jesus makes between fire and light. In Christ, God became light personified. Jesus brought God’s presence, protection, and guidance into the world in an approachable way. Now God could be known with an intimacy not possible with consuming fire. How well do we know God as a holy fire? Have we allowed Christ as God’s holy light to enlighten us?

In claiming to be the light of the world, Jesus defined his unique position as the one true light for all people, not just the Jews (Isaiah 49:6). Death brings eternal darkness; but to follow Jesus means not stumbling through the darkness, but having the light that leads to life. Believers no longer walk blindly in sin, rather his light shows sin and the need of forgiveness, gives guidance, and leads into eternal life with him.

8:13-14 After Jesus said this, the Pharisees replied, “You are making false claims about yourself!” But they did not know anything about Jesus. They assumed he was talking with no valid testimony from anyone else. Jewish law says that two witnesses are needed for a valid testimony in a capital offense, as their charge of blasphemy was (5:31; also Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus claimed that his testimony was true because Jesus knows God the Father, and the words that Jesus spoke were from the Father himself. Therefore when Jesus spoke, not only was he testifying for himself, but because he spoke the words of God, God was testifying for him as well.

*LIFE APPLICATION: APPEARANCES

People today are very willing to acknowledge the greatness of Jesus as a man but not to acknowledge him as God. By human standards, Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived. Yet human standards are not enough to portray all of Jesus’ true identity. Calling Jesus “great” is faint praise in light of his identity as God. Mere admiration of Jesus as a great leader or teacher falls short. Our response should be to adore him as our Lord.

8:15-16 The religious leaders did not know Jesus’ divine origin and considered him to be no more than a fake Messiah; that is, they were judging him with all their human limitations. While they did that, Jesus was not judging anyone. Jesus meant that while his accusers judged by human standards, he did not. Jesus reserved for himself the right to judge, though that was not the primary reason for his presence. Jesus did not come to judge, but to save. He had already told a noted Pharisee (Nicodemus), “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it” (3:17). But as the Son of man, he has been given the authority to judge; and when the future day of judgment comes, Jesus’ judgment will be correct in every respect because he will judge according to the Father’s will (see 5:27, 45). Therefore, it could be said that while Jesus did not come to judge, his coming led to judgment because it forced a decision—and a rejection of Jesus led to judgment.

8:17-18 The religious leaders did not understand that the Father and Son lived in each other and were with each other (see 10:38; 14:9-11; 17:21). Therefore, even though the Son came from the Father (8:14) and was sent by the Father (8:16, 18), he was not separate from the Father—for the Father who sent the Son came with him and provided testimony for him. His confirming witness was God himself. Jesus and the Father made two witnesses, the number required by the law.

8:19-20 In asking to see his father, the leaders might as well have been saying, “Bring on the other witness; we wish to question him.” If his father was the other witness, then where was he? In their very presence, Jesus affirmed that they knew neither him nor his Father. Their unwillingness to “know” him when he was among them also kept them from knowing the Father, who was just as truly among them.

Jesus had already told them that his Father was with him, but their question showed that they did not know the Son or the Father—for “if you knew me, then you would know my Father, too.” When Jesus speaks, the Father speaks. But this was completely lost on these religious leaders.

Jesus Warns of Coming Judgment / 8:21-30

With chilling brevity, Jesus predicted the fate of those who fail to find him. The Pharisees continued to respond to Jesus out of rigid human standards. Because of this, they continued to be denounced by Jesus. But in this case, Jesus’ hardness proved to be compassion. Only the bluntness of Jesus’ vision of their condition finally broke through to some.

8:21-22 Speaking again to the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus declared, “You will search for me and die in your sin.” If the Jewish religious leaders would not believe in Jesus while he was with them, they would run the risk of not having any further opportunity to receive eternal life. Jesus predicted that they would continue to look for a messiah, though the real one had already been among them. The leaders’ fatal sin would be in rejecting the only one who could save them.

