Christology

John 08:31-47, “Children of God, or Sons of Satan?”

 

Genealogy window, Canterbury Cathedral

Genealogy window, Canterbury Cathedral (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

Whose child are you?

We recognize that fathers are important. There are but two men on all of human history who had no father: the first Adam and the last Adam. The first man, Adam, who was formed by God from the dust of the ground, and Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the last Adam in 1 Corinthians, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Every other man in the history of humanity had an earthly father.

Whose child are you? The Bible puts great stress on genealogy. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis trace the generations from Adam to Noah, from the Creation to the Flood. After the Flood, the genealogical record is picked up again from the three sons of Noah down through the Tower of Babel to the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12.

From there the line is traced from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Jacob’s 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. From the Exodus from Egypt, to the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, to the exile in Babylon, to the return from exile, close genealogical records were kept. The records were kept because God had promised a Messiah through the line of Judah and the line of David, a King who would forever sit upon the throne of his father David.

Coming to the New Testament, Matthew and Luke pick up the genealogical line from Adam and from Abraham and show that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne, the One who had been promised by God.

Today, inheritance is often determined by genealogical records. The father passes his inheritance to his sons. Land is inherited from the father.

Character Traits

It is not only rights to reign or land or inheritance that is passed from father to son. Character and mannerisms and other traits are often passed from father to son. As the son of my father, I will sometimes do something or feel something, and say to myself, “Wow! That was just like Dad!”

I imagine that most of know who our father is. Many of us grew up in a home where the father was present and exercised a great deal of influence on the family and on the children. The presence of a father helps us to find our identity, to know who we are. We have a saying in English, “Like father, like son.” Or in French, “Tel père, tel fils.” We say that a child is a “chip off the old block.” When you chop wood, the chips of wood that fly are of the same nature as the block that you are chopping.

The earlier form of this phrase is ‘chip of the same block’. The block in question may have been stone or wood. It dates back to at least 1621, when it appears in that form in Bishop (of Lincoln) Robert Sanderson’s Sermons:

“Am not I a child of the same Adam … a chip of the same block, with him?”

The phrase “a chip of the old block” means that the son behaves in the same way as his father or resembles his father.”

The influence of fathers on sons is great. So when I ask, “Whose child are you?” I am asking about the influence on your life. I am asking about your identity, who you identify as having the most important influence on your character.

In John 8, three fathers are mentioned, and none of them without importance. In fact, of the three fathers that are mentioned, only one of them was a human father. Besides our human father, every one of us is the child of another father. Every one of us has another father whose character we reflect. So when we try to answer the question, “Whose child are you?” we need to look beyond mere human genealogy. Whose child are you?

John 8:31-47

Our text today is John 8:31-47. Jesus is debating with the Jewish authorities. He has claimed to be the Light of the World (8:12). He has told the Jews, “Unless you believe that I am (he) you will die in your sins” (8:24). Beginning in verse 31, we hear him speaking in the strongest of terms, confronting the Jewish authorities for their sin. This Jesus is not some weakling. He is not intimidated by these men who are determined to kill him. He does not back down one bit. He confronts them, and yet he does so in love, but make no mistake: this is not a friendly dialogue. This is a debate that is full of manly energy. Here is the text:

John 8:31-47 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.”

They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father– even God.” 

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Children of Abraham

This passage speaks of three fathers. First there is Abraham. He is the man whom the Jews considered to be their father. The Jews took great pride in their descent from Abraham, and they are greatly offended that Jesus would imply that they were slaves.

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

But they were greatly offended.

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘you will become free’?” (8:33).

Many privileges came with being the children of Abraham. This is how Paul expresses it in…

Romans 9:4-8 NLT They (the Jews) are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. 5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 

There were great privileges as well as responsibilities for the children of Abraham. They had received the Word of God, the promises and the blessing of the covenant that God had made with them.

Romans 3:2 NLT Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

They also had the responsibility to share God’s Word with the nations. While the nation as a whole was not faithful to the task of evangelizing the nations, the prophets continually addressed their works not only to Israel but also to the surrounding nations, kingdoms, and empires.

As great as the privileges were, Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 9,

6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.

Being the children of Abraham was not simply a matter of biology. Descent from Abraham was no guarantee that one was right with God or that one was a child of God or that he would have a share in the kingdom of God.

Romans 2:28-29 NLT For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

Being a child of God means having a new heart. God had promised in Ezekiel

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Eze 36:25-27 ESV).

The proof of the gospel is a new heart.

In verse 37, Jesus recognizes that the Jews are the offspring of Abraham, but in verse 39 he says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works Abraham did.” Jesus may be making a distinction between offspring and children. In fact, in the original Greek text, the word is σπρμα (Joh 8:33, 37 BNT). They had claimed to be the sperm or the seed of Abraham (8:33), and Jesus says, “I know that you are the seed of Abraham (8:37), but if you were the true children of Abraham you would act like your father (8:39).

They are doing what Abraham would never do: “you are seeking to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (8:37). Again in verses 39 and 40,

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.”

“Like father, like son”? Well, they were not acting like the man whom they claimed as their father.

Human Ancestry is Nothing

The Jews put their confidence in their ancestry. They were the offspring of Abraham, and they believed that that was all that mattered.

Are we any different today? We look at our ancestry and think we are okay with God. This is a Christian nation, so we are okay with God. It doesn’t matter how we live or what we do or what we think, long God yumi stanup. Just like the Jews who trusted in their descent from Abraham many people put their trust in their Christian heritage.

Heritage is a great thing and can be a great blessing. We think of people who laid down their lives to bring us the gospel. God moved in these islands and many people came to know the Lord. Some of us have descended from a significant line of Christians. But that has no value if we have not been saved from our sins.

I can trace back several generations of preachers in my family: my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather. But that has no value unless I am born again, unless I become a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Nicodemus was a very religious man, a chef of the Pharisees. He would pray and fast and tithe on everything, but Jesus told him that even he had to be born again. There must be a new birth, a birth into the family of God. Whose child are you?

Violence toward Christ

Jesus pushes this issue with the Jews. They claim to be the offspring of Abraham.

John 8:37-41 NLT Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father. 39 Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”

Here Jesus is claiming once again that God is his own Father. It is good for us to remember what John told us in John 5:18, that every time Jesus says “my father,” he claiming that “God is his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Jesus is saying, “I am like my Father, and you are like your father. You claim to be the children of Abraham, but you are not acting like Abraham. You are trying to kill me. You are following the advice of your real father. I am telling you the truth that I heard from my Father, but you not acting like Abraham. You are acting like your real father.”

Who is their real father?

 They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

Is that true? Is God really their Father?

Fatherhood of God

Some speak of the fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. It is true that we are all brothers and sisters in the sense that we all descended from one man, Adam.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… (Act 17:24-26 ESV)

God has made us all. He is the Creator of us all. But Jesus clearly makes a distinction that the Jews are not ready to receive. The Jews claim that Abraham is their father. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham. Instead, they are acting like their true father.

“We are not illegitimate children,” they reply.

The Jews may have been implying that Jesus was illegitimate. In verse 19, they ask, “Where is your father?” Now in verse 41, they say, “We were not born of sexual immorality.” They may have been implying something about Mary. We know from the biblical record that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph did not know her physically until she brought forth her firstborn son. But the Jews did not know all this. There had been questions about Mary and Joseph.

But they still don’t get it. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham; they are acting like their real father. Who is that?

“We have one Father—even God,” they say.

But no, Jesus categorically denies that: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came no of m own accord, but he sent me.”

“If God were your Father,” Jesus says, “you would love me.” Do they love him? No. They want to kill him.

Who wants to kill Jesus? Most people are not openly hostile to Jesus. He is said to be one of the world’s greatest teachers. Some will say that he was a prophet. And if you say these things to most people, there will be little or no objection.

So why did the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus? They wanted to kill him because he claimed to be much more than a great teacher or a great prophet. He claimed to be equal with God:

This was why the Jews were seeking al the more to kill him… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (5:18).

Again in chapter 7:2, “He would not go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him.”

Jesus asks in 7:19, “Why do you seek to kill me?” In 7:25, “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?” The Jewish authorities tried to arrest him in 7:30 and 44, but they could not because his hour had not yet come and because no one could take his life from him.

MUSIC: MICHAEL W. SMITH: SECRET AMBITION – 3:41

The Jewish authorities were violent toward Christ. Is it not the same today? When we begin to lay out the claims of Christ, some people get upset. People don’t like what Jesus said about himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said, “no man comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Jesus said that he was the only way to God. People don’t like that. They want to keep their options open. They want to believe that there are many ways to God and that God is obligated to accept them however they come, whether through Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or some other way. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is the only true God who is at the Father’s side as John tells us in John 1:18. They don’t want to believe that seeing Jesus is seeing God as Jesus told Philip in 14:9. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is “Lord and God” as Thomas declared in John 20:28.

But Jesus told the Jewish authorities, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

“I came from God.” No mere mortal could make such a statement. Jesus is pointing to his divine origin. Unlike us, he came from God.

“Why do you not understand what I say?” he asks. Then he answers his own question: “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (8:43).

Again, we see the importance of the word of Christ. In verse 31, Jesus has said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:37 ESV I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

John 8:43 ESV Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

Finally, Jesus tells them what they do not understand. They have claimed to be the children of Abraham, but twice Jesus told them that rather than acting like the children of Abraham, they were acting like their father.

They claimed that God was their father. Jesus said that if God were their Father, they would love the Father’s Son.

So they are neither the children of Abraham nor the children of God. Then whose children are they?

Jesus finally drops the bomb in verse 44: “You are of your father the devil.”

We must understand that Jesus is not insulting them. He is simply telling them that they are acting like their father. “Like father, like son.” “Tel père, tel fils.”

