David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
John 7:1-53 - AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
A. Jesus goes up to Jerusalem in secret.
1. (John 7:1-5) The contempt of the brothers of Jesus for Him.
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
a. He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him: It was not a lack of courage that made Jesus stay in Galilee, but an awareness of the Father’s perfect timing - and it was not time yet.
b. The Feast of Tabernacles was a joyful, weeklong celebration, when families camped out in “booths” to remember God’s faithfulness to Israel during the wilderness wanderings.
c. Go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that you are doing . . . If you do these things, show Yourself to the world: Essentially, Jesus’ brothers are telling Him to “take Your stuff to the big leagues.” They say, “If You really do have all this miracle power, why don’t You go to Jerusalem and make Yourself really famous?”
i. The Living Bible gives a good sense of this: You can’t be famous when you hide like this! If you’re so great, prove it to the world!
d. His brothers therefore said to Him: The brothers of Jesus never seemed to be supportive of His ministry before His death and resurrection, (see also Mark 3:21) but that changed after His resurrection (Acts 1:14).
2. (John 7:6-9) Jesus’ reply: we are of different worlds.
Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.
a. I am not yet going up to the feast: Some compare this statement with what it says in John 7:10 (He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret) as if they caught Jesus in a lie. Schopenhauer, the German philosopher of pessimism, pompously said: “Jesus Christ of set purpose did utter a falsehood.” But Christians have observed for centuries that if Jesus said He would not go publicly as to attract attention (as His brothers wanted), but that did not preclude Him from going up privately.
b. My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready: Because Jesus was completely submitted to the will of the Father, the timing of God the Father was important. But for Jesus’ brothers, who were not submitted to God’s will in the same way, any time was fine!
i. In Jesus’ life as well as our own, the Father’s timing is just as important as His will. Many stumble because they sense they know God’s will, but they move ahead of His timing. This is a sure recipe for frustration.
3. (John 7:10-13) Jesus goes up to a Jerusalem that is abuzz with rumors concerning who He is.
But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, “Where is He?” And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.” However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
a. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary”: Then as well as now, Jesus divides people. Those who heard Him and knew Him couldn’t remain neutral. They decided one way or another regarding who Jesus was, either good or a deceiver.
B. Jesus answers objections and teaches.
1. (John 7:14-18) Objection: Jesus isn’t educated; He is His own authority.
Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.”
a. Jesus went up into the temple and taught: Though Jesus avoided a grand entrance, He now teaches boldly. He never shrank back from proclaiming the truth.
b. How does this Man know letters, having never studied: The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus had not studied or been a disciple under a prominent rabbi (as Paul studied under Gamaliel, Acts 22:3).
c. My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me: Jesus doesn’t point to His credentials, but to His doctrine. It is as if He says, “I don’t have a seminary degree, but judge Me by My doctrine.” If the Jewish leaders listened carefully to the doctrine of Jesus, they would know that it was all rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures, and that it was from God.
d. My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me: Jesus was an eloquent, gifted teacher, but He was not self taught. He was God taught! His authority was not from any man, but from His Father.
2. (John 7:19-24) Objection: Jesus is a Sabbath breaker.
“Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” The people answered and said, “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I did one work, and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
a. Why do you seek to kill Me? Because He healed a man on the Sabbath, the rulers wanted to kill Jesus (John 5:16). The multitude didn’t know this, but the Jewish leaders did - though they denied it.
b. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken: If it is permitted (even commanded) to do a negative work (such as cutting away the flesh in circumcision) on the Sabbath, why not a work that brings wholeness?
c. Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment: If the rulers and the people would only do this, they would embrace Jesus instead of contesting and rejecting Him.
3. (John 7:25-29) Objection: if the Messiah will appear suddenly and unexpectedly, how can Jesus be the Messiah?