His statement, “You cannot come where I am going,” refers to his death and return to his Father—the religious leaders could not follow him there. The opportunity to speak with Jesus was limited; soon he would leave them having been rejected by them. Those who rejected Jesus would die without having their sins forgiven and would therefore literally not be able to go where Jesus would be.

As in 7:34-36, the Jews could not comprehend Jesus’ words. They surmised that he must be speaking about committing suicide. In Greek, the question expects a negative answer. Instead of responding to their tentative interpretation, Jesus explained why they were unable to comprehend his statements.

*LIFE APPLICATION: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Those questioning Jesus were convinced they understood God’s plan. They thought they had a clear idea of exactly what kind of savior they needed, and Jesus did not fit that pattern.

Are you trusting Jesus to be your Savior because he knows best, or are you reserving final judgment just in case a “better” option comes along? Are you trusting God to graciously meet your needs even when you do not fully understand them, or are you clinging to the belief that you know best what God can do for you? Are you still shopping for a better offer? Only Jesus can give forgiveness and eternal life.

8:23-24 Those from below and of this world are earthly, born of the flesh, incapable of understanding heavenly and spiritual realities (see 3:6; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15). The Pharisees were set in their faulty perspective and were unwilling to consider that they might be wrong. They were looking very hard—in the wrong place. Therefore, Jesus told them, “Unless you believe that I am who I say I am, you will die in your sins.” By refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the divine Son of God, these people were committing spiritual suicide. To die in our sins is the worst that can happen, for it is to die without ever repenting of our sinful life-style or having our guilt and sin covered by the blood of Christ. Jesus confronted the leaders with their crucial need to recognize or reject his divinity. People today face that same need.

8:25 The Pharisees decided to try the direct approach; they asked Jesus, “Tell us who you are.” When the Pharisees pressed Jesus to declare his identity, he answered, “I am the one I have always claimed to be.” Jesus simply refused to answer their question, for to do so would have created an endless argument. Jesus had already revealed his identity to them through his speeches, his miracles, and the Father’s testimony about him. But the Pharisees were unable to understand because they were deaf to his word (8:43).

8:26 Jesus could have said more to them in way of judgment, but he would speak only what his Father commanded. The Pharisees claimed they wanted him to explain his identity, but Jesus knew they were simply heaping judgment on themselves. Instead of continuing an argument with these religious leaders who had already made up their minds not to believe, Jesus would say nothing more to condemn them. Rather, he would speak only what he heard from the one who sent him—and he would speak, not just to the Jews, but to the world. And whatever he says is the Father’s word; thus it is true, reliable, and valid (see also 8:16).

8:27 The Pharisees still didn’t understand that he was talking to them about his Father. They mentally blocked out the possibility that Jesus had come from God the Father and was still accompanied by God the Father, even though Jesus mentioned this twice. Jesus was not alone; the Father who had sent him had come with him (see 8:16, 29). Jesus had not come on his own, and he did not do anything of his own initiative (see 8:28, 42). He lived to please his Father.

8:28-30 The Jews in Jesus’ day understood the expression lifted up to signify crucifixion. That the religious leaders would realize who Jesus was does not mean that they would believe in him. Rather, it means that Jesus’ claims would be proven through the Crucifixion and Resurrection. “I am he” refers immediately to the title “Son of Man.” Jesus was pushing his hearers to recognize his full identity. Jesus was not on his own mission to gain glory for himself; he had come to fulfill the Father’s will by dying on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross exhibited his absolute submission to the Father’s will. He summed it up thus: “I always do those things that are pleasing to him.”

The passage concludes with a crack in the wall of resistance to Jesus. Many who heard, believed. Even among those most unyielding to Jesus were some who surrendered to his character and words. Groups may be labeled as being solidly against Christ, but God specializes in plucking out believers from the most unexpected sources.

