John – Part 5 – Chapter 8, verses 33-59

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John Chapter 8, verse 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?”

Commentary

It hasn’t taken until the present day for people to misunderstand and misapply Jesus’ words. The unbelievers in the crowd spoke up again, challenging his offer of freedom.

As Jews, these men claimed a freedom already that not even the occupational forces from Rome could harness. They were the offspring of Abraham. Their connection with Abraham gave them favored status with God. They were not and never would be slaves to anyone. Such was their spirit and their heritage. Who was Jesus to tell them they needed to become free men?

John Chapter 8, verses 34-36

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Commentary

In replying to the Jews, Jesus once again stressed the solemn truth of his message: “I tell you the truth” (“amen, amen”).

Then he told them why their claim of never being slaves was untrue. This matter of freedom was not about being direct descendants of Abraham or defying all earthly captors ruling over them. It was and is about the universal truth that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Only those who are set free from sin are truly free.

Slaves become part of a household and even experience benefits from the household. But their connection is tentative. They remain slaves and can be sent away because they have no lasting claims there. By contrast, a son is a son forever. He belongs in the household and the household belongs to him. He is family.

The Jews’ connections with Abraham brought them into the household, but their sinfulness made them slaves. To be free, they needed the Son of the heavenly Father to set them free from their sins. Then they could truly say they were free. Then they could claim family privileges in the household.

John Chapter 8, verses 37-39

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

“Abraham is our father,” they answered.

Commentary

These Jews were indeed the seed of Abraham. Jesus acknowledged so. But their actions were strange for those who called Abraham their father. They were trying to kill the One who fulfilled the promises God made to Abraham. They were Abraham’s physical descendants, but spiritually they were not related to Abraham at all.

They rejected the faith that marks a true child of Abraham because Jesus’ Word did not take root and grow in them. They did not believe the things Jesus told them, which he had seen in the presence of God the Father. Instead, in trying to kill Jesus, they were doing the things they heard from their father.

The Jews realized that Jesus was not referring to God or Abraham as their father. They insisted, “Abraham is our father.”

John Chapter 8, verses 39-40

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.

Commentary

“Well and good,” replied Jesus. “If Abraham is your father, show it. Do what Abraham would do.”

True children of Abraham would not want to kill Jesus— who did nothing worse than to tell them the truth he heard from God. When messengers came to Abraham from God, Abraham welcomed them and listened to their message. Not so these Jews.

Jesus had said another time: “By their [false prophets’] fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:20). It’s still that way with unbelievers.

John Chapter 8, verses 41-42

You are doing the things your own father does.”

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

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.

Commentary

These Jews had never accepted Jesus’ claims, and they weren’t going to let him trap them with what he said about Abraham. Their claim to Abraham as their father was legitimate. They were pedigreed. Still they changed their talk to counter Jesus. “Never mind what you think about Abraham as our father. We have but one Father: God.” What would Jesus say about that?

Jesus answered consistently with what he said before. If God were their Father, they would love Jesus. That’s the truth of God’s way of salvation for all time. Our relationship to God the Father is determined by our relationship with God the Son and vice versa.

Jesus repeated the truth so they would have no excuse for rejecting him. He came from God and now stood among them. He did not come on his own with his own agenda to do his own thing, as we might say it. God sent him to carry out his plan of salvation.

John Chapter 8, verses 43-44

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. 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.

Commentary

These unbelieving Jews did not understand the way Jesus was speaking because they could not listen to his message. Hearts hardened in unbelief cannot relate to God’s Word.

They called Abraham their father and God their Father, but they showed by their actions that the devil was their father. Jesus spelled it out for them. They wanted to kill him. They refused to believe the truth he brought from heaven, opting instead to believe and perpetuate lies. They acted like the devil himself, who was a murderer from the beginning and loves to see others follow his ways.

In the beginning the devil confronted Eve with cleverly crafted lies that led to death (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-5). His lies and that death have plagued humankind since (Romans 5:12). So murder and lies come from the devil.

The devil has no part with truth. His way of speaking is to lie as he did with Eve. He is the father of lies. People who plot murder or who live with lies have the devil for their father.

