< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: John 8: 12-59

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

John 8: 12-59

John 8:12-18 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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

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

The Feast of Tabernacles was a time of great light in the city of Jerusalem. Every night, four large candelabra were lit. The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that the brilliance of their blaze was enough to light every courtyard throughout all of Jerusalem. Until dawn, men with flaming torches danced before the people and sang praise songs, accompanied with musical instruments by Levites, the authorized temple workers. As soon as the first cock crowed, the Levites blew three blasts on the trumpets as a call to worship the Lord for His gift of light and the new day. This recalled the time Israel left Egypt, and God let them with a shining cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire at night.

Light manifests God’s glory. From the first day of creation – “Let there be light” to Revelation’s picture of the New Jerusalem – where God’s presence replaces the sun – light displays God’s holiness, truth and splendor.

In this divine light, Jesus boldly proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.”

Just as a sudden flash of light makes you turn your eyes away – the Pharisees turned from what Jesus was telling them. They understood what He was saying. That He was the Messiah, the promised Savior of God’s people. But they didn’t want to hear that – so they interrupted Him with their talk about witnesses.

The law of Moses said there has to be two witnesses to make any testimony valid. So, they said He didn’t have another witness.

First Jesus told them that based on His own unique position and authority His testimony was sufficient.

He also said He judged no one. Earlier, Jesus had said God gave Him authority to judge, because He is the Son of Man, a claim to being the Messiah. But the time for Jesus to act as judge had not yet arrived. He had come to save people in the world, not to judge them. The time will come when Jesus will return to judge but not yet. He wanted them to know His purpose then was Salvation.

And of course He HAS a second witness anyway! God the Father bears witness to Jesus’ words and works as well as the results of His works in the lives of those who believe him.

John 8:19 – 30 19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

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

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

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

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

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

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

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

When the Jewish leaders said, “Where is your father’ it was meant to be an insult. Remember everyone thought Joseph was His father. But Jesus replied, “You do not know my Father.”

Looking back at their history and Scriptures, these leaders should have recognized their Messiah. Yet they refused the very Savior whose coming they were chosen to proclaim to the world. They claimed to serve God, but they truly did not know Him because they refused to recognize His Son.

No matter who they are, anyone who refuses Jesus does not know God.

Jesus had also said earlier He was with them only for a short time, and at this point He repeated this prophecy, but with a stronger warning: “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin.”

This feast was probably the last time He addressed the crowds that had assembled from all parts of the region. The next festival would be Passover. Which is when Jesus would die. So, He’s warning the people here of the importance of this opportunity to believe.

Jesus went back to Heaven and it is ONLY through faith in Him that anyone can follow Him there. If you don’t trust Jesus to take away your sins you will pay for them yourself!

Those who confronted Jesus that day wondered if He were threatening suicide. Maybe that explained why they couldn’t follow Him. Jesus didn’t address that question, but instead pointed to the reason they did not understand Him. They were from the earth: He was from above.

He could not have been any clearer to the people. Over and over He told them who He was and they refused to believe Him!

When He said, “If you do not believe that I AM he” – remember that’s how God made Himself known in the Old Testament. I AM.

The shocking statement that they would die in their sins brought the key question, “Who are you?” Jesus said He had been revealing His identity from the very beginning of His ministry and life. Everything He revealed was directed by His Father who could be trusted in all things.

John 8:31-38  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

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

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

Jesus said that true discipleship involves holding to His teaching. This means more than admiring Jesus and an inclination to live as He lived.

It means to repent of our old ways and turn to Him in faith.

It means making time to read His Word, the Bible, which reveals Him.

It means applying His Word to life.

It means making Jesus’ words the light-filled atmosphere in which we choose to love to live!

People who do all this will be His disciples and know the truth. To know the truth is to begin to understand God’s great purpose in creation and history, and the meaning of life itself. This begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.

All of this brings freedom. Freedom was vital to the Jewish people. And you’ll notice Christ’s promise of freedom through believing in Him enraged the Jews. They said they were descendants of Abraham and “had never been slaves”. (Which was wrong of course – they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years! They had also been in exile in Babylon for 70 years.