Now some of them from Jerusalem said, “Is this not He whom they seek to kill? But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.” Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.”
a. When the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from: The crowd, in their partial knowledge of the Old Testament, was convinced that the Messiah would come suddenly and spectacularly.
b. You both know Me, and you know where I am from: This first sentence of Jesus’ reply may well have been sarcastic. They thought they knew where He was from, but they were unaware of His heavenly origin.
c. I am from Him, and He sent Me: The crowds may be confused about where the Messiah comes from, but Jesus knew exactly where He came from. Jesus was not a confused man, wondering if He was really the Son of God.
4. (John 7:30-36) The leaders try to seize Jesus because many believed in Him.
Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?” The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.” Then the Jews said among themselves, “Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What is this thing that He said, ‘You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?”
a. Because His hour had not yet come: Until the time was right, no one could lay a hand on Jesus. There would come a time when Jesus would say that His hour had come (John 12:23). Until that hour, Jesus was protected.
b. I shall be with you a little while longer: Jesus assures the officers that came to take Him that He will go away, but only at the appointed time - at His ascension.
c. Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks: Through His followers, Jesus did in fact go to the Dispersion and teach the Greeks - but the time for that was later.
d. What is this thing He said: Even though His words were misunderstood, they echoed in the mind of His hearers
5. (John 7:37-39) The great invitation: If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
a. On the last day, that great day of the feast: At the Feast of Tabernacles, water was poured out daily at the altar to remind everyone of the water God miraculously provided for a thirsty Israel in the wilderness.
b. Let him come to Me: Jesus boldly calls people to Himself, claiming that He can satisfy the inner thirst in man.
c. Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water: The water of the Holy Spirit not only goes in, it also comes out. Not only does the believer receive blessing, but he becomes a blessing to others.
i. This is the contrast between two contemporary religious movements of Jesus’ day. The Qumran sect had no outflow, becoming stagnant and dead. But Christianity emphasizes outflow, extending life and blessing to others.
d. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given: The word given here is added by translators. More literally it is “for it was not yet Spirit.” John tells us that it was not yet Pentecost and the days of the Spirit.
e. Because Jesus was not yet glorified: John speaks of Jesus’ coming ordeal at the cross as being glorified, and that it must come before the power of Pentecost. Calvary is the necessary prelude to Pentecost, and the cross is seen as glory, not shame.
C. Who is Jesus?
1. (John 7:40-43) Jesus brings division among men.
Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” So there was a division among the people because of Him.
a. This is the Prophet . . . This is the Christ: Some say one thing, others say something else about who Jesus is. But everyone had an opinion. One can not be confronted with Jesus and remain neutral; feigned neutrality is rejection, the same as open hostility.
b. Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Their rejection of Jesus was based on their ignorance. They didn’t know Jesus really was born in Bethlehem.
c. So there was a division among the people because of Him: There is a real sense in which Jesus is a divider of men. Because we cannot be of two opinions about Jesus, some will be for Him and others will be against Him.
i. Jesus repeated this idea in Matthew 10:34-36 : Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
2. (John 7:44-49) An attempted arrest.
Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him. Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”
a. Some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him: The arrest was unsuccessful, but it wasn’t because the arresting officers were incompetent. It was because the time wasn’t right yet.
b. Because the Pharisees hate Jesus, they despise anyone who embraces Him: Are you also deceived? Have any of [us] believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.
3. (John 7:50-52) Nicodemus’ small stand for Jesus.
Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”
a. Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing: Nicodemus tries to reason with the Jewish leaders, warning them of judging Jesus hastily.
b. Are you also from Galilee: Galileans were objects of Judean scorn, and the butt of Judean jokes. To the Jewish leaders from Judea, nothing good could come from Galilee.
c. Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee: In fact, a prophet had risen from Galilee. Jonah, who was a type of Jesus Christ came from Gath Hepher, which was three miles north of Nazareth in Lower Galilee (2 Kings 14:25).