John 8:44 ESV You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Satan was a murderer from the beginning. It was Satan who inspired Cain to kill his brother Abel. Now the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus. They are resisting the truth about Christ, the truth that He is God in the flesh. They are resisting because the truth has no place in them. They are resisting because they cannot bear to hear his word. They are resisting because they are acting like their father, the devil.

This is true, not only of the Jewish authorities; it is true of us. The Bible says of us in…

Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We were following the course of this world. We were going with the flow. We were living like everyone else. We were living like the world, just doing what culture and society expected of us.

But we were not only following the course of the world; we were following the prince of the power of the air: Satan. He is the spirit that is now working in those who are disobedient to the gospel. We were living according to the passions of our flesh, doing whatever our body and mind desired. We were by nature children of wrath.

That is exactly what Jesus is saying when he says, “You are of your father the devil.” “Like father, like son.”

Whose child are you?

Who is your father? Physical descent has no importance when it comes to spiritual things. My father’s faith will not get me into heaven. God has no grandsons. I do not become a child of God by virtue of the faith of my parents.

There is only one way into God’s family: receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior.

John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” by the Spirit of God.

So what is the solution?

We come back to the word of verses 31-32,

John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

See also “Gospel of John”:

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John 08:31-36, “Life’s Greatest Freedom!”

Jesus Will Set You Free

Jesus Will Set You Free (Photo credit: Kevin Shorter)

Freedom. Every year, around the world, many countries celebrate independence. In less than two months, here in Vanuatu we will celebrate 34 years of independence on July 30, 2014. When we think of independence, we think of freedom. Freedom is one of the great ideas associated with independence. Freedom. But what is freedom? Today I’d like to speak to you about Life’s Greatest Freedom…

Introduction

What is life’s greatest freedom? We live in a free country. We have many freedoms. We have

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to live and to travel
  • Freedom to work
  • Freedom to marry and to raise a family
  • Freedom to vote

We can be grateful for these freedoms. We can be thankful for the heritage that we have that enables us to enjoy these freedoms. It is a great thing to take responsibility. It is wonderful for a people to be able to govern themselves, choose their own leaders, provide for their own children, and live in a way that glorifies the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Long God yumi standup.

We also have freedom from certain things. We have…

  • Freedom from tyranny
  • Freedom from oppression
  • Freedom from persecution
  • Freedom from slavery

But are we really free?

Many people think that they are free but have never experienced the freedom that God wants to give them.

We have been considering the message of the Gospel of John. Last week we saw that Jesus is the Light of the World. As he was teaching in the temple, “many believed in him” (John 8:30). And so we arrive at…

John 8:31-36 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

So we come today to this most important passage about life’s greatest freedom. This passage contains one of those verses that is so well-known, that we don’t really know it at all. How many times have we heard the phrase, “The truth will set you free”? Many universities around the world take a motto from this passage. These universities are places of higher learning. They are interested in knowledge and in the communication of knowledge. Universities sometimes think that they have a corner on truth and knowledge. And as I said, some of them have adopted the motto, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

But the problem with this motto is that it is taken out of its context. This motto, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” is often used without any consideration of who said it, to whom it was addressed, or the conditions that are necessary to receive the benefit of this promise.

 

2.         THE PROMISE OF FREEDOM

2.1.      The Addressees

First we should note that Jesus makes a great promise in these verses, but that promise is addressed to a particular group of people. Jesus is not making a general promise that applies to all people in all places at all points of time. Jesus is not saying that all people will know the truth. He is not saying that everyone will be set free. This promise is made to those who are truly his disciples. Verse 30 says that many of the Jews believed in him as a result of his teaching in the temple. The next verse says, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2.2.      Jesus’ Promise

Second, this not some general principle that knowledge leads to freedom. Jesus is not telling us that education will set people free. Education can be good, but education is not the solution to the problems that we face in society today. There are many people with great knowledge who have not found freedom. The Book of Revelation speaks of those who have “learned what some call the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). They are not free.

In the beginning, God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Up to that point, everything was good. Everything that Adam and Eve knew was good and they were free. But with disobedience came the knowledge of evil. That knowledge of evil did not liberate; it enslaved. That knowledge of evil did not lead to freedom; it led to bondage, slavery.

It is not general knowledge that leads to freedom. It is the knowledge of the truth that leads to freedom.

2.3.      THE Truth

Jesus says, “…you will know THE TRUTH, and THE TRUTH will set you free.” Some deny the possibility of knowing the truth. Some deny the existence of the truth. “There is no absolute truth,” they say. Is that true? It is absolutely true that there is no absolute truth? You see, such a statement is self-defeating. To state that there is no truth is to make a truth claim. If you say that all truth is relative, you are contradicting yourself for you have just made a truth statement about all truth, not just some truth.

Jesus speaks about THE truth, the truth that sets men free.

The Bible mentions “the truth” 76 times. The Bible speaks of…

  • Knowing the truth (Joh 8:32)
  • Believing the truth (2Th 2:12)
  • Listening to the truth (2Ti 4:4)
  • Speaking the truth (Pro 12:17)
  • Bearing witness to the truth (Joh 5:33)
  • Rejoicing in the truth (1Co 13:6)
  • Loving the truth (2Th 2:10)
  • Being established in the truth (2Pe 1:12)
  • Standing in the truth (Joh 8:44)
  • Keeping in step with the truth (Gal 2:14)
  • Walking in the truth (3Jo 1:4)
  • Practicing the truth (1Jo 1:6)
  • Obeying the truth (Rom 2:8)

It also warns about…

  • Swerving from the truth (2Ti 2:18)
  • Wandering from the truth (Jam 5:19)
  • Turning away from the truth (Tit 1:14)
  • Exchanging the truth for a lie (Rom 1:25)
  • Suppressing the truth (Rom 1:18)
  • Being false to the truth (Jam 3:14)
  • Opposing the truth (2Ti 3:8)

But the promise that Jesus makes here is “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

3.         THE SHOCKING TRUTH

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

3.1.      Different levels of belief

The Jews took issue with Jesus over the question of freedom. Many of them had professed to believe in Jesus. It seems that they had taken the first steps of discipleship: they believed on him.

But Jesus knows that there are many levels of belief.

  • Some believed that Jesus was a man sent from God, like one of the prophets.
  • Some believed that he was going to set them free from the Romans.
  • Some believed because of the miracles that they saw.

Jesus knows that there are people today who know and believe that he lived.

  • Some believe that he lived and died and rose again, but it has no impact on their lives.
  • Some believe because their parents believed.
  • Some believe because they grew up in the church.
  • Some believe because other people in their village believe.

Jesus knows about all about the different ways that people believe in him. So Jesus said to these believing Jews:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This was a shocking statement to the Jews. They reacted strongly to what Jesus had said. They were supposed to be believers, but they couldn’t believe what Jesus had just said.

John 8:33 ESV They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus had said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The implication was that although they believed, they did not know the truth and that they were not free.

How would you like to be a slave? Nobody wants to be a slave. Nobody wants to be called a slave. If someone were to tell you that you were a slave, you would probably be insulted. And even if we were slaves, we wouldn’t want someone reminding us of the fact that we were slaves! Imagine being a slave and having someone walk past you every day saying, “Hi slave!” We wouldn’t like it one bit! How much less would we like it if believing we were free, someone were to tells that we were slaves! Jesus told these believing Jews that they were in effect slaves: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“We are the offspring of Abraham!” Don’t you know who we are? You’re a Jew! We’re Jews! We are the offspring of Abraham. We are his seed. Don’t you know who our many times great grandfather is? He’s Abraham! We are the descendants of Abraham!

Jesus is telling us that freedom is not a question of genealogy. It is not a question of physical descent. Freedom is not the result of having the right father or grandfather. You can be a direct descendant of Abraham and not be free. In fact, Jesus is telling all of these descendants of Abraham that they needed the freedom that Jesus alone could give them.

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

This is an amazing statement: “We have never been enslaved to anyone!” It was made in the heat of the moment. They are angry at what Jesus said. By offering them freedom, Jesus implied that they were slaves, and they were offended. They quickly respond that they were the offspring of Abraham and had never been enslaved to anyone.

How quickly we forget! How little we know our own situation! The Jews had been slaves for 430 years in Egypt. They had been forced to make bricks of mud and straw. Pharaoh was killing off their baby boys to keep their population under control. It was only by the strong hand of the Lord and 10 plagues that God had delivered them from bondage in Egypt by the hand of Moses.

“We have never been enslaved to anyone,” they said. Had they forgotten about the Assyrians who carried away the 10 tribes of the north, never to return again? Had they forgotten about the Babylonians who had carried the Jews away into captivity for 70 years? Had they forgotten about Persian rule, and the Greeks, and the fact that they were under the dominion of Rome when Jesus spoke those words?

And yet, Jesus was not talking about political slavery. He was not talking about other countries or empires that had ruled over Israel in the past or present. He was talking about something much more cruel. He was talking about a slavery that was worse than their 430 years in Egypt, working in the hot sun, making bricks for others to build with. He was talking about something far worse than having authorities rip baby boys from their mothers’ arms and throwing them to the crocodiles in the Nile river.

John 8:33 ESV They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

When we look at the world today, we can be thankful that we don’t live in countries like Syria where the government is killing hundreds of citizens every week.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a country like North Korea where there is no freedom of religion.

We can be thank that we don’t live in a Muslim country like Iran where Pastor Josef has been in jail for five years and is awaiting execution simply because he is a Christian. Assemblies of God churches have been shut down. Church members have been arrested and others have lost their jobs for one reason: they are Christians.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a country like Sudan or Eritrea where Christians are raped, tortured and killed.

We have

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to vote
  • And many other freedoms.

