Last week we looked at the extraordinary turn of events recorded in chapter 6 of John, where Jesus begins the day feeding 10,000 people with just a boy’s lunch, which resulted in the crowd wanting to kidnap him and make him king by force. Knowing their thoughts, he escapes that and sends his disciples away across the lake, later joining them by walking on the water. Then, he thins the crowd back down to not much more than the Twelve with a speech that was too hard for many to accept. It was a pretty intense chapter, and chapter 7 and 8 are not much different.
I’m going to just summarize chapter 7 today because what I really want to talk about is chapter 8. I’ll include some extra notes on chapter 7 for the Life Groups.
Chapter 7 begins…
1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.
The story continues that he ends up hiding for the first half of the seven day festival, and then he shows up in the temple courts teaching again.
This interchange with his brothers is similar to the one he had with his mother at the wedding from chapter 2. He tells them in the moment that his time has not yet come to go to the festival, but once they left, it became time. Some try to read a lot into that. I believe it’s just another example of Jesus staying completely obedient to the Father. Remember, Jesus said that he did nothing of his own, but only what He saw the Father doing. He did not come to do his own will, but the Fathers – every moment of every day.
A point he reiterates in his teaching…
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.
Then he says something that each one of us should pay attention to and take to heart.
17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
In other words, you will never truly grasp the truth of God’s word until you actually decide to just obey it. As James (the brother of Jesus who later became a believer) says – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) So long as you hear the truth of Scripture and choose to keep doing your own thing, you will never truly experience God the way He wants you to.
Jesus does some more teaching. The people are divided on what they think of him. The Pharisees are so annoyed with him they send the temple guards to go arrest him. Yes, the “church” had its own police and the priests could have people arrested for violating their laws.
Funny thing in this situation is that the guards go to arrest Jesus, but after listening to him talking, decided not to. When the Pharisees question them, the guards replied..
46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does!”
Jesus was so good with his words that he disarmed the guards without even lifting a finger. And yet, when the time was right, he let them arrest him and even kill him. But that time is not now.
The chapter ends with the Pharisees arguing among themselves, and then John goes into the story of the woman caught in adultery in the beginning of John 8. It’s a fascinating story that I won’t get into today. I’ve recorded a separate video for the Life Groups. So, we’ll move now to some more teaching Jesus does in the temple courts during the festival.
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.”
Jesus comes out of the gate swinging with another I AM statement. Last week in chapter 6 it was “I AM the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Now, a couple days later he’s at it again with a similar statement, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
A powerful and bold statement in and of itself, but what we don’t readily see from reading the text in or modern American context.
The setting of this statement is inside the Court of Women, which was one of the courts of the Temple complex. And more specifically, it was in the Treasury, which was a part of that court that contained the 13 “Trumpets” the people were to put their various taxes and offerings. It’s the place Jesus saw and commended the woman who gave her two mites.
But not only was he in the Court of Women in the Temple, which would be a beautiful place. It was also the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles. An annual feast that commemorated God sheltering and providing for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after being rescued from their slavery to Egypt. It was a seven day feast that began with a ceremony called the Illumination of the Temple.
It took place in the Court of the Women where Jesus is now teaching a few days later.
The court was surrounded with deep galleries, erected to hold the spectators. In the center four great candelabra were prepared. When night time came, the four great candelabra were lit and, it was said, they sent such a blaze of light throughout Jerusalem that every courtyard was lit up with their brilliance. Then all night long, until cock-crow the next morning, the greatest and the wisest and the holiest men in Israel danced before the Lord and sang psalms of joy and praise while the people watched.
And so, all the people he was talking to here had just done that a few days before. And now Jesus is saying…
You all have just seen the blaze of the Temple Illuminations piercing the darkness for one impressive night. Well, I am the eternal Light of the whole world! That light you saw four days ago is already out. But I am the light that lasts forever. And whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
It’s a pretty powerful scene, and a rather bold claim.
And once again, the Pharisees are not impressed. They respond with an argument they’ve already used. Probably because they can’t think of anything else to say.
13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
And once again, Jesus points out that he does have a second witness. They just don’t want to accept it.
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.”
Again, Jesus is clearly claiming to be the Son of God and equal with God himself. I’m sure they know exactly what he’s saying, but instead of accepting it, they respond with mockery…
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
I imagine them looking around with exaggerated motions as if to make fun of Jesus, probably knowing his earthly father, Joseph, was dead at this time. But Jesus is unfazed.