John 8:1-59 - THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
A. An adulteress is brought before Jesus for judgement.
1. Textual questions on John 7:53 to John 8:11.
a. From manuscript current evidence, it seems unlikely that this portion (John 7:53 to John 8:11) was part of the original text of John’s gospel, or at least in this place.
o The majority of ancient Greek manuscripts omit this section
o Many later manuscripts mark this section with asterisks
o One group of manuscripts inserts it after Luke 21:38
o A few have this section after John 21:24, and one has it after John 7:36
i. All this shows that ancient scribes were ignorant of its exact position, but were anxious to retain it in the gospel records. They knew it belonged, but they didn’t exactly know where.
b. Some ancient Christians (like Augustine and Ambrose) omitted this story, not so much because of the textual evidence, but because they thought it made Jesus appear to condone sexual immorality.
c. At the same time, the character of the story makes it seem obvious that it is genuine, and most scholars note that it is historical and factual. Early Christian writers mention this event as soon as the early second century (100 a.d.). We have every reason to believe that this actually happened, and that John really wrote this.
2. (John 7:53 to John 8:6 a) A woman is brought to Jesus, caught in the act of adultery.
And everyone went to his own house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.
a. Brought to Him a woman caught in adultery: They set a trap for Jesus. If Jesus says, “Let her go,” then it seems that He breaks the Mosaic Law. If he says, “Execute her for the crime of adultery,” then Jesus seems harsh and He breaks Roman law, because the Romans had taken away the right of Jews to officially execute people for religious offenses.
b. Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned: Did they really execute people for adultery in Israel? It is true that adultery was a capital offense under Jewish law, but the rules for evidence in capital cases were extremely strict. The actual act had to be observed by multiple witnesses who agreed exactly in their testimony. So, as a practical matter, virtually no one was executed for adultery, since this is a private sin.
c. This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him: These wretched men used this woman as a weapon against Jesus.
i. They cared nothing for true righteousness, for it is evident that they set her up. They claim that this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act - yet they do not bring the guilty man before Jesus. It’s possible that the man was one of their own number, and was simply setting the woman up as a pawn in their conflict with Jesus.
ii. They see clearly the sin in others, but are blind to the sin in themselves.
3. (John 8:6 b) Jesus ignores them, as if He never heard them.
But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
a. As though He did not hear: Why did Jesus ignore them? Some think it was because He despised them; others say that He was embarrassed for the woman’s sake. Still others say that He was horrified at what these men did to her.
b. Wrote on the ground with His finger: What did Jesus write? No one can know for certain. He may have listed their names or their sins; or simply doodled; He may have followed Roman judicial practice and wrote out His sentence before He pronounced it.
i. Or, He may have written out a passage like Exodus 23:1 : Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
4. (John 8:7-9) Jesus passes sentence upon the woman - and her accusers.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
a. In Jewish law, witnesses to the capital offense began the stoning. When Jesus said, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first, He was really said, “All right, let’s execute her. But let’s do it right. One of the witnesses has to have a hand in her execution. So who among you is the one who witnessed this crime, but only brought to Me the woman, not the man?”
i. Jesus makes it plain - whoever the witness is, whoever the one who has the right to cast the first stone is, he is as guilty as the woman taken in adultery, because of his hypocrisy.
b. Went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last: Why did they leave in this order? Perhaps the oldest left first because they most easily understood that Jesus was talking about them.
i. Or, others think that Jesus was writing on the ground an account of their own sins, beginning from the oldest to the youngest, and this explains the order of their departure.
c. Being convicted by their conscience: The embarrassment was no longer His, but theirs. If anyone tries to embarrass Jesus, they will instead find themselves put to shame.
5. (John 8:10-11) Jesus challenges the woman to sin no more.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
a. Has no one condemned you? With her accusers gone, there was no one left to condemn the woman, and Jesus Himself did not condemn her. In the same way, there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus (Romans 8:1).
i. Some debate whether or not Jesus actually forgave the woman. It’s probably a pointless angle to discuss, because Jesus certainly showed the woman mercy and He called her to repentance (go and sin no more).
b. Neither do I condemn you: If the law of Moses condemned the woman, what right did Jesus have to show her mercy? Was His display of mercy against the righteousness of God? Not at all - Jesus’ mercy on the woman was righteous, because though she did in fact sin, she was only a pawn in a larger scheme against Jesus.
