Two for one today in our look at the eighth chapter of John. It could have been three, but I’m skipping over the account of the woman caught in adultery. In this read of John’s gospel, I’m intentionally looking at the stories I may have missed before, so I’ve purposed to skip over my favorites.
I wonder if you have ever been arguing with someone and your opponent says something so ridiculous, so outlandish, so blatantly false that you can only laugh at their logic. Such is an argument the Pharisees posed.
Jesus had been speaking about authority and his being the Light of the World, and many people were believing in him.
So 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.” 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’?” –John 8:31-33 ESV
Now, I haven’t consulted any commentaries — like the ones I mentioned last week — but on an initial reading, I just don’t understand how the Jews could say they’d never been enslaved to anyone. This reply seems absolutely ridiculous in light of their own history. What about Egypt? What about Babylon? What about their current oppressors, the Romans?
Jesus was addressing slavery to sin and how he wanted to set them free from such bondage. Then a discourse regarding fathers ensues. The Jews claim Abraham as their father, and Jesus accuses them of being Satan’s children, which doesn’t exactly endear him to them.
Their reply is a kid’s: “Nuhuh, you are,” saying Jesus himself was possessed a demon. (see verse 52)
Who do you think you are?
For whatever reason I used to think the charge of blasphemy against Jesus, the one the religious leaders used to get Jesus crucified, was a drummed up allegation, that Jesus never admitted or claimed to be God. Not so.
After much discussion about Abraham and fathers and demons, the people finally ask, and you can sense the tension culminated to this point. Not just in this dialogue but ever since Jesus appeared on the scene. The people ask, “Who are you?” But theirs isn’t exactly a sincere question. More like, “Who do you think you are?!” More rhetorical than genuinely inquisitive.
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. –John 8:54-59 ESV
It can be easily missed, but in Jesus’ reply, “I am,” he distinctly claims to be one with God. Hearken back to Moses in the desert with God via the burning bush. Moses asks who God is and God says, “I am who I am.” The Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. The God who was, is, and will always be.
Jesus is saying,
“Before Abraham, I am.
Before Moses, I am.
Before the Prophets, I am.
Before the existence of the earth of which I am her Creator, I am.
Before the stars and the sun and the moon, I am.
Before galaxies you can’t even see, I am.
Before even time began, I am.”
The Jews realized immediately what Jesus was saying, which is why they picked up stones, for blasphemy was punishable by stoning. Of course, we know that Jesus was not guilty in his claim to be God because he was — I should say is — God. Though Jesus tended to teach in parables and his words were often hard to understand, make no mistake that Jesus never considered himself merely a teacher, merely a prophet, merely a good man who taught good morals. No, Jesus knew who he was and made it plain.
The Jews didn’t remember their own history and they didn’t believe the God-man who stood before them. How about you?What in your past have you forgotten? What do you believe about Jesus?