*LIFE APPLICATION: THE RISK WORTH TAKING

To people who fear being offensive when they express their faith, the bluntness of Jesus’ statements stands as an example. Sometimes we do not love people enough to risk losing their approval. Jesus took the risk because he loved the people, even those who rejected him. Among those who did respond to Jesus were some who had once been firmly set against him.

At all times Jesus was truthful.  Jesus said what people needed to hear, fully knowing that they did not want to hear it. If we wait to speak about Christ until we are sure the other person is ready to respond, we may never speak at all. Our caution will prevent us from sharing our faith with some who might astound us with their unexpected openness.

Jesus Speaks about God’s True Children / 8:31-47

 Next Jesus singled out the group of people who recently had believed in him. They formed part of the scattered response from among the crowd listening to Jesus in 8:30. Difficulties with this passage arise from the fact that John called them believers in verses 30 and 31, but they proved to be faithless. Their belief in Jesus turned out to be merely superficial. Jesus tested their commitment with his first instructions; their response demonstrates their unwillingness to actually follow the one in whom they had recently declared their faith.

8:31-32 To those who believed in him, Jesus said, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings.” As the following verses demonstrate, some of these new believers did not remain his followers for long. But Jesus urged those who really wanted to remain his disciples to hold to, or continue in, his teachings. John’s report of the failure of one group of followers is a strong lesson. We need to count the cost of following Jesus (see Luke 14:25-35). A true and obedient disciple will know the truth by knowing the one who is the truth, Jesus himself (1:17; 14:6). This knowledge frees people from their bondage to sin (see 8:34). When Jesus spoke of “knowing the truth,” he was speaking of knowing God’s revelation to people. This revelation is embodied in Jesus himself, the Word; therefore, to know the truth is to know Jesus. The truth is not political freedom or intellectual knowledge. Knowing the truth means accepting it, obeying it, and regarding it above all earthly opinion. Doing so offers true spiritual freedom from sin and death. Believers become truly free because they are free to do God’s will, and thus fulfill God’s ultimate purpose in their lives. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us and guiding us on our journey through life.

*LIFE APPLICATION: THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE

Just as the Jews misunderstood what Jesus meant by “the truth shall make you free,” people today still take it the wrong way. In fact, this familiar phrase has been used out of context to promote a wide range of freedoms. Universities use it on their seals to promote the value of academic knowledge. Yet around the world people who know academic truths are still in bondage. So Jesus must have had some other kind of truth and freedom in mind. For many, “knowing the truth” means personal autonomy, creativity, and freedom from oppression and ignorance, which they define as mental slavery. But Jesus didn’t die to guarantee personal freedom of expression.

The error comes when we think of truth as a concept rather than God himself, which was the way Jesus used the term. Jesus clarified his meaning when he said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (8:36 niv). By interchanging truth and Son, Jesus implied that granting freedom is God’s work. So Jesus promised freedom from slavery to sin. That freedom begins when we acknowledge our bondage to sin. Only God can free us through his forgiveness, which he made possible by Christ’s death in our place on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice did not free us “to do our own thing;” rather he freed us from doing our own thing so that we could serve him!

8:33 The Jews thought that Jesus’ words about their needing freedom devalued their ancestry and unique position with God, so they gave Jesus a little history lesson: “We have never been slaves to anyone on earth.” Yet the crowd’s denial of the obvious seems apparent even to us. The Jewish ancestors of these people had been enslaved by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. And they were ruled by the Romans at the moment Jesus spoke. Though not actually in slavery, they were under foreign domination, and were looking for the Messiah to free them from Roman rule. But they insisted that as Abraham’s descendants they were free people who did not need to be “set free.” They also claimed that Abraham’s righteousness guaranteed their righteousness. Their spiritual superiority made them blind to their real slavery to sin. Jesus bluntly challenged their claims.

*LIFE APPLICATION: SET FREE!