B. The light of the world.
1. (John 8:12) Jesus, the light of the world.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
a. I am the light of the world: Light was an important symbol in the Feast of Tabernacles. During the feast, many emblems and ceremonies remembered the pillar of fire that gave light to Israel during the Exodus. Now, Jesus takes this important symbol and simply applies it to Himself: I am the light of the world.
b. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness: Jesus, being the light of the world, brings light to those who follow Him. If we are not abiding in Jesus, we are not in the light.
i. The other important picture of light in the Bible relates it to God’s Word: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalms 119:105). Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me (Psalms 43:3).
ii. Since Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), it makes perfect sense that He is also the light.
2. (John 8:13-20) The identity of Jesus, according to the testimony of two witnesses.
The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.
a. Your witness is not true: Jesus just proclaimed that He was the light of the world, but the Pharisees couldn’t see it. When you can’t see the light, it simply means that you are blind. A seeing man doesn’t need someone to prove the light, he simply sees it.
b. Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true: Jesus would agree that under normal circumstances, a man’s testimony regarding Himself could not be established as true. But Jesus points out the He is qualified to give testimony about Himself.
i. Jesus can testify about Himself because He, not they, has view of eternity: I know where I came from and where I am going.
ii. Jesus can testify about Himself because He, not they, judges righteously: You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
iii. Jesus can testify about Himself because His testimony is fully supported by God the Father: My judgment is true; for I am not alone.
c. Jesus has more than only His testimony about Himself. He also had the testimony of God the Father in perfect agreement: I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.
d. Where is Your father? The Pharisees intended this as a deeply cutting insult to Jesus. They refer to His virgin birth, and to the rumors that it was not a miraculous conception, but an illicit one.
e. You know neither Me nor My Father: In referring to Jesus’ parentage, the Pharisees thought they had some special “intelligence” or scandal on Him. They must have thought, “Watch how He reacts when we reveal what we know about Him.” But Jesus made it clear that they do not know anything about Him, or His Father.
3. (John 8:21-24) Two destinies: Jesus will go to glory, they (unless they turn) will die in their sins.
Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
a. I am going away . . . Where I go you cannot come: Jesus knew He was going to heaven. Because of their hatred against Him, Jesus could say that His accusers were not going to heaven. Where He was going, they could not follow.
i. If we follow Jesus on earth, we will follow Him to heaven. If we express no desire to follow Him on earth, what would make us think we will follow Him to heaven?
b. Will He kill Himself? This is another insult against Jesus. In Jewish teaching, the lowest levels of Hades were for those who committed suicide. Now, the Pharisees try to twist Jesus’ words to imply that He will commit suicide and therefore be damned.
c. If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins: People are born in sin (Psalms 51:5), and if we hold on to our sin, and do not deal with it, we will die in our sins. Since all sin must be dealt with, those who die in their sins will have to pay for their sins in hell. But if we have our sins dealt with now, on this side of death, by trusting in whom Jesus is and what He did to save us, we can avoid dying in our sins.
d. If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins: Jesus called them to believe that I am. The “He” is rightly in italics and added by the translators. The title “I am” is a claim to deity, and if the Pharisees will be saved from dying in their sins, they must believe in Jesus and in who He really is - God the Son.
i. “This expression is in the style of deity . . . The same Greek expression occurs in John 6:20; John 18:6, neither of which is difficult to understand.” (Morris)
4. (John 8:25-30) Jesus proclaims His dependence on and obedience to the Father.
Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.
a. Who are You? This question of the Pharisees comes from a combination of willful confusion and contempt. Though Jesus has told them over and over who He is, they will continue to ask until they get an answer they can use to condemn Him.
b. I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him: Jesus emphasizes the point again, that His words are from God the Father. So, if the Pharisees have a hard time with Jesus, they really have a hard time with God the Father.
c. When you lift up the Son of Man: The “lifting up” Jesus describes has nothing to do with “exalting” Jesus in any way; it has to do with “lifting up” Jesus off the ground on a cross. When Jesus is crucified, they will see the perfect obedience of the Son to the Father.