“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.
The point there about no one seizing him implies that they wanted to or maybe even tried. His words no doubt cut them as they knew exactly who he was talking about. But Jesus was right, they did not know the real God. They knew a god they had invented of their own that only had vague resemblance to the real God, and thus why they could not recognize the Son of God who was standing right in front of them. Sadly, many today follow suit. They claim a belief in God, but reject His Son. The fact is, we cannot know God apart from Jesus, His Son.
So, Jesus has already aggravated them, but today he’s not done. Once again, I love how Jesus just likes to poke the hornet’s nest.
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’?”
The “Jews” mentioned here are referring to the religious leaders, some of which were Pharisees. Jesus says to them that they cannot go where he is going. They immediately know he is talking about dying, but they suggest that he might kill himself because in Jewish thought, if you killed yourself you were guaranteed to go to Hell. And since the self-righteous Jews were certain that if anyone was going to heaven it would be them, they say these things again to mock Jesus. They are not taking his words seriously. They are like Bill Nye debating Ken Ham, or worse, politicians in a debate. They have no interest in truly hearing what Jesus is saying. But Jesus continues anyway. Don’t worry, they’ll be listening before this is over.
23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, clarifies what they did not say out loud. No – YOU are from BELOW. I and from above. And not only that. It is YOU who are going BELOW, not I.
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.”
To which they respond,
25 “Who are you?” they asked.
Again mocking because he’s already told them multiple times who he is. Which he points out.
“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.”
I think the NLT captures that last statement a bit better:
I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.”
Then John adds…
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.
Apparently Jesus perceived they did not follow what he was saying, so he adds some clarifying remarks.
28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man (referring to his future crucifixion and subsequent resurrection), 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.”
And indeed, many who jeered him now would become believers after his resurrection. And even now, John says that some of them believed.
30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
Personally, I find it an interesting statement that after all the arguing back and forth and the hard heartedness of the people, that John here says that some believed. I’m not sure what triggered it for them, but based on what is about to happen next, I’m not so sure it was the Holy Spirit.
What follows is one of the most heated exchanges Jesus has with the Jewish leaders. And surprisingly, it’s with the ones who John says believed him!
I’d like to read the whole thing at once, but I need to set the stage a little so you can grasp just how offensive Jesus’ statements are.
To the Jews, their religion was everything to them. And it wasn’t just a religion – they were God’s chosen people. They didn’t believe a set of made up stories like the pagans. They worshipped the only true God, who had chosen them out of all the people on earth to be his people. And it began with Abraham – who they considered their Father – both their literal and spiritual ancestor. And even more than that, they saw themselves as the exclusive children of God himself. They were separate, special, and distinct from all the rest of humanity. And because of this, despite having been under foreign rule for centuries, they considered themselves to be better than their captors and still ultimately free because of their unique status with God. They were a very proud people. Proud of their heritage. Proud of their history. And proud of their unique culture. And Jesus is about to step all over that.
31 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?”
Let me just point out real quick that if you are this offended by anything Jesus says…or really anything God says…then your “belief” is in question. A fact that Jesus intends to expose in these people right now.
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.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
Jesus just hit them where it hurts and he’s not done…
“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.”
He’s got them good and mad now. But he’s still not done…
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? (that was a rhetorical question that he’s about to answer) 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?”
They think they are children of God, but Jesus just called these “believers” children of Satan. So, they call him the worst names they can think of. And he’s still not done.
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.”
They’ve had about enough of this.
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?”
I like to imagine Jesus just calm as can be and the crowd all red faced and ready to kill him but they don’t have a concrete valid reason to yet. But he’s about to give them one.
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. 55 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 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.
Jesus just crossed the line. He just called himself the name of God. YHWH. The name God gave Moses when Moses asked what to call him. “I AM WHAT I AM – Tell them I AM has sent me to you.” It’s a name that was so revered by the Jews they wouldn’t even say it out loud or in some cases even write it out. And here Jesus just used it for himself and the people could take no more. No doubt they would have killed him in a mob frenzy if He hadn’t “hid himself” and “slipped away” – How he did that, not sure. I like to think he turned himself invisible. But that’s just me.
Isn’t Jesus awesome! He’s bold and brash. He’s brilliant and his words are perfect and perfectly timed. Just masterful!