But Jesus is not talking about freedom from political oppression. He is talking about a far greater freedom. He is talking about freedom from a far greater oppression. Jesus is talking about freedom from the slavery of sin.

 3.2.      Slavery to Sin

John 8:34 ESV Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

This is a very solemn statement that Jesus makes. He draws our attention to its importance by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” He wants us to know that this is a most serious issue: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

  • It does not matter what country you live in.
  • It does not matter whether your country is independent or not.
  • It does not matter what political freedoms you have.
  • It does not matter whether you are Jewish or not.
  • It does not matter who father or grandfather or great-grandfather was.
  • It does not matter what church you belong to.

“Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” He did not say that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. He said that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. He is talking about the habitual sins that rule over your life. He is talking about sins that dominate and control. He is talking about those sins that we can’t get rid of. It might be any of a thousand sins:

  • Pride
  • Self-destructive habits
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Kava
  • Abuse
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Lust
  • Pornography
  • Adultery
  • Fornication
  • Self-abuse
  • Private sins
  • Evil thoughts
  • Jealousy
  • Covetousness

Anything sin that is controlling your life: you are a slave to it. You think you are free. You are not free; you are a slave. The man who sins does not do what he likes; he does what sin likes (Barclay).

2 Peter 2:19 ESV They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

 3.3.      Jesus Gives us a Warning

Now here is a warning:

John 8:35 ESV The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

Slaves to sin will not enter the kingdom of God (v. 35).

The slave does not remain in the house forever. Jesus is saying that if you are a slave to sin, you will not remain in his house. Slaves to sin will be removed from the Father’s house.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:5 ESV For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

3.4.      Jesus Also Gives Us a Promise

But at the same time that Jesus gives us a warning, he give us a promise:

You can be free from the slavery of sin! The son remains forever. The son has rights that the slave does not have. Jesus is telling us that He can set us free.

John 8:36 ESV So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

How are we set free?

Jesus has already given us the steps to freedom from sin:

John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

4.         THREE STEPS TO FREEDOM

4.1.      STEP ONE: Abide in my word.

Abiding in my word is the mark of a real disciple. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Abiding in the word means that

  • We have determined to live in the word of Christ.
  • We have determined to live by the word of Christ.
  • We are continuously reading, studying, and listening the word of Christ.
  • We are continuously reflecting and meditating on His word.
  • We hold fast to the word of Christ.
  • We DO what he commands.

This is the mark of a true believer, the mark of a true disciple. Jesus said that we are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere, teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded us (Matthew 29:19).

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” A true disciple obeys the word. This is the condition to life’s greatest freedom: IF you abide in my word. The promise of being set free from sin is only for those who abide in God’s word.

 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46 ESV).

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21 ESV).

How often we wish to think that we are Christians, but Jesus said to those who believed that the mark of the true Christian is living according to his word: “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples” (Joh 8:31 NET).

4.2.      STEP TWO: You will know the truth.

You will know the truth of God’s word. You will know the truth about Christ. You will know who he is. You will know that He is the Son of God. You will know that He was in the beginning with God and was God. You will know that all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything that was made. You will know that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. You will know that he is the only God who is at the Father’s side (1:18). You will be able to worship Him in spirit and truth, because you will know the truth. You will know that he went to the cross not only to bear the punishment for our sins, but to break the power of sin so that we would no longer be the slaves of sin and that sin would no longer have dominion over us.

4.3.      STEP THREE: The truth will set you free.

Christ, who is himself the way, the truth, and the life, will set you free. You will know Him, and He will set you free from sin. You will experience the greatest freedom there is: freedom from sin.

 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36 ESV).

This is the gospel. This is the joyful news! Free from the tyranny of sin!

 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life (Romans 6:16-22 NLT).

“Well,” you say, “what about grace?”

Paul tells us in Titus 2 that grace will not leave you a slave to sin:

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).

Everywhere the Bible gives the same message: Christ came that we might experience life’s greatest freedom. How about your life? Are you a slave to sin, or has Christ set you free?

Here is the condition to experience life’s greatest freedom: “If you abide in my word,” Jesus said. Get into the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Allow God’s Word to set you free.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

True disciples don’t simply believe. They live according to the Word. They obey God.

You will know the truth about Christ, and the truth will set you free. Who is the truth? The Son is the way, the truth, and the life. “If the Son sets you free, you will be really free.” You will experience life’s greatest freedom.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 08:12-30, “Jesus, the Light of the World”

Light of the World

Light of the World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John’s gospel is all about Jesus. On every page John is telling us who Jesus is. He tells us who Jesus is through the testimony of others such as John the Baptist. John shows who Jesus is through the signs or miracles that Jesus does that point to his identity. John tells us what we are to understand through his comments on the events, on what people understood or misunderstood. And he shows who Jesus is through the very words of Jesus, his discourses and the claims that Christ makes about himself.

John tells us his purpose in writing near the end of his Gospel:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

John writes all these things to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He writes so that we will believe in Christ. “Believe in Christ.” What does that mean? Believing in Christ means that Jesus Christ himself is the focus and the object of our faith and worship. It is through this faith in Christ, the Son of God, that we may have life in his name.

We come then to John 8:12 where Jesus makes a tremendous claim about himself. He makes one of his great “I AM” declarations: “I AM the light of the world.”

1.  I Am the Light of the World (8:12-20)

John 8:12 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

1.1.        The Claims of Jesus

This is not the first claim that Jesus makes, nor will it be the last.

  • John 6:35 I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
  • John 10:11 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
  • John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
  • John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
  • John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  • John 15: (1), 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus is doing the one thing that you and I should not do: he is making astounding claims about himself. As we have mentioned before on this broadcast, Jesus does not simply say that he will show us the way; he says, “I AM the way” (John 14:6). He does not say, “I will show you the Father.” He says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

These are breathtaking claims. They knock us back. They push us against the wall. We cannot simply say that Jesus was a wonderful teacher. If I were to announce to you today, “I am the light of the world,” you would have every right to dismiss me as a lunatic. But Jesus is continually making statements like that, and he makes several such statements in this passage in John 8. He makes these statements in chapters 6, 7, and 8 which all go together. Is he a lunatic? Or is he who he claims to be?

1.2.         The Feast of Tabernacles

Let us understand that chapter 8:12f. is a continuation of chapter 7, and that chapters 6, 7 and 8 give us pictures from Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. You will remember that God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God struck the land of Egypt with 10 plagues and Moses led the children of Israel out of Israel, across the Red Sea, and they were on their way to the Promised Land.

1.2.1.     The Bread of Life

But the Israelites refused to believe that God would give them victory in the Promised Land, so they were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until a new generation arose and took their place. Yet God graciously provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. He gave them water and manna – bread from heaven – and even meat to eat for 40 years.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of that time of God’s provision in the wilderness. In chapter 6, Jesus has already given us one picture from the wilderness years. He multiplied the loaves and fed the multitude. Then Jesus told them that he was the true manna, the bread of life that had come down from heaven. He told them that he himself was the source of life.

1.2.2.     The Living Water

Now Jesus is in Jerusalem at this Feast of Tabernacles in chapters 7 and 8. Here he gives us two more pictures from the wilderness period: one has to do with water, the other has to do with light. During the Feast of Tabernacles, it is the dry season in Israel: September or October. The hills are barren and parched.

Just like on some of our smaller islands, water can become a crucial issue, water was not taken for granted in Israel. The Israelites remembered during this Feast of Tabernacles their 40 years in the wilderness. They remembered having no water. They remembered Moses striking the rock and the water miraculously gushing from it. This is the second picture from the wilderness period: the water is gushing from the rock. Paul says that Christ was the spiritual Rock that followed them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, special sacrifices are being made each day of seven days of the feast. Special ceremonies are conducted: The priest draws water from the Pool of Siloam into a golden pitcher as a choir sings Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The priest leads a procession of people back to the temple where the priest climbs the altar steps and pours the water onto the altar as the crowd continues to sing. On the last day of the feast, the seventh day of the feast, this ceremony is conducted seven times.

It is on this last day that Jesus stands and calls out with a loud voice, “If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.” John explains that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Come to me. I am the source of spiritual life.” These are amazing claims:

“I am the bread of life come down from heaven.”

“I am the source of living water.”

1.2.3.     The Light of the World

And now in John 8:12, still at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus makes another startling statement: “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This brings us to the third picture from the wilderness period. The entire Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of God provision in the wilderness. In the wilderness, God had led the Israelites with a pillar of fire by night. We read in Exodus 13 that as the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt,

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people (Exodus 13:21-22 ESV).

God parted the waters of the Red Sea and led the Israelites to the other side, but…

The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:23-25 ESV).

This pillar of fire was commemorated during the Feast. Sixteen golden bowls were filled with oil and cloth wicks. The rabbis said that when the bowls were lit at night, all Jerusalem was lit up. There were no streetlights in Jerusalem. No electric lights. Like any of our villages far removed from power lines, it would be quite dark at night. But the light from these sixteen lamps reflecting on

“Jerusalem’s yellow limestone walls must have been spectacular. Choirs of Levites would sing during the lighting while “men of piety and good works” danced in the streets, carrying torches and singing hymns. On this final day of Tabernacles, Jesus is teaching in the treasury (8:20) located within the Court of the Women [where the sixteen bowls have been lit]… Imagine the scene! In the very court where the lighting ceremony takes place, Jesus stands beneath sixteen lit bowls of oil and says that he is not only the true light of Jerusalem, but of the whole world![1]

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus says. Jesus does not say, “I have had a vision. I have received a revelation. I have seen the light and I will share it with you.” Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Who is the light of the world? In Psalm 27, David says,

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … (Psalm 27:1 ESV).