d. The Father has not left Me alone: The unity between the Father and the Son continues, and will continue. Despite the accusations of the Pharisees, Jesus is as close to His Father as ever.
e. I always to the things that please Him: Jesus is bold enough to say these words to His adversaries - essentially challenging His enemies to find some what the He does not please God the Father. And His enemies are silent! This is a remarkable testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus.
i. I always do those things that please Him: It is easy to say, “I always do the will of the Father” when you are only debating theological points. It is another thing entirely to “always do the will of the Father” when it means going to the cross. The cross will prove the obedience of Jesus.
f. As He spoke these words, many believed in Him: Jesus’ message of His unity with the Father was so well received by some because His life was consistent with the message. Unlike the Pharisees, one could see that Jesus was close to God. The Pharisees cultivated an image of intimacy with God, but it was evident they were not.
5. (John 8:31-32) Jesus offers discipleship and freedom to those believing in Him.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
a. If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed: Jesus was not content to win a debate with these questioners. He wanted to bring them to salvation - and the only way that could happen is if they would abide in His word.
i. This too, is another statement reflecting the unity between the Father and the Son. He could call men to abide in His word! In the mouth of anyone other than Jesus, these words would be absurd.
b. If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed: If we will be Jesus’ disciples, we must abide in His word. There is no other way. To be a follower of Jesus - the Word made flesh - is to abide (to live in, to dwell in, to make your home in) His word.
c. When we abide in His word, and are His disciples, then we shall know the truth, and the truth make you free. The freedom Jesus talks about doesn’t come from just an academic pursuit of “truth” in general; but from abiding in His word and being His disciple.
i. There is nothing like the freedom we can have in Jesus. No money can buy it, no status can obtain it, no works can earn it, and nothing can match it. And tragically, how few Christians really walk in it! It can never be found except by abiding in God’s word and being Jesus’ disciple.
6. (John 8:33-36) Jesus answers their protest that they are already free.
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
a. We . . . have never been in bondage to anyone: Free and always have been? What about Israel’s bondage under Egypt, under Persia, under Syria, and now under Rome? “The power of self-deception in the unconverted man is infinite.” (Ryle)
b. Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin: Sin in this passage is in a verb tense indicating a habitual, continual action. The person in habitual sin is a slave of sin.
c. A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever: Slavery to sin is the worst kind of slavery, because there is no escape from ourselves. A Son must set us free, and the Son of God sets us free and brings us into the household of God.
d. If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed: If we are set free from our slavery to sin - set free by a Son, and set free by abiding in Jesus’ word and being His disciple - then we are free indeed, having a true freedom that contrasts to the “freedom” the Pharisees claimed in John 8:33.
i. An 82 year-old Christian woman from Hong Kong told of her life in China, but still used much of the vocabulary that the Communists used in describing their revolution - they called it “the liberation.” She was asked, “when you were back in China, were you free to gather together with other Christians to worship?” “Oh no,” she answered. “Since the liberation no one is permitted to gather together for Christian services.” “But surely you were able to get together in small groups and discuss the Christian faith?” “No, we were not,” the woman replied. “Since the liberation all such meeting are forbidden.” “Were you free to read the Bible?” “Since the liberation, no one is free to read the Bible.”
ii. The point is clear: freedom does not consist in the word “freedom,” or in words, but in relationship to Jesus Christ, through abiding in His Word, and being His disciple.
7. (John 8:37-41 a) They prove themselves to be unlike their father Abraham.
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”
a. Jesus will admit that they are Abraham’s descendants - but Abraham is not their father in a spiritual sense. After all, when messengers from heaven came to Abraham, he received them (Genesis 18:1-33). But these men reject the one sent from heaven.
i. What, specifically, proves them to be unlike Abraham? My word has no place in you. Again, the emphasis is made on abiding in the word of Jesus, and doing so because we understand His unity with the Father.
b. I speak what I have seen with My Father: Jesus reminds them that what He does is consistent with His Father, and what they do is consistent with their father (you do what you have seen with your father). But who is their father? Jesus will shortly explain.
c. Abraham is our father: Jesus disagrees. He will agree they are descendents of Abraham, but not children of Abraham because they seek to kill Jesus, when Abraham embraced Him. They are doing the deeds of your father.
i. Jesus’ point is important. Our spiritual parentage is what determines our nature and our destiny. If we are born again, and have God as our Father, it will show in our nature and destiny. But if our father is Satan or Adam, it will also show in our nature and destiny - just as it shows in these adversaries of Jesus.