Sin has a way of enslaving us, controlling us, dominating us, and dictating our actions. It manifests itself in self-centeredness, rebelliousness, possessiveness, dysfunctional love, and addictive behaviors. Jesus can free us from this slavery that keeps us from becoming the person God created us to be. Even if sin is restraining, mastering, or enslaving us, Jesus can break its power over our life. Jesus himself is the truth that sets us free (8:36). He is the source of truth, the perfect standard of what is right. He frees us from the consequences of sin, from self-deception, and from deception by Satan. He shows us clearly the way to eternal life with God. Thus Jesus does not give us freedom to do what we want, but freedom to follow God. As we seek to serve God, Jesus’ perfect truth frees us to be all that God meant us to be.

8:34-38 Not only was the crowd wrong about their national history, they were also wrong about the meaning of Jesus’ earlier statement. Jesus spoke of a different liberation—that of the soul set free from sin. He pointed out that they did indeed need to be set free, because, “Everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” Jesus went on to explain the difference between a slave and a son. A slave has no permanent standing in the master’s household because he or she can be sold to a different master (in the Roman Empire slaves had no legal status). But a son always has a place in the family. The Jews had a false sense of security because they claimed to be descendants of Abraham—and thus thought this guaranteed them a permanent place in God’s family and household (heaven). But Jesus explained that they, along with all people, were slaves to sin. As such, they had no permanent standing in the Father’s house. The Son of God alone has the power and authority to free people from their bondage to sin. Jesus can free people from the slavery that keeps them from becoming the people God created them to be. Jesus is the source of truth, the perfect standard of what is right. Jesus does not give people freedom to do what they want, but freedom to follow God.

The Jews were Abraham’s descendants only in the physical sense, not spiritually or morally, because they were trying to kill Jesus. In doing so, these leaders revealed that they were not Abraham’s spiritual children. If they had been, they would have recognized their Messiah. Instead, they were following the advice of their father, namely the devil (8:44). Jesus made a distinction between hereditary children and true children. The religious leaders were hereditary children of Abraham (founder of the Jewish nation) and therefore claimed to be children of God. But their actions showed them to be true children of Satan, for they lived under Satan’s guidance.

8:39 The Jews said that their father was Abraham, but Jesus said that if they really were children of Abraham, they would follow his good example. Sons copy their fathers, but the Jewish leaders did not behave like the one whom they claimed as their father. Jesus specifically pointed to their sin of wanting to kill him because this proved that they were not Abraham’s true children. Abraham believed in and obeyed God (see Genesis 12:1-4; 15:6; 22:1-14) and welcomed God’s messengers (Genesis 18:1-8).

8:40-41 They could not claim to have Abraham as their father when they were seeking to kill the one who brought them truth from God, for “Abraham wouldn’t do a thing like that.” Instead, they were obeying their real father. Jesus was speaking of Satan as being their father, but they did not understand this. Instead, they said, “We were not born out of wedlock.” Some commentators have said that this retort was a slur on Jesus’ own birth, but they would not have known about his unusual origins. They all assumed Jesus was Joseph’s son. Rather, they could have been claiming to be unlike the Samaritans, who were not purebred Jews or claiming to be devout monotheists untainted by spiritual fornication with other gods. Since their appeal to Abrahamic privilege was either deflected or challenged by Jesus (see explanation of translation above), they appealed to their position with God: “Our true Father is God himself.” Their retort shows that they took offense at being told that their ancestry did not automatically place them in a privileged moral standing before God. But they did not truly know the one God they claimed as their Father because they did not recognize his Son who had come to give them the truth and to set them free from sin.

8:42 Jesus forcefully challenged the leaders’ claim that they were God’s children. “If God were your Father, you would love me.” If those people truly loved God as their Father, then they would recognize and love the Son. And he repeated for them his origin and mission: “I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me.” Jesus came as the one sent by the Father to bring God’s word to his people.

8:43 Jesus knew that they could not understand because they were unable to do so. They had already made up their minds about him, and thus could not hear and accept what Jesus had to say. Understanding was not the problem; being willing to hear and accept it as the truth was their barrier.