Jesus says in effect, “The light that the Israelites saw in the wilderness, that was me. I am the LORD who is your light and your salvation.”

Time and again, Jesus is showing that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. The whole Bible points to Him. He does not say, “I have found the light.” He says, “I am the light.” Not just the light of Jerusalem or even the light for the Jews. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

1.2.4.     Rejecting His Claim

This is not a message that the world wants to hear today. Today we want to say that we have our own light. We want to say that there are many ways to God. We want to say that we all worship the same God in our own way. The world has become quite intolerant of anyone who claims to know the truth. But this is hardly surprising for the Pharisees reacted strongly to Jesus when he claimed to be the light of the world:

The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid” (John 8:13 NIVO).

This is exactly what John told us would happen in the opening verses of this Gospel:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:4-11 ESV).

Some people reject the claims of Christ out of hand. They simply deny him without giving any due consideration to his birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for us, or his physical resurrection from the dead. They refuse to see the absolute uniqueness of Christ, that there has never been nor shall there ever be anyone like him to walk on this earth.

Others diminish his claims. They do not want to accept what the inspired writers of the New Testament have written about Christ. They do not want to accept, for example, the words of John in 1:18 that Jesus is “the only God, who is at the Father’s side…” They will make him smaller. “A mighty god,” but not God Almighty. John says in 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made,” but others will say that he too was made. There are many ways to deny Christ. Whether you reject Jesus Christ outright or simply see him as a great teacher or prophet or as some half-god, that is darkness.

Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World. The Pharisees challenged Jesus that in a court of law, the testimony of only one person would not be accepted. They had apparently forgotten what Jesus had said back in chapter 5. Jesus had claimed to be equal with God. John tells us that explicitly in 5:18: “by calling God his own Father,” John says, “he made himself equal with God.” In chapter 5, Jesus calls to the witness stand John the Baptist, his own works which the Father gave him to do, the Father who sent him, the Scriptures, and Moses, saying that they all bear witness to him.

Again the Pharisees are refuting his claim. But Jesus responds,

“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 (John 8:14 NIVO).

Jesus here adds another dimension to the discussion. “His words are true, and his judgment is true” not simply because they are convincing, but because of his origin. The Jewish authorities are wrong about him. They do not know him. They do not know that he was born in Bethlehem as the prophet Micah had announced 700 years before. They fail to remember that Isaiah had prophesied that the people of Galilee would see a great light:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone (Isaiah 9:1-2 ESV).

Jesus says, “My testimony about myself is true because I know things about myself that you do not know. I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or here I am going.”

They are judging Jesus but they know neither his origin nor his destiny. They are judging, Jesus says, according to the flesh. They are using human standards to judge him, but they have no spiritual insight. They have failed to perceive through the Scriptures, through the miraculous signs that Jesus performed, or through the testimony of John the Baptist to the light that Jesus is indeed the light of the world. They are walking in darkness. They have failed to see the light. They refused to consider his claims to be the bread of life, the source of spiritual life, and the light of the world.

Unlike the Pharisees who judge from a purely natural standpoint – a purely earthly perspective, Jesus judges no one from an earthly perspective:

Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me (John 8:16 ESV).

His judgment is true. Though his Father has sent him, he is not alone. His Father is with him. His perspective is the Father’s perspective. His judgment is the Father’s judgment.

So while they have rejected his testimony out of hand, Jesus reminds them that the testimony of two people is true. Jesus counts as one; the Father counts as the second person:

In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me” (John 8:17-18 ESV).

Now this is a remarkable declaration. Though Jesus claims equality with God in John 5:18, he does not say that the Father is the Son or that the Son is the Father. “I am one who bears witness about myself, and the Father is another who bears witness about me.” He states here that the Father sent him: “the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

“Where is your Father?” the Pharisees ask (John 8:19). They do not understand what Jesus is talking about. Jesus’ response is powerful:

“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19 ESV).

They don’t know. They don’t know Jesus. They don’t know where he came from. They don’t know where he is going. And they don’t know his Father.

“If you knew me,” Jesus says, “you would know my Father also.”

Who could make such a statement? Who is his Father? His father is God. “If you knew me, you would know God.” “To know me is to know God.” That’s what Jesus said. Those are powerful words. Spoken by anyone but God himself, those words would constitute blasphemy.

Once again, the Jewish authorities want to seize him, “but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

2.   I Am Going Away! (8:21-30)

Jesus has already told the Jewish authorities that he knows where he came from and where he is going; they know neither where he came from nor where he is going. Now he tells them, “I am going away.” He is going away, but he does not tell them where. He only tells them that where he is going, they cannot come, and that they will die in their sin (8:21).

Where is Jesus going that they cannot come? Where could Jesus possibly go that they could not go? What does he mean?

 The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?” (John 8:22 NLT).

As a matter of fact, Jesus is referring to his death. He will die, and it will be a voluntary death. But it will not be suicide.

 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18 NLT).

He will die and he will rise and he will return to his Father. They will continue to look for the Messiah, but because they have rejected him — Jesus Christ the Messiah — they will die in their sin. What sin is that? The great sin of refusing to believe.

Again he tells them,

 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am…, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

“You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am.”

“Unless we believe that you are—what?”

The original language, the Greek, just leaves it hanging. Some translations add the word “he” (ESV) or “the one I claim to be” (NIVO), but Jesus is using the divine name that God used when he revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14.

But the crowd misses the point altogether. It is God’s divine name (“I am”) that they cannot understand since they are “from below,” since they judge “according to the flesh.” Jesus is not simply a prophet with divine things to communicate, but he bears divinity in himself. He is not a man with religious insight (from below, from the world), but God’s Son (from above, from heaven). This prompts his audience to ask its most important question. Not: “What do you mean?” But: “Who are you?” (8:25). It is Jesus’ divine identity, his mysterious divine incarnation that makes everything about him important.[2]

“Who are you?” they ask. That is the whole point. Who is Jesus? Who is the Christ? Again, John is writing these things so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. — The Son of God. Like Father, like Son. The Son has the same nature as the Father. He is the “I AM.” He is the God who revealed himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM.”

“Who are you?” they ask. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.” What Jesus says here in chapter 8 is consistent with what he has said about himself from the beginning.

What we believe about Jesus Christ has eternal consequences. “Unless you believe that I AM,” Jesus says, “you will die in your sins.”

John writes this Gospel so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, we may life in his name (20:31). Through every page of the Gospel, John is showing us that Jesus is God in a human body. Jesus is God in the flesh. “If you knew me, you would know the Father,” Jesus said (8:19).

So what happens if we don’t believe? What happens if we do not believe what Jesus said about himself? We will find ourselves in the same position as the unbelieving Jewish authorities. “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” Why? Because of our sins. The wages of sin is death.

 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18 ESV).

You see, we have all sinned, but Christ came to take away our sins. Jesus came that we might have life. If we refuse to come to him on his terms, we will die in our sins.

 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

Jesus is the Light of the World. The light shines in the darkness. The light reveals the dark places of our hearts. Do we come to the Light, or do we refuse to come that we may have life?

 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19-21 ESV).

In verse 28, Jesus said to them,

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…”

The Son of Man? Who is the Son of Man?

 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal– it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 NLT).

The Son of Man would be lifted up on the cross. God himself would bear our sins on the cross.

As he was saying these things, many believed in him (John 8:30 ESV).

We read in Mark’s Gospel that a lame man was carried into Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Everyone gasped, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Then Jesus said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins,” and he turned to the lame man and said, “Rise up and walk.” And the lame man was healed and walked.

If a friend of yours sinned against you, and I told your friend, “I forgive you,” you would ask me what right I had to forgive sins committed against you. And you would be right. Who can forgive sins against God but God alone? Jesus can forgive sins because he is God.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He bore your sin on the cross. Have you put your trust in Him?

[1]Burge, Gary M. (2009-08-22). John (The NIV Application Commentary) (pp. 213-214). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[2]Burge, Gary M. (2009-08-22). John (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 216). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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p class=”p1″>See also “Gospel of John”:

John 07:01-39, “History’s Most Controversial Person”

Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer)

Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer) (Photo credit: bossa07)

1.CONTROVERSY

1.1.Who was the most controversial person in history? 

Many names may come to mind. Some might suggest such men as Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, or Slobodan Milosevic of ex-Yugoslavia. The list could go on. While these names are well-known, history has pronounced its verdict on them. Few people today would consider them models of leadership. Few would want to be under the dictatorship of these men. Few people are divided over whether these men were good or evil. Most people agree about the kind of men that they were. So there is little or no controversy about the legacy that they have left. History and the court of human opinion have rendered a unanimous verdict about the character of these men. They are not really controversial.

Men of controversy are men who divide human opinion by what they do or what they say. They are men who stir up strong sentiments and debate. Men of controversy divide all others into two groups: those who are for them, and those who are against them; those who agree with them, and those who disagree with them. History has many such men, men who polarized nations and peoples and even the whole world. Men who left little or no middle ground. We might consider such men as Charles Darwin whose theory of evolution continues to divide people today. Does chance really explain the origin of all things from nothing, the origin of life, the extreme intelligence that is evident in the DNA structure of even the simplest of life forms? Does chance account for the order that is present at all levels of the universe. Some say, “Yes. It all just happened by itself.” Others believe that life, order, intelligence, and values all point to a divine Creator.

Martin Luther was certainly a controversial figure. He nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and unintentionally brought about the Protestant Reformation when he simply wanted to purify the Roman Catholic Church. He is the point of divide between Roman Catholics and all branches of Protestantism. But he was only controversial because another before him was controversial.

We could consider others such as Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, or Mohammed. But who was the most controversial person in history?

1.2.The Testimony of Historians

When we turn to the historians, we find that there is one figure, one person, who rivets the attention. One person who calls for a response from all people everywhere.