I love scenes like this. I guess I just like watching Jesus win. I like watching him get the better of his enemies.
And this fight is one of the best!
Probably second only to the time he calls the Pharisees a bunch of hypocrites and a brood of vipers in Matthew 23!
But there’s a very important difference between this time than all the other times Jesus does this. This time, instead of talking to obstinate Pharisees – he’s talking to people who had just professed belief in him…why?
Let’s go back to the start and I’ll show you because this is extremely important for you and for me to follow. Because he’s talking to us – those who claim to believe in Him.
Here’s what he says in direct response to their open profession of faith…
31 “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.”
So may people love to quote verse 32, but skip over verse 31. Verse 31 is the key to verse 32. To these apparent believers, Jesus’ immediate response is not – “Congratulations! Welcome to the family! Everybody give these new believers a hand! Come talk with me after the service and we’ll give you a free bible.”
No, his first response to a profession of faith is…to put it in modern speak…”That’s nice that you believe me, but it’s really only those that keep my word and do what I say that are my true disciples.” The Greek is literally – “If you ABIDE in MY WORD – MY LOGOS – then you will be my disciples.” Does that sound familiar? John 15 – Vine and branches – abide in me you will bear much fruit – apart from me you can do nothing. Then, and only then will you actually know the truth, and be set free.”
“Set free from what?” you may ask. Jesus answers.
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
This is another passage that the English does not do justice to the Greek. The Greek for this is literally “Everyone practicing THE SIN is a slave of THE SIN.”
For those of you that have been around for awhile and heard the Kingdom Gospel that Dan Palmer shared with us when we went to the Atlanta Dream Center, and then this past summer when he came here for the His Reign conference – this should ring some bells for you.
Jesus tells these apparent believers that their profession of faith means nothing if there is not a change of heart and a change of actions to go with it. And the rest of the conversation reveals that their profession was only skin deep. They believed something about Jesus, but they weren’t ready to make Him Lord, King, and God of their lives.
My friends, this is so important for us to understand.
THE SIN that Jesus speaks of is THE SIN of wanting to do things your own way. It’s sitting on His throne. It’s the sin of Eve when she decided the fruit was good even though God called it evil. It’s the sin of wanting to be in control.
The great irony of THE SIN is that it promotes itself as freedom – freedom to do and be whatever I want to be. The freedom to live my own life and make my own rules. Even in the church we do it when we treat God like a hobby. We’ll follow Him, but only in our own way, in our own time, and at our own pace. Oh it’s a slippery one. It’s the great lie that makes you feel like you are free and in charge, when all the while, Jesus says you are really slave to the very thing you think makes you free.
This theme is all throughout the New Testament. And Jesus says there is only one cure. One way to actual freedom.
He says that when you keep His word, when you obey His teaching, when you Abide in Him – then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Do you know what the truth is? Or rather – WHO the truth is?
Only THE TRUTH can set you free from the slavery to THE SIN. And THE TRUTH is none other than Jesus himself. John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, and the life.
But you don’t even have to wait until chapter 14 – he spells it our right here in the next verses.
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.
Another quotable verse that many do not understand what it is saying. Jesus just said a second ago that THE TRUTH will set you free. Now he says THE SON will set you free. The Truth, The Son, Jesus. Knowing the Truth is not about knowing a bunch of facts. Knowing the Truth is knowing Christ. Truth is a person. And the only way you and I can know that person is to know His word and Live it!
Faith without action is no faith at all.
This is nothing new. But perhaps another way of looking at it will help.
In the world of scholarly theology they have divided the concept of faith or belief as it pertains to salvation into three levels.
At the top is NOTITIA – Latin for KNOWLEDGE. Many people know about Jesus, and may even know a lot of his words. Some may even have the whole bible memorized. But this does not save you. Satan has this level.
The next level is ASSENSUS – Latin for ASSENT or AGREEMENT. This requires knowing, but it is more than knowing. It is agreeing. It is taking God’s Word – the words of Jesus and agreeing that they are true. It is believing. This is good, but also does not save you. As James informs us – even the demons believe, and shudder.
No, salvation requires both knowledge and belief. But as Jesus here has made so painfully clear,
Saving faith – the kind that makes you a disciple and sets you free from slavery to the sin, requires that you go one step further from just believing….to trusting.
FIDUCIA in the Latin. Trust applies the truth you know and believe – to yourself.