8:44 Jesus told these self-righteous people, “You are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.” A person’s actions reveal what is in his or her heart (see 1 John 3:8). The Devil was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. In short, the Devil is the father of lies. The intent to murder comes from the Devil. The Devil was the instigator of Jesus’ murder (6:70-71; 13:27) and the perpetrator of the lies that the Jews believed about Jesus. The attitudes and actions of the Jewish leaders clearly identified them as followers of the Devil, though they may not have been conscious of this. But their hatred of truth, their lies, and their murderous intentions indicate how much control the Devil had over them. They were Satan’s tools in carrying out his plans; they spoke the very same language of lies. Satan still uses people to obstruct God’s work (Genesis 4:8; Romans 5:12; 1 John 3:12).

*LIFE APPLICATION:  DANGEROUS DEAFNESS

Jesus’ audience was hardened and deaf; the life-giving, enlightening word could not penetrate their closed hearts, ears, and minds. And this was very dangerous because not being open to the words of God made them receptive targets for the devil’s lies. The religious leaders were unable to understand because they refused to listen. Satan used their stubbornness, pride, and prejudices to keep them from believing in Jesus.

If we fill our life with distracting and conflicting messages from the heroes we follow, the books we read, the songs we listen to, and the movies we watch, we will discover that it is harder and harder to “hear” God speaking at all. He has not stopped communicating; we are just listening to other voices.

8:45-46 In contrast to the Devil, who habitually lies, Jesus speaks only the truth—and for that reason was not believed. In the end, Jesus was rejected not only because the Jews judged him to be a Sabbath breaker and blasphemer (5:18), but also because his words to them were very harsh and exposing. In light of his character and words, they could not stand to see and hear the truth about themselves.

If there was a chink in Jesus’ armor, his next question would have been their golden opportunity to destroy him. Jesus left himself completely open for a direct attack, “Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?” Of course, no one could. People who hated him and wanted him dead scrutinized his behavior but could find nothing wrong. And they were grasping at straws trying to make him anything but what he claimed to be. Jesus proved he was God in the flesh by his sinless life. He was speaking the truth, but they refused to believe.

8:47 Although some in his audience had heard and become believers (8:30), most remained deaf because their hearts were hardened (see 12:39-40). They refused to listen to (or obey) the words of God because they were not God’s children.

*LIFE APPLICATION: HEARING AID

Jesus’ use of the word whoever makes his statement easily applicable to our own time. The claim to hear God speak is much easier to make than to prove. Jesus consistently taught that obedience was the indicator of hearing. Take the steps to active listening:

  • Get away from distracting noise.
  • Approach God in a prayerful attitude.
  • Devote your full attention to his Word.
  • Open your heart and mind, and be willing to obey what he said.
  • Don’t argue; listen.

Jesus States He Is Eternal / 8:48-59

At this point, the dialogue between Jesus and his Jewish audience took a decidedly angry turn. Since they had no answer for his clear diagnosis of their spiritual sickness, Jesus’ audience reacted with a verbal attack against him. Up until this point, Jesus’ opponents reserved one final accusation against him: blasphemy. But as Jesus responded to their angry tirade he finally led them to realize the full extent of his claims. He used the “I am” phrase in 8:58 to state his unequivocal claim to divinity. He left no more room for debate. The crowd took up the stones to carry out judgment for blasphemy, but Jesus removed himself from that place. He would choose the time and place for final confrontation.

8:48-50 This is the only instance in the Gospels where Jesus is charged with being a Samaritan. These expressions were filled with great anger. The Samaritans were considered beneath the Jews because of their intermarriage with heathens and their religious impurity. The Jews leveled this charge at Jesus because he, a fellow Jew, had accused them of not being true descendants of Abraham (see 8:37-44). Elsewhere in John, Jesus was accused of being possessed by a demon (see 7:20; 8:52; 10:20).