British Historian H. G. Wells: “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Yale University professor and historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet.”

Wells said that Jesus is “the most dominant figure of all history.” Latourette said that he is “the most influential life ever lived on this planet.” Dominant and influential, and yet, by far the most controversial. To this day, Jesus Christ is controversial. He stands as the dividing line of history. We date our calendars by his birth. Jesus divides humanity into two groups: believers and unbelievers. Those who are for him and those who are against him. Jesus leaves no middle ground:

Matthew 12:30 ESV Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

There is no other name that divides people more than the name of Jesus Christ. People may want to think of themselves as spiritual or interested in spiritual things. They may politely talk about God and about spiritual matters. But people often get uncomfortable when the name of Jesus is mentioned. In fact, in certain public contexts, prayer is welcomed as long as the name of Jesus is not mentioned. In my country, pastors are invited to pray at the opening of congressional meetings or the inaugurations of presidents, but they are told not to mention Jesus. Mentioning the name of Jesus is seen to be intolerant, so prayers in the name of Jesus are not tolerated.

Jesus himself was often embroiled in controversy. Ah yes, he was so controversial that his life ended on the cross. He invited controversy by his very teaching. Controversy becomes apparent in John 5 when Jesus heals the lame man on the Sabbath. What’s wrong with that? Well, the Jewish authorities considered it to be work, and Jesus knew it. Work was one thing that you were not to do on the Sabbath according to the Law. That was bad enough. But then Jesus claimed that he had the right to do miraculous works on the Sabbath because he was equal with God. That is what John explains to us in John 5:18, “He called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Someone has said that Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Yahweh (Jehovah). Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, “I am a teacher in search of the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Confucius said, “I never claimed to be holy.” Jesus said, “Who convicts me of sin?” Mohammed said, “Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.”

In chapter 6, he claims to be the source of life: “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.”

John 6:53 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

John 6:57 ESV “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”

John 7 opens with the words that the Jewish authorities were seeking to kill him. But soon it was time for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It was one of the three great Jewish festivals that took place every year. This Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular and important festival of the year. It was a commemoration of the 40 years in the wilderness when God had provided for them. It was a time of celebration and feasting. Would Jesus go up for the festival? Everyone was wondering.

2.DIVISION

2.1.Division in the Family

But there was division everywhere. Even among Jesus’ brothers.

John 7:3-4 ESV So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 

Did they believe in him? Were they really wanting more people to see the signs that Jesus was doing? Did they really want Jesus to win more disciples? No. Unfortunately, they were not sincere. John, as he does so often in this Gospel, tells us what we are understand:

John 7:5 ESV For not even his brothers believed in him.

There was division in his own family. “Even his brothers did not believe in him,” John tells us. Just as Jesus had said in Luke 12:51-53:

Luke 12:51-53 ESV Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52  For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus, the most controversial figure of all time, was even controversial in his own family. His mother, Mary, of course, believed in him. She knew that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She knew what the angel had said to her. In John 2, she had told the servants to do what ever Jesus told them. They had filled the six huge water pots with water, and Jesus had changed the water into wine, the first of his signs pointing to who he is and manifesting his glory. Mary believed in her son, Jesus, but his brothers did not believe.

His brothers, “who had lived in the same house with him for nearly 30 years, did not know who he was”. Jesus’ humanity was so real and genuine — yes, the Word became flesh — his humanity was so real and his deity was so hidden before he began his earthly ministry, that his brothers “lived and ate and slept in the same rooms as the eternal Son of God and did not know it.”

You may be the only person in your family to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. Perhaps you are alone in your love, devotion, and obedience to Christ. It may be that your own family opposes you and wants you to turn back from following Jesus. Know this: Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him at first. But that would change. We read in 1 Corinthians 15 that after his resurrection, the Lord appeared to James. In Acts 1, the brothers of Jesus were in the upper room with the other disciples, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The brothers of Jesus had become disciples. You may be alone in your faith and devotion to Jesus Christ, but stay faithful. Remain true to the Lord. Give the Lord time to work in your life and in the lives of your loved ones. As they see Christ in your life, they too may be drawn to the Savior.

2.2.Danger in Jerusalem 

Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus. There he had cleansed the temple. He had healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. He had made himself equal with God by claiming that God was his own Father. And the Jewish authorities were looking for him. Jesus was gaining too many disciples and the Jewish authorities wanted to put a stop to Jesus. They wanted to get rid of him. They wanted to kill him. Several times in John 7 and 8, we read that the Jewish religious authorities are out to kill Jesus.

Jesus himself explains to his unbelieving brothers why Jewish authorities were out to get him:

John 7:7 NLT The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.

So Jesus “wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death” (John 7:1 NLT).

John 7:10 NLT ¶ But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.

Jesus was present in Jerusalem, though out of sight. With so much hatred toward Jesus, he would not show himself openly until the right time had come. He would do things on his own timetable. He would determine his own schedule.

There was not only danger in Jerusalem, there was also…

2.3.Division in Jerusalem

As Jesus had stirred up a lot of controversy, some people were for him while others were against him.

John 7:11-13 NLT The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12  There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13  But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Good man or con man — what is he? People were whispering. They were divided. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. He does not leave you that option.

Once again, we can quote C. S. Lewis, former professor of literature at Oxford University:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The air was thick with tension. Intimidation was the name of the game. The Jewish authorities were trying to scare people. They were jealous. They did not like the fact that Jesus was gaining influence with the people. They were losing influence themselves and they felt it.

Many were in favor of Jesus. They believed that he was a good man, but they were afraid to “speak favorably about him in public.” “Jesus talk” could get you into trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Today, in certain areas, in certain towns, in certain families, talking about Jesus can get in trouble. There are many countries in the world today where talking about Jesus can get you killed. Every year thousands of Christians are persecuted, tortured, and killed for their testimony in countries like North Korea, Nigeria, and islamic countries such as Iran. But even in some democratic countries, authorities are trying to intimidate Christians to abandon their beliefs and values and to accept anti-Christian agendas. Persecution is not new. Paul tells Timothy,

2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13  while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

There is and there will be division over Jesus. Some believe in him while others believe that he leads people astray. Opposition to Christ is becoming increasingly hostile in many parts of the world. People are saying and writing things today about Jesus and about Christians that are shocking. But we must not be intimidated. We must not be afraid to speak the truth in love.

3.CONTROVERSY OVER JESUS’ TEACHING (7:14-24)

3.1.Teaching in the Temple

Speaking the truth is exactly what Jesus did. “You must go to the feast,” his brothers had said. “Go work some miracles so that your disciples can see what you are doing.” “If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world.”

Suddenly he comes to the temple. He is not working miracles, signs, and wonders. He is teaching.

The unbelieving brothers want him to go up publicly, but Jesus went up privately. They wanted him to work miracles, but when Jesus finally went public, he went public with teaching, not miracles. And his teaching is not to bring glory to himself, but to bring glory to God.

3.2.Teaching that Astonishes

John 7:15 NLT The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

Jesus had not been trained as the scribes and Pharisees, yet his ability to teach was astonishing. We read elsewhere that unlike the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus taught as one having authority.

We remember that at the age of 12, the boy Jesus astonished the elders by asking questions in the temple, his Father’s house. Now as a man, he continues to astonish people with his teaching. “How did he get such learning?” they ask.

It would be easy for us to say that he was God and knew all things. And yet, we must take seriously the divine and human natures of Christ. In his human nature, he did not know all things. “The human Jesus had to grow in his knowledge and understanding of the things of God.” In his human nature, he tells us that he did not know the day of his return (Mark 13:32).

At the same time, we see many instances when Jesus demonstrates supernatural knowledge. He knew Nathanael before he ever met him (John 1:47-49). He knew the Samaritan woman’s sordid past (4:17-18). He knew all men and did not need anyone to testify to him about man what was in him (2:24-25). Where did he get such learning? “It came from the communication of the divine nature to the human nature.”

John 7:16 NIVO Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.

This debate between Jesus and the Jewish authorities was about credentials. The Jewish leaders asked, “Where did You get Your degree?” Jesus replied: “I brought it with Me from heaven. I don’t teach anything on My own, but My doctrine comes from the Father. If you want the truth, if you want knowledge, if you care about theology, you should believe every word that I tell you because the only words I give you are from Him. If you want to do the will of God, you should hear My voice and listen to Me.”

John 7:17 ESV If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

What does he mean? Jesus means that seeing the truth is a matter of the disposition of the heart.

  • When our minds are made up,
  • when we know what we want to do,
  • when we have our own agenda,
  • we have made our plan,
  • when we ready to do our own thing,

— it is impossible to hear from God. No, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…” (Matthew 16:24).

Here, Jesus says that if our heart’s desire is to do God’s will and not our own will, we will know whether Jesus’ teaching comes from God or is merely his own.

John 7:18 ESV The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

What is our motivation? To be known? To make a name for ourselves? To impress people with our knowledge and our degrees? The one who speaks of his own authority, who tells you about his accomplishments, and his degrees, and his experience — that man is seeking his own glory. “We preach not ourselves,” Paul said, “but Jesus Christ our Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). “He must increase, and I must decrease,” said John the Baptist (John 3:30).

Jesus was seeking only to glorify the Father. He faithfully taught what he had heard from the Father. His teaching was true because Jesus himself was true, and “there is nothing false about him” (John 7:18 NIVO).

3.3.Misuse of the Word of God

Secret agendas distort our understanding of God’s Word. How often we refuse to see what is so clearly written! How often do we twist Scripture simply to approve what we want to do, or to prove a point? How often do we use an argument — not because it is true, but because it supports what we want to do or what we want to see happen?