Trusting in someone that you believe knows more than you means you replace your own understanding with theirs, which will always result in a change in action since our actions are based on our understanding.
In short: The evidence of trust in a superior is obedience.
Because you can easily know a truth, and even believe that it’s true, but if you don’t act upon that truth, your belief stops short of actual trust.
As an example: One of the easiest and most tangible expressions of trust in God from scripture is giving. You simply cannot make an honest biblical case for not giving back to God out of all He has given you.
But human reasoning thinks it’s foolish or even impossible to give a percentage of your income to an unseen God despite his many promises of blessings and provision if you do.
And so, the serious follower of Christ is presented with a situation where God’s ways are not our ways, and we have to decide.
If you read the bible, then you can’t help but know the truth. And maybe as you hear testimonies from others you might even start to believe the truth…for others. But until you take that step into trusting the truth for yourself by actually doing what God says simply because He says it…you will never experience the fullness of God in that area.
In fact, you are actually practicing THE SIN in that respect – doing things your own way, based on your own understanding rather than God’s – and are thus enslaved by a mindset that will always keep you from experiencing freedom in you finances.
Now, that is just one easy and tangible example of this principle.
Giving is not a salvation issue. You won’t go to hell for not taking God up on his great promises in that department. You’ll just miss out.
The danger comes when you know that Jesus is supposed to be your Lord. You even believe that He is the king of kings and lord of lords, and that the throne of your life belongs to Him. But if you never actually surrender that throne to Him and start obeying Him, then you cannot rightly say He is your Lord.
This is why Paul makes it clear in Romans that salvation is a combination of belief and obedience.
Romans 10:9 – If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Confess means to say something true about yourself. And it is not true that Jesus is your Lord if you have no intention of obeying Him…in everything.
You can’t call someone your leader if you don’t follow them. It’s the definition of leader.
You can’t call Jesus your Lord if you don’t obey Him. It’s the definition of Lord.
These are not only Paul’s words, and they are certainly not mine.
These are Jesus’ words…
John 8: 31 “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”
And then later in the same conversation,
51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.
Jesus makes it clear over and over that a true disciple of His is one who KNOWS Him, BELIEVES Him, and TRUSTS Him – with the evidence for that TRUST being OBEDIENCE.
This is the light – the truth – that Jesus came to testify about.
This is the light – the truth – that Jesus himself actually IS.
This is the truth that the world hates.
The world is fine with a belief that stays internal, because then you can claim whatever you want.
But Jesus demands the internal – and the external evidence to prove it. Which means you can’t fake it. At least not to Him.
This is the Christ we are pursuing. This is the real Jesus.
He is the light of the world.
The Great I AM.
I think Jesus would say to us again today…Does this offend you?
Does this offend you that upon a profession of faith from people, Jesus would immediately demand that they obey him, otherwise they are not really his disciples?
Our modern church likes to sell a salvation that gets you into heaven free and then later you can work on actually following Jesus. But that is not what the bible teaches. And that is certainly not what Jesus himself taught.
Just like we saw last week and we will see again, Jesus is not interested in half-hearted followers. He’s not interested in professions of faith with no action to back it up.
Now, to be clear. The line of salvation is at that point of trust, just before a first act of obedience. Hence why the thief on the cross could be saved without a chance to actually obey.
But for the rest of us, who are not hanging on a cross or coming to faith moments before death. Jesus is saying that true faith, true trust in him, will result in obedience.
And so the question we need to ask ourselves, or rather ask Jesus, is….where am I falling short of trust and obedience? Where am I stopping at knowledge and belief of the truth, but not actually applying the truth to my life as I change my thoughts and actions to match what my LORD commands?
And an even more important question…can I honestly call Jesus my Lord?
Obedience is not perfection. It’s not about following a set of rules. It’s about a heart that is surrendered to the King and through your personal relationship with Him, you’ve predecided to obey whatever He commands you because you trust Him over your own understanding.
And as you grow in your knowledge of Him and His words, your life changes as He reveals ways he wants you to change.
When you have that attitude, you can call Jesus your Lord. And the beautiful thing is that as He commands you, he will also give you the ability to obey Him.
Which means our only real reason for not obeying Him is our desire to do things our own way instead…which is THE SIN that makes us slaves.
Jesus, the Truth, the Light, wants to set you free from that.
Will you let Him?