Jesus did not respond to the charge of being “a Samaritan devil”; he did refute the charge of being demon-possessed. Jesus told the leaders that they were dishonoring him by such a charge because Jesus always sought to honor and glorify his Father. Jesus was not seeking any glory for himself. The Father would seek glory for his Son and judge those who dishonor him.

8:51 Obeying Jesus’ teaching includes relying on the character, ability, strength, and truth of what he promised. When Jesus said that those who obeyed would never die, he was talking about spiritual death, not physical death. Even physical death, however, will eventually be overcome. Those who follow Christ will be raised to live eternally with him.

8:52-53 For Jesus to claim that he could prevent death was for him a claim to be greater than the prophets—indeed, it meant he was claiming to be divine. These Jews were convinced that only a madman (someone who was possessed by a demon) would make such a claim.

8:54-55 Again, Jesus deferred the matter of his divine identity to his relationship with his Father. He could never make the kind of claims he made apart from his union with the Father. If he had come of his own accord, his glory would be worthless. But the Father had sent him, and the Father would glorify him—even if the Jews didn’t. The crux of the matter was that the Jews did not know the Father from whom Jesus came, even though they claimed to know him. The one who really knew the Father and kept his word knew that these Jews were lying.

8:56 Jesus referred to Abraham as their ancestor, but he meant it only in the physical sense. Abraham, by some revelation not directly recorded in Genesis, looked forward to the Messiah’s coming (Hebrews 11:8-13). Several possibilities have been proposed: (1) According to rabbinic tradition, Abraham was given foresight about the future of his descendants. Jesus, perhaps knowing this tradition, pinpointed the one event that would have made Abraham rejoice—the day when the Messiah, his descendant, would come to deliver the world; (2) Genesis 17:7 mentions God’s establishment of an everlasting covenant with Abraham’s offspring, which some take to be a messianic promise; (3) Genesis 22:8 records Abraham’s prophetic words that “God will provide a lamb,” which received their complete fulfillment in Jesus. Of the three interpretations, the first makes the most sense because the text speaks of “my coming”—that is, the time of Christ’s presence on earth.

8:57 Jesus had not claimed to be a contemporary with Abraham or that he had seen Abraham; instead, he said that Abraham had foreseen Jesus’ coming. The comment about Jesus being not yet fifty years old is a roundabout way of saying that he was not yet an old man.

*LIFE APPLICATION: DECISION TIME

When Jesus said that he existed before Abraham was born, he undeniably proclaimed his divinity. Not only did Jesus say that he existed before Abraham; he also applied God’s holy name (I AM—Exodus 3:14) to himself. No other religious figure in all of history has made such claims. Either Jesus was God or he was a madman. His claim to deity demands a response. It cannot be ignored. The Jewish leaders tried to stone Jesus for blasphemy because he claimed equality with God. But Jesus is God. How have you responded to Jesus, the Son of God?

8:58-59 Jesus astounded them with his answer: “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” Abraham, as with all human beings, had come into existence at one point in time. But Jesus never had a beginning—he was eternal and therefore God. He was undeniably proclaiming his divinity. No other religious figure in all of history has made such claims. Either Jesus was God or he was a madman. His claim to deity demands a response. It cannot be ignored.

This was too much for the Jews; these words so incensed them that they picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy in accordance with the law (Leviticus 24:16). The leaders well understood what Jesus was claiming; and because they didn’t believe him, they charged him with blasphemy. In reality, they were really the blasphemers, cursing and attacking the God whom they claimed to serve!

But Jesus hid himself or “was hidden” (perhaps meaning he was hidden by God). John doesn’t say it, but by now we know it—Jesus escaped their attempted stoning because his “time had not yet come.”

www.RidgeFellowship.com

Sources:
— Life Application Bible Commentary
— Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of The Ridge Fellowship: Leander, Jarrell & Taylor, TX
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