Two things will prevent us from knowing the truth:

  1. Seeking our own glory instead of God’s, and
  2. having our own agenda’s instead of desiring above all things to do God’s will.

Part of the controversy between Jesus and the Jewish authorities had to do with their interpretation and additions to the Law. They said that no work could be done on the Sabbath. But Jesus had healed a lame man on the Sabbath and told him to take up his mat and walk.

“That’s against the Law!” they cried. “Let’s put this man to death!” The same Law that said that they were to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, also said that, “You shall not kill.” Yet, the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

The Law also had required that an infant boy be circumcised the eighth day, even when that day was the Sabbath. So why should they be angry that Jesus made a man completely well on the Sabbath? They may have been teachers of the Law, but they had failed to understand the spirit of the Law.

John 7:24 NIVO Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

4.CONTROVERSY OVER JESUS’ ORIGIN (7:25-52)

There was controversy not only over Jesus’ teaching, but also over his origin. Where did he come from? Of course, the real question was whether Jesus was the Christ, the one that had been promised through the ages, and the issue of his origin was an important factor in determining whether he was the Christ.

John 7:25-27 NIVO ¶ At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26  Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27  But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”

There was confusion among the crowd:

John 7:26-27 NLT But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27  But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”

Really? No one would know? Well, in fact, they did not know. They thought that Jesus was from Galilee, but they did not know that he was born in Bethlehem. Even this shows the controversy over Jesus’ origin. While some thought that no one would know where the Messiah came from, others knew that the Scriptures told precisely where he would come from. A few verses later, when Jesus gives his great invitation,

John 7:40-43 NLT ¶ …some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41  Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42  For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43  So the crowd was divided about him.

The Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born.

In verse 50, the Pharisees are ready to judge him, but Nicodemus, “the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. “Are you from Galilee, too?” they replied. “Search the Scriptures and see for yourself — no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

The people thought that they knew everything about Jesus. They thought that they knew where he was from.

“Oh, sure, you know me. And you think you know where I come from. But I am not here on my own. There is One who sent me, and he is true, but you don’t know Him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you” (7:28-29, my paraphrase).

They knew what he meant. He was referring to having been sent by God. So the Jewish authorities wanted to arrest him, “but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come” (John 7:30, NLT).

Controversy: The authorities wanted to arrest him, but the next verse tells us,

John 7:31 NLT Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”

Once again, the chief priests and Pharisees try to stop Jesus. They sent officers to arrest him (7:32), but the officers came back empty-handed (7:45). “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke like this man!” (7:46).

5.CONTROVERSY OVER HIS INVITATION

It was the last day of the feast, the great day. It was the day of the greatest celebration. It was the day when water from the Pool of Siloam was poured out on the altar as a memorial of the water that flowed from the rock in the wilderness at Horeb.

John 7:37-39 ESV ¶ On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

5.1.Come to Me and Drink

These are not the claims of simply a religious leader. In fact, Jesus never claimed to be a religious leader. Jesus is unlike any of the world’s great religious leaders. Ravi Zacharias grew up in a Hindu culture. He has studied world religions and has observed a fundamental distinction between Jesus Christ and the founders of other major religions:

“In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. It is not Zoroaster to whom you turn; it is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammad who transforms you; it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you. By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message.”5

The truth of Zacharias’ point is underscored by the number of times in the Gospels that Jesus’ teaching message was simply “Come to me” or “Follow me” or “Obey me.” Also, Jesus made it clear that his primary mission was to forgive sins, something only God could do.

Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” –J.Sidlow Baxter

He did not come to tell the thirsty where they could go to quench their thirst. He said, “Come to me.” “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Illustration

On Friday I was in the check-out at the grocery store. I looked ahead and saw a pastor friend checking out. Sandwiched between us was a man with several bottles of alcohol. It was an opportunity not to be missed. I greeted my pastor-friend and put my arm on the other man’s shoulder and said to my friend, “Wanum tinktink blong yu? Man ia, hem i nidim whiskey o hem i nidim Jisas?” Of course my pastor-friend responded that the man needed Jesus. We told the man that he had been waylaid by a couple of pastors, and my friend gave the man a good hug.

The man was thirsty for something, but nothing but Jesus will satisfy his thirst. “If anyone thirst,” Jesus said, “let him come to me and drink.”

John 7:38 NAU “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

John explains,

When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him (Joh 7:39 NLT).

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In John 5, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. Anyone could claim to be equal with God. But where’s the proof? We need evidence for such a claim. Jesus serves as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to the stand. You must make a verdict. Stay tuned…

A few years ago someone came into our home and stole some important items. Thankfully, we were insured and were able to make a claim to our insurance company. Now insurance companies are not in the business to give away money. They are in the insurance business to make money, so when you make a claim and ask them to give you money to compensate for your loss, they require that you present proof of your claim. They want proof of the value of the items that were stolen in the form of receipts. And they want proof that the items were really stolen in the form of a police report. So when you make a claim against an insurance company, they in effect ask you, “What’s your proof?”

Some time ago, Josh McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and later he wrote a followup book: More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The book is packed with evidence that proves that the Bible is reliable.

In John 5, Jesus makes an astounding claim. It was not an insurance claim, but a claim about himself. He claimed that God was his own Father. Jesus understood the implications of his claim for his next remarks show that he knew exactly what he was saying. The Jews understood the implications of his claim that God was his own Father for that was the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus. And John, the author of this Gospel, understood what Jesus meant, because John is the one that tells us the importance of what Jesus was saying.

As you may remember, it all began with Jesus healing a lame man. The Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath. In effect, they were asking him, “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?”

Jesus simply responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). In other words, ‘”Whatever God does, I do.”

It is now that John gives us one of his many explanations in this Gospel. Literary specialists have counted over one hundred such parenthetical comments or “asides” as they call them. In each of them, John is leading “his readers to his desired conclusion.”[1] John tells us here in the next verse, John 5:18, exactly what we are to conclude:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to understand what the Jewish authorities understood and what Jesus understood and what John himself understood: Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Jesus “justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as John 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.”[2]

This is what John tells us from the first verse of this Gospel,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Again in the 18th verse of chapter one, John tells us,

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

In several other places in this Gospel, John makes the same point: Jesus is God. “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John tells us that Jesus was making himself equal with God.

What right do you have?

Later we considered the verses that follow John’s explanation. Jesus tells us that though he is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is always submission to His Father’s will. Nonetheless, he has all the rights and privileges of God.

  • He does the works of God: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19).
  • He raises the dead and gives them life: Just “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
  • Like the Father, Jesus has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).
  • Jesus will execute judgment: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22).

The Son is to be honored just like the Father: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (5:23). So the Son receives equal honor with the Father.

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

What is your evidence? Talk is cheap. Anyone can make claims. Anyone can claim to be God. Just visit the psychiatric ward of a major hospital and you will probably find people who believe that they are God.

When we were living in French Polynesia, I had the opportunity to talk with a short little man with long hair who rode a blue bicycle. He claimed to be Jesus Christ. My Tahitian friends told me that the man had eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms. I did share the gospel with the man that day in hopes that the Holy Spirit would be able to penetrate the man’s deranged mind with the truth about Jesus Christ.

Through the centuries, many people have made strange claims. Many have had dreams and visions and revelations and as a result, some have started new religions or cults or religious groups. What makes Jesus any different from them? What proves that Jesus wasn’t simply another lunatic? Jesus had proof. Jesus had witnesses. In fact, Jesus operates in the passage as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to support his claims.

 The Need for Witnesses

In a court of law, a witness is commonly sworn in. In my country, the witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness swears an oath before God that his testimony will be true.

In the Old Testament, when capital crimes were committed — those crimes calling for the death penalty — before the death penalty could be given, there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime and their testimony had to agree completely. The idea of giving a true and accurate testimony was so important in the nation of Israel that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a witness were to bear false witness against another, he would receive the sentence and punishment he had intended for the other (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). If a man were to bear false witness against another to get him executed, he might be found out and be executed instead.

In John 5:30-31, Jesus makes the following statement:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true (John 5:30-31 ESV).

Jesus says that his judgment is just, but then he says, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT). What does he mean by that? Jesus makes a lot of statements about himself. He is not saying that every time he says something about himself that it is not true. He is referring to the need for additional witnesses.

…The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT).

You may have had to go to a notary public to have your signature verified on an official document. Some documents require two signatures: there is a line your signature and another line for the signature of someone who witnesses you sign the document. Now suppose you were to sign on both lines. That would not work. You could not legally bear witness to your own action. You need someone else to confirm that you are the one who signed on the first line.

That is what Jesus mean when he said, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT).

But Jesus is not without supporting witnesses.[3] The Defense calls…

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true (John 5:32).

Jesus first makes reference to God and will come back to God as his witness, but his hearers need another witness first, so Jesus calls John the Baptist as the first main witness:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:32-35 ESV).

The importance of John the Baptist can hardly be overestimated. Other founders of cults and religions have had followers, but none have had a forerunner announcing their arrival before they came. John the Baptist did not come after Jesus to confirm him as the Messiah. John the Baptist came before Jesus. John’s ministry was outstanding. Multitudes were going to him to be baptized. People began wondering if he was the promised Messiah or the prophet that Moses had promised. “I am not,” the Baptist told them. “Then why are you baptizing?” they asked. “I am preparing the way for the one who comes after me,” he responded.

Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27 NLT).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34 NLT).

Christ was born after John the Baptist and would come after him, but

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (John 1:15 NLT).

John the Baptist points to the pre-existence of Christ. Though Jesus was born at least six months after John the Baptist, John says, “He existed long before me.” Christ did not begin to exist when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. According to the first verse of this Gospel, he is the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1:1).