8. (John 8:41-47) Jesus reveals the identity of their true father.
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father; God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
a. We were not born of fornication: Again, they try to insult the parentage of Jesus. The implication is, “We were not born of fornication, but we don’t know about You, Jesus.”
b. The issue comes back to spiritual parentage: You are of your father the devil. Because they are the spiritual children of the devil, they do the things he does - lie and murder.
c. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources: Jesus gives us some insight into the character of Satan. The lie is inherit to the devil’s character, and he is the deceiver most dangerous of all - the deceiver that is deceived himself.
d. Which of you convicts Me of sin? Again, Jesus gives His enemies - who hate Him so badly they want to kill Him - an opportunity to declare some sin in Him - and they cannot! This is nother remarkable testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.
e. You do not hear, because you are not of God: Jesus presses home the point of spiritual parentage, which is evident by the way that people act, and will determine people’s destiny.
9. (John 8:48-50) Jesus answers the charge that He is demon possessed.
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”
a. Do we not say rightly: The enemies of Jesus are frustrated, and exasperated. They have been unable to make Jesus look bad, and even more have believed on Him (John 8:30). So they launch their last volley: You are a Samaritan (one of the most despised races to the Jews) and have a demon (is demon possessed).
b. I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father: Jesus’ desire to honor God and His personal humility disprove any charge of demonic possession. Since those who have Satan as their spiritual parent will have some of the characteristics of Satan, they will have an evident pride and self-seeking - things that are absent in Jesus.
10. (John 8:51-59) Jesus’ unity with God the Father and Abraham’s witness of it.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
a. If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death: This is another remarkable claim that only makes sense if Jesus is God, and is one with God the Father. Jesus promises eternal life to those who keep His word.
b. Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead: This claim delights the Pharisees opposing Jesus; they believe they finally have Him! How can Jesus promise such life - shall never see death - when Abraham himself could never make such a promise! Does Jesus claim to be greater than Abraham was? Whom do You make Yourself out to be?
c. It is My Father who honors Me: Jesus does claim to be greater than Abraham - but it is not an honor He takes to Himself. Yet they do not recognize this honor, because they have not know Him.
d. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad: Not only is Jesus greater than Abraham, but Abraham himself acknowledged this! Jesus declaration of this brings back the accusation “How could you know Abraham rejoiced in You? Were You there?” To which Jesus replies, “Yes!”
e. Before Abraham was, I Am: this is the third time in this chapter Jesus uses the phrase I Am (John 8:24; John 8:28), and here in John 8:58.
i. I Am: The ancient Greek phrase is ego emi, which is the same term used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Jesus’ day to describe the Voice from the burning bush.
ii. In using the phrase I Am (John 8:24; John 8:58; John 13:19) Jesus used a clear divine title belonging to Yahweh alone (Exodus 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 43:10) and was interpreted as such by Jesus’ listeners (John 8:58-59).
iii. “The phrase harbours within itself the most authentic, the most audacious, and the most profound affirmation by Jesus of who He was.” (Stauffer)
f. The best proof what Jesus meant by claiming to be the I Am is found by seeing the response of His listeners: They took up stones to throw at Him. They wanted to stone Him for blasphemy, for claiming to be God.
i. But it could not happen, even as it could not happen back at John 7:30, because His hour had not yet come.
g. The remarkable theme through this whole chapter is expressed strongly at the end: Jesus is in perfect unity with God the Father, because He Himself is God. Those who reject Jesus reject Him because their “spiritual parentage” is not of God.
i. Our spiritual parentage is of the utmost importance - and it is revealed by our response to Jesus. Who is your spiritual father? You prove it by your actions as well as claiming it by your words.
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