John Chapter 8, verses 45-47

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

Commentary

People who believe lies eventually cannot recognize the truth when they see it. Those Jews did not believe Jesus because he told the truth. He didn’t fit their false ideas of a political Messiah. He didn’t conform to their false religion of work-righteousness.

Jesus challenged the Jews to prove him wrong. Who, he asked them, could convict him of sin—any sin? No one accepted the challenge. No one could point to any sin in Jesus—not a single word that they could prove untrue. If, then, he spoke the truth, why didn’t they believe him?

Jesus asked them the questions directly, but he wasn’t looking for a response. He used the technique to tell them the answer, an eternal truth they could not see. Whoever is from God hears God’s words. Whoever is not from God does not hear them. Those Jews didn’t hear because they were not from God.

John Chapter 8, verses 48-51

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

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

Commentary

Stung by the unveiled truth from Jesus’ lips, the Jews resorted to name-calling. Undoubtedly, to their way of thinking, they were simply answering him in kind. “You say the devil is our father? We say you’re a half-breed and you have a demon inside you.” He spoke the truth, however, not they.

Moreover, this matter was not about names. Jesus simply denied their charge and pointed to the real problem. He was glorifying his heavenly Father, but the Jews were dishonoring him. By being at odds with Jesus, they were at odds with God the Father. Jesus was not seeking his own glory, but the Father was seeking glory through Jesus. And the Father was the judge.

Jesus emphasized the solemn truth of what he was telling them. He underscored his Word (Logos) again. The way to know the Word, who is God, who is Jesus, is to keep his Word. Believe the message of Jesus and you will never see death.

John Chapter 8, verses 52-53

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

Commentary

Far from seeing the truth, the Jews now were sure that Jesus had a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died. How could Jesus be sane and say that anyone who kept his Word would never taste death? Where faith is denied and human reason takes over, people must conclude that Jesus is making preposterous claims. Only through faith do we see that he is in truth the Son of God.

The Jews again attacked Jesus verbally: “Do you think you are greater than our father Abraham? He died; the prophets all died. Just who do you think you are?”

They hadn’t been paying attention, so Jesus would tell them again.

John Chapter 8, verses 54-56

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

Commentary

Jesus claimed no glory for himself. That would prove worthless. Many before him and many since have claimed to be messiahs for their own glory and did no good. The Father in heaven gave Jesus glory, however. If the one those Jews called their God glorified Jesus, why didn’t they glorify Jesus too?

They didn’t glorify Jesus because they didn’t really know their own God anymore. For them to say they knew God but then to reject Jesus made them liars. Similarly, if Jesus had not claimed to know God as his own Father, he would be as false-hearted as they.

The Jews had lost sight of the Word of God that promised Christ’s coming. They had kept God’s Word only selectively and added to it. Jesus was keeping God’s Word to the letter and in spirit. Jesus spoke the truth, but the Jews followed their father, the devil.

Jesus could claim Abraham on his side, though the Jews invoked Abraham’s name for support, because Abraham in his faith trusted the promises of God and believed in the coming of the Christ. He rejoiced and was glad when God showed him the blessings of the Savior to be born in his line. Abraham saw the day of Jesus with the eye of faith through the revelation of God, and that made his day.

Abraham believed and lived (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).

John Chapter 8, verses 57-59

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

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked upstones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Commentary

Each claim Jesus made, however, confirmed the feelings of the unbelieving Jews. Hardened hearts often grow harder when confronted by God’s truth. To them Jesus was saying that he was a contemporary of Abraham. What else could this mean: Abraham “saw [Jesus’ day] and was glad”? But Jesus wasn’t even 50 years old. How could he have seen Abraham or vice versa?

Jesus didn’t bother to explain the part about Abraham’s faith. Instead, he used their question to witness solemnly one last time to his own eternal divinity: “Before Abraham was born, I am!” Jesus, standing there before them, was the eternal God, the I AM. “In the beginning was theWord” (1:1).

To the Jews that was the final blasphemy. They picked up stones to throw at Jesus. But while they got their stones, Jesus hid himself from their sight and left the temple. His time to sacrifice himself to pay for the world’s sins had not yet come.