“Jesus, what proof do you have to back up your claims?” Jesus calls John the Baptist as his first witness. John testifies that Jesus is eternal. He is the Christ. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist was an excellent, competent, and reliable witness.

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36 ESV).

The Jewish authorities frequently asked for signs, miracles to prove that Jesus had the authority to do the things he was doing. For example, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jewish authorities understood that he was making a claim. He was claiming the right as Messiah to cleanse the temple. So they asked for a sign to show that he was indeed the Messiah. Instead, he challenged them to destroy the temple and he would raise it up in three days.

The author, the apostle John, tells us that Jesus was actually speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus was predicting his own death and resurrection. The Jewish authorities would destroy him, but Jesus had the authority to raise himself up again. On the third day, he would rise from the dead.

But there were plenty of signs for those who had eyes to see. The signs were miracles pointing beyond themselves. The signs signified something about Jesus. They pointed to his identity, who he was, and what he came to do. Jesus simply calls them his works. He says that his works prove that the Father had sent him.

In John 2, Jesus changed about 600 liters of water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed on him.

After cleansing the temple, we read in John 2:23 that Jesus did other signs and “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

In John 4, Jesus simply spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed at a distance of some 30 kilometers.

And in John 5, Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. It was that healing — that work on the Sabbath — that had stirred up the controversy with the Jewish authorities. It was their complaint against that work that had led him to explain, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

“Think about it!” “…the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

How is it that Jesus is able change the water into wine, heal a dying boy with a word, and give a man legs who has been lame for 38 years? The “works that Jesus was doing showed that God was authenticating His identity.”[4]

Again in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25 ESV).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

Jesus calls a third witness on his behalf, and that is the Father Himself. The works that Jesus did were an indirect witness of the Father to Jesus’ identity. But now Jesus says that there is a direct and personal witness that the Father gives. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the voice that many heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Or perhaps he is referring to the Father’s audible testimony when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

In any case, Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were totally ignorant of the Father; they did not know Him.

  1. First, “his voice you have never heard,” Jesus said (John 5:37). Moses had heard God’s voice (Exodus 33:11). And Jesus speaks the words of God (John 3:34; 17:8), but the Jewish authorities did not hear God’s voice in Jesus.
  2. Second, “his form you have never seen” (John 5:37). Jacob had seen his form. “I have seen God face to face,” Jacob said. Jesus was himself the manifestation of God (John 1:18; 14:9), but the Jewish authorities failed to see God in Jesus.
  3. Third, Jesus told them, “you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38). Joshua meditated on the Word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist stored up God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11; 1:2). Jesus was himself the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God, but the Jewish authorities did not delight in God’s word. They failed to recognize the Word when he was standing before them.

Jesus calls a fourth witness, a witness that the Jewish authorities should have known:

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

This is a most stunning indictment. The Jewish authorities searched the Scriptures but failed to understand that the Scripture themselves bear witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking, of course, of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament.

We read in Luke 24:44 that before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalm had to be fulfilled. It was all written about him. Then after his resurrection, talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27 ESV).

The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Christ. The Christ would be more than just a man. He would be fully human, but he would be fully God: the God-man. So later in his ministry, Jesus asked the Pharisees how David in Psalm 110 could call the Christ “Lord” if the Christ were simply a descendent of David (Matthew 22:41-46). You don’t call your many times great-grandson “Lord,” unless he is… ah.. the Lord. The Christ would be much more than a human descendent of David. He would be that, but he would also be the Word made flesh, God in the flesh.

Isaiah said that he would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again Isaiah said this virgin-born son would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“Mighty God, Everlasting Father!” Yes, Jesus made himself equal with God, but that is exactly what the Scriptures had said he would be. The Scriptures gave witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Five: Moses

We might consider Moses simply as part of the Old Testament Scriptures, but Jesus mentions him specifically:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47 ESV).

Moses wrote of Jesus in a number of ways, but let me point to one very specific prophecy that Moses gave concerning Christ:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV).

[God says] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, they were still looking for that prophet:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV).

The people were still waiting. So when John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him, “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he replied.

When the people saw Jesus feed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish, they said, “This is surely the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).

In John 7, Jesus promises flowing rivers of living water, that is to say the Holy Spirit, to those who come to him. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40 ESV).

Yes, Moses was another witness of Christ. Christ was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of.

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

Jesus calls on four or five witnesses in chapter 5 to verify his claim to being equal with God. But there are two more witnesses in the Gospel of John.

In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will bear witness about him.

“But I will send you the Advocate– the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26 NLT).

Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ (John 16:13-15 NLT).

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

Finally, Jesus mentions the disciples. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus Christ:

And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27 ESV).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his witnesses. Forty days after his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said this,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).

We are Jesus’ witnesses. The message of the early Church was Jesus Christ. The disciples went everywhere preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:42). Peter preached Christ (Acts 10:36). Stephen was a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 22:20). Philip went to Samaria and preached the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The disciples that were scattered because of the persecution went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Yes, the focus of the church has always been on Jesus Christ, who he is – God in the flesh – and what he did for us on the cross.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. He claimed equality with God. He had the rights and privileges of God, and he called seven witnesses to authenticate his claims.

  1. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ that he was the Son of God.
  2. The works — miracles — that Jesus did showed that God authenticated his identity.
  3. The Father himself in a personal and direct manner bore witness to His Son at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and again in John 12 when his voice thundered from heaven.
  4. The Scriptures all pointed to Christ and identified him as the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel: God with us.
  5. Moses bore witness to Christ as the Prophet whose words we must obey.
  6. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
  7. True disciples will always preach Christ. He is the message we preach:

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV).

So you have heard the evidence. What is your verdict? Is Jesus who he says he is? Is he equal with God? He does what God does. The witnesses say that he is equal with God. What do you say? As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. He is the only way to the Father.

[1]Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 135.

[2]New English Translation (NET) note on John 5:18.

[3]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1262). Kindle Edition.

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1292). Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:19-29, “Jesus, What right do you have?”

Introduction

In the first part of John 5, we see Jesus answering the question, “Just who do you think you are?” As the chapter begins, we find a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed—lying around the Pool of Bethesda, hoping that the spring water or artesian well will bring them back to health.

But one man seems to have lost all hope. He has been an invalid for thirty-eight years. And he had no hope, until Jesus passed his way. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him. The man can only complain that he has no one to help him into the water. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” Jesus commands him. And he does it. Just like that!

Strength comes into his legs. He stands, picks up his mat, and begins to walk, carrying his mat. One problem, though. That day was the Sabbath. The Jews had added all kinds of rules to the Law of God. According to these rabbis, you were not allowed to carry things on the Sabbath. Never mind that you were healed and for the first time in 38 years were able to walk. What? You were healed? On the Sabbath? Who did that?

The man did not know. Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd, but later he found that man and warned him not to sin any more, because the consequences of sin are far worse than 38 years of lying on a mat.

Now this man was not the most agreeable creature on the planet. Rather than moving on in his new life, having seen Jesus, he goes back to the Jewish authorities and rats on him. Not that Jesus avoided conflict at all costs. I have the feeling that Jesus chose to heal this particular man and that particular day—the Sabbath—because he had something he wanted to say to the Jewish authorities.

John, the writer of this Gospel, tells us in John 5:16, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.”

Jesus’ response was short but full of impact and meaning: “My Father is always working, and so am I” (Joh 5:17 NLT).

We could have missed the importance of that response had it not been for John. John tells us exactly what Jesus mean by that and how and why it angered the Jewish authorities. John explains, “So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath (NLT), he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (Joh 5:18 ESV).

So in response to the question, “Just who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus responds, “I am God. My Father continues to work, and so do I.”

John’s Purpose

We must always remember that John is writing with purpose. He is out to accomplish something with this Gospel. He has not simply collected stories about Jesus and his miracles in order to write a bestseller. John’s purpose is much more profound, and we do not have to guess at his purpose for he very clearly tells us near the end of his Gospel:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

In this statement of purpose, we note that John does not even use the word miracle; he uses the word “signs” because the works of Jesus are signs pointing to who he is. If you have not guessed it by now, this book is all about Jesus. That does not mean that this book tells us everything there is to know about Jesus. John tells us at the very end of his book, that if everything that Jesus did were written, the world could not contain all the books. But when I say that this book is all about Jesus, I mean that Jesus is the one subject that John is writing about.

John tells us that Jesus did many other signs that are not written in the book. That means that this is a selective Gospel. John included certain signs and left out others. He did so because of his purpose.

He also tells us that Jesus did the signs in the presence of the disciples. That means that this is not only a selective Gospel, it is also an attested Gospel. Jesus did not simply convince people with flowery speech and persuasive words that he could perform miracles. He did the signs in the presence of his disciples. Changing the water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the lame man, feeding more than five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, healing the blind man, and raising Lazarus from the dead, all these signs were performed in the presence of many eyewitnesses. This is an attested Gospel.

It is also an evangelistic gospel. John writes these things so that you might believe. He writes to convince us of something. He is addressing our minds as well as our hearts. He wants us to think clearly and to understand the meaning of the signs that Jesus performed. And he wants us to believe.

But what is it that he wants us to believe? A lot of people talk about the importance of belief, but do not think that it matters much what you believe, as long as you believe. John is clear about this. He writes these signs so that we may believe something specific: he wants to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

This is vitally important, for John tells us that this is the way to eternal life.

So John is writing about Jesus with an eye on us, his readers. He wants to lead us to a living faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

John’s Explanations and Comments

John frequently explains things to us his readers to make sure that we get the point. Theologians have found well over one hundred such comments in the Gospel of John. He interprets Hebrew or Aramaic terms, telling us that Rabbi means teacher, that Messiah means Christ, or that Cephas means Peter.