Before this time, the key event in their history was their liberation from Egypt. They had just celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles, remembering God’s faithfulness to them on their journey after that miraculous rescue. But in Jesus’ day the Jewish people were not free as a nation: the Romans ruled them. Every person listening would have been gripped by Jesus’ promise, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Of course He wasn’t offering them freedom from Rome. He offered freedom from God’s judgment and freedom from sin’s control of their lives. We can be free from sinful habits, dominating fear, self-indulgence, cultural demands, self-absorption, anxiety, greed, pride, etc.

This freedom comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, which only Jesus can give. This is freedom to live the way God intended – purposefully, effectively and becoming more and more like Christ.
So, Jesus was speaking of spiritual bondage. Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Good intentions or believing you will start acting a certain way in the future are no match for the presence and power of sin in people’s lives. Every person is driven to obey the impulses that come from our nature.

Next Jesus told them that a slave had no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. It’s believed Jesus was referring to Abraham’s history. Remember, Abraham had a son by a slave woman, Hagar, and that son, Ishmael, lived in his house. But when God gave Abraham a son by his wife, Sarah, the slave woman and her son were sent away. These Jews were Abraham’s descendants and they believed they were sons in God’s house forever. But Jesus was saying their attitude, which reflected their cold hearts, proved they were not true sons. And unless they turned to Him, they would be rejected when the true Son comes into His full inheritance.

Today some people believe they are children of God because they have grown up in the church, or because they regard themselves as “spiritual” or have a commitment to help others. But membership in God’s family comes through new birth through the Holy Spirt and faith in God’s Son. In THAT relationship is freedom, from both God’s judgment and sin’s control

John 8:39-59
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered .“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 

40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 

41 You are doing the works of your own father.” 
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 

43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 
46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 
47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

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

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

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

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 
55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 

59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

The Jews protested about “Abraham is our father.” Abraham had faith. He believed God’s promises – and one of them was a great descendant he would have – the Messiah. And these Jews were planning to kill that Messiah. Abraham was no father to anyone who rejected Jesus. In fact Jesus told them their father was someone completely different!

He answered their next argument by showing them their spiritual darkness. That they were unable to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words because their father was the devil!

Can you imagine how this made them feel? These righteous Jews? But it was necessary for them to hear so that they would know they had to change and repent.

Jesus said the devil was a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies. In the garden his lie to Adam and Eve caused them to sin which brought death, first to their spirits and then their physical deaths. Everything and everyone after them died. And he (the devil) was behind the plot to kill the Messiah.

Next Jesus gave a tremendous challenge: Was there anyone who could accuse Jesus of ANY sin? Could they point a finger at any evil in His life?

The silence must have been deafening! They had no answer.

Jesus then asked, “Why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.”
The reason they didn’t believe Him was they didn’t belong to God.

Next they said that Jesus was demon-possessed. Even a demon-possessed Samaritan. By calling Him a Samaritan they accused Him of heresy: Samaritans believed only part of the Old Testament.
Jesus just told them He wasn’t. And that He honored His Father and they dishonor Him. Jesus lived on the earth as a man in humble submission to His Father. He always lived the truth that God, the Judge of all people, rightfully receives honor and glory.

Then He made another huge statement. “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

And they said, ‘Who do you think you are?” and “You are not yet 50 years old a- and you’ve seen Abraham?”

And here Jesus brought His teaching to a close with the clearest and most direct revelation of His deity. “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!”

When Moses stood at the burning bush and asked God who He was, God answered “I AM who I AM. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

Jesus was saying that before Abraham was born, He was already existing as the divine I AM. God the Son, with God the Father, was living His continuous, timeless existence. God had made a covenant to live with His people and now Jesus was announcing He fulfilled God’s promise to live with them. With absolute clarity Jesus was declaring that He, in fact, was God himself.

This is the central truth of Christianity along with the truth that He came to die in the place of sinners so we could live forever with God, beginning now.

The Jews thought this was blasphemy and following their understanding of the Law picked up stones to kill Him. But His time had not yet come and He eluded them.

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