When Jesus challenges the Jewish authorities to destroy the temple and in three days he will raise it up, John tells us that Jesus was not speaking about the building in Jerusalem, but about his own body.

When the Samaritan woman asks Jesus how it is that he, a Jew, asks for a drink from her, a woman of Samaria, John explains that the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Now in chapter five, John explains why the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus: he was doing these works on the Sabbath when they thought that no one should work.

But it was Jesus’ response that threw more fuel on the fire. Did the Jewish authorities have a problem with him healing a lame man on the Sabbath? Jesus responds, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Joh 5:17 NIVO).

John had told us in verse 16 that the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath, but now they are ready to kill him! In verse 18, John writes these words, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him…” Why? “…He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This is not simply what the Jewish authorities thought. This is not some misunderstanding. John is once again showing us what we are to understand and believe about Jesus: he is equal with God.

More than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they share more or less the same perspective on Jesus — more than them, John tells us why the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus: they wanted to kill him because he claimed to be equal with God.

The Jews were expecting a Messiah, but they thought that he would be merely human. They failed to understand what John says at the beginning of his Gospel, that the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh, that is to say that God became man.

Now that is quite the opposite of the false notion that men can become gods. That is not taught anywhere in the Bible. God became man, and forever, Jesus Christ the man, will be both God and man. We read 1 Timothy 2:5 that “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This man Christ Jesus is God in the flesh. And the Jewish authorities were not only persecuting him for doing works on the Sabbath, but they were now planning to kill him because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” When John writes that we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God in order to have eternal life, he means that we must believe that Jesus is equal with God. Every time Jesus uses the phrase “My Father,” he is claiming equality with God. Every time he calls himself the Son, he claims to be equal with God.

So in answer to the question, “Jesus, who do you think you are to be healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus answers, “I am equal with God. My Father is always working, and so am I.”

What Right Do you Have?

The next question is, “Jesus, what right do you have?”

In verses 19-29, Jesus tells us his rights. And what he claims here is astonishingly more than just the right to heal someone on the Sabbath.

 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:19-29 ESV).

The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does (5:19-20).

That’s what Jesus says in 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” As the Son of the Father, Jesus does only what he sees his Father doing, but he does everything his Father does, because his Father shows him everything that he is doing.

Here we come face to face with the mystery of the Trinity. We see both equality between the Father and Son, for John just explained, that in calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Yet, there is distinction in the persons of the Deity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus precedes his explanation with the formula, “Truly, truly.” In the original Greek, it is simply, “Amen, amen.” This underlines the importance of what he says: “the Son can do nothing by himself.” Constantly the Scriptures make a distinction between the persons of the Godhead. Everywhere we look there are interactions and transactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son. The Son returns to the Father. The Son prays to the Father. The Father speaks to the Son. The Son asks the Father to send another Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascends to the Father and receives the gift of the promised Holy Spirit and pours out the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus. We are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). The apostolic blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians is “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

This equality between the three persons of the one true God is called the ontological Trinity. Ontology has to do with being. It has to do with what God is in and of Himself. In and of themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal and they are each fully God. The Father is fully God. The Son is fully God. The Holy Spirit is fully God. Yet, the Bible everywhere insists that there is only one God. There are no other gods. When the Word became flesh, God became man, but no man will ever become a god.

In calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God. That is part of the ontological Trinity.

But there is also the “economic or functional Trinity.” It has to do with function and divine order and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together as one. In saying that, I do not wish to imply that it could be any other way. They are one in essence and one in knowledge, power, and will. While the Son of God is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is completely obedient to the Father. So Jesus explains that “he can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” He never acts independently. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (Philippians 2:6). He became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.

So the Son is equal to the Father, but obedient to the Father. “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19 NLT). How is it that the Son does everything that the Father does? In verse 20, Jesus explains “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (Joh 5:20 NAU).

This is what a Father-Son relationship should look like. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he is doing so that the Son may do it as well.

Jesus, what right do you have? I have the right to do whatever my Father is doing because He loves me and shows me everything that He is doing

The Son has the right to give life to whom he will.

What right do you have, Jesus? Jesus replies, “The Son have the right to give life to whom I will.”

Jesus had healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda and in a sense, had raised him up. But he claims that he will do even greater things. Things like what? Things like raising the dead. “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

In chapter 11, Jesus will do exactly that. Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for four days, but Jesus has come to manifest the glory of God. Standing before the tomb, he cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” The next words in 11:44 are riveting: “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet found with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” Jesus gave life to Lazarus.

Namaan

Who has the right to give life? God. The Jewish authorities understood this. In the Old Testament, Namaan the Syrian was an officer in the Syrian army, but he had leprosy. He also had a house girl from Israel. She told him about Elisha, a prophet of God, who could heal his leprosy. So the king of Syria wrote a letter to the king of Israel, but the letter was not very clear. It read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). The King of Israel thought that the king of Syria was seeking a quarrel with him. So “when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?…” (2 Kings 5:7 ESV).

Note the words, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive…?” The Jewish authorities knew that it was God’s right to give life. Jesus was claiming that divine right.

Lazarus

The Son gives life to whom he will. But the life that he is talking about is much more than physical life. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, the Jewish authorities began plotting how they would kill him! Lazarus died and was raised, but he would die again! Jesus came to give us so much more than physical life; he came to raise us to eternal life.

Eternal life? What is that? It is more than just living and never dying. It is a personal knowledge of the One who is the source of life. Jesus defines it in John 17:3,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV).

This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 25:

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (John 5:25 ESV).

He says that the hour is now here. Have you heard his voice calling you to life? Or are you still dead? The Bible says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Has that happened to you yet? Have you heard his voice?

Have you received eternal life from Christ? This is personal knowledge of God and fellowship with Him. It is a love relationship that cannot be interrupted by even death itself. “I am sure,” says the Apostle Paul, “that neither life nor death… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

If you have received the life that Christ came to give, death itself will not be able to interrupt your communion and fellowship with God. You pass from this life into the literal presence of God.

Jesus has the right to give life to whom he will.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son has the right to judge all men (5:22).

This is a remarkable statement: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22). We often thing of God as the Judge, and He is. Abraham calls him “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25). But it turns out that the judge of all the earth is the Son. The Father has given all judgment to the Son.

Verse 27 explains, “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27 ESV).

“Because he is the Son of Man!” What does this mean? It means that he is the Word become flesh. He is the God-man. He became man that he might taste death for us (Hebrew 2:9). He was made like us in every respect, and was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Hebrew 4:15). Having become man, he knows man and is in the perfect position to judge man. Therefore, the Father has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

When will this happen? Soon enough! The hour is coming!

 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29 ESV).

Notice how Jesus contrasts the call to life now with future judgment. In verse 25 he says that “an hour is coming and is now here.” But in verse 28, he simply says that “an hour is coming.” It is not now here; it is still future

Again in verse 25 he says that it is now that the dead will hear his voice and live. He is talking about his right to give spiritual life to whom he will. But in verse 28, he uses a different phrase to speak of the dead: “all who are in the tombs.” He is speaking of those who are literally, physically dead. An hour is coming, he says, when they will hear his voice and come out. This is the literal future resurrection of all the dead. “All who are in their tombs,” he says, “will hear his voice and come out.” But they will not all receive the same judgment. There are two types of resurrection: the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment. “All who are in the tombs will ear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

Have you heard his voice? If you hear his voice now, your resurrection will be a resurrection of life, but if you do not hear his voice now, you will hear it later, and your resurrection will be one of judgment.

The Son has the right to judge all men because he is the Son of Man.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son is to be honored as the Father is honored (5:23).

The Father “has given all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son…” We honor judges. If you are in a court of law in the United States of America, you will address the judge as “Your Honor.” If you live in a Commonwealth nation or a nation formerly belonging to the Commonwealth, you may address the judge as “Your Worship.”

You honor the judge because you know that he can decide your fate. The Father has given all judgment to the Son not only because he is the Son of Man, but also so that all will honor his Son just as they honor the Father.

Jesus says that we must honor the Son just as we honor the Father. That means that the Son is to receive the same honor as the Father. Since the Son is equal with God, we must worship the Son just as we worship the Father.

  • When the Father brought his firstborn into the world, he said, “Let all God’s angels worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).
  • The wise men fell down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:11).
  • When Jesus came walking on the water, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).
  • The blind man who was healed in John 9 said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him (John 9:38).
  • Seeing the resurrected Christ, his disciples worshiped him (Matthew 28:17).

“[R]eligions such as Judaism and Islam that consider Jesus merely a great prophet do not represent the truth about God, because they fail to worship and honor Jesus” (ESVSB on John 5:23).

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”

Some are confused about the identity of Christ. They believe that he claimed identity with God as one person. He did not. He made a distinction between himself and his Father. In this passage, Jesus said that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. We see elsewhere that he distinguished his knowledge from the Father’s knowledge when he said “concerning” the day and hour of his return, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV).

Christ distinguished his will from the Father’s will when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

He even distinguished his presence from his Father’s presence when he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus is equal with God, but he is not the same person.

Others put all the emphasis on the Father. They say that Jehovah God is the Almighty God, but that we must not honor the Son as we do the Father. They say that we must not worship the Son as we do the Father. But Jesus says that unless we honor the Son as we do the Father, we have dishonored the Father who sent the Son. Jesus is not inferior to God. He is equal with God.

Have you heard his voice, calling you from death to life? Are you ready to meet the judge, the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you worship and honor Jesus? Do you, as Thomas later did, worship Jesus as your Lord and your God?

Since Jesus is equal with God, he has all the rights of God.

  1. The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does.
  2. The Son has the right the give life to whom he will.
  3. The Son has the right to judge all men.
  4. The Son has the right to be honored as the Father is honored.

See also “Gospel of John”: