Read John 8:31-59

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.’

Jesus began by addressing the believers, but others were still in the crowd, and before long they seem to hijack the conversation.

For the new believers Jesus explained that to become a disciple of his they must accept all of his teaching (we will look further at this when we study John 15:7). For now, it was important that they understood the meaning of freedom. The political situation meant that they were all acutely aware of their Roman masters, and some in the crowd may actually have been slaves. Freedom was something they all wanted.

But again Jesus was speaking of a spiritual dimension. Those who sin are bound by it and become Satan’s captives. Jesus was offering freedom from this bondage.

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?’

Would someone like to comment on the phrase ‘We  .  .  .  have never been slaves of anyone’?

They seemed to have forgotten Genesis 15:13, where God actually told Abraham that his people would be in slavery in Egypt for 400 years. Also they had ignored the last 700 years which had begun with the northern tribes being exiled by the Assyrians, followed by the captivity and deportation to Babylon of the tribes of Judah; and even after they had been allowed to return under Cyrus, the land was still ruled by Persia. Then the Greeks took over (under Alexander the Great). There was a brief period from 174BC to 63BC when they were self-governing again (under increasingly questionably Jewish rulers) until the coming of the Romans.  

34 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 

Again, Jesus would not be side-tracked into debating history: he immediately explained that they were currently in bondage to sin. So much so that sin had become a master that was obeyed without question.

35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. 

A slave may be loved, accepted and treated just like the other members of the family: even looked after in his old age, but when he dies that position ends.

To be a true child of the family you must be born into it.

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

As the Son of God, he could offer adoption into his family: they could each literally become a child of God, and for the first time experience freedom from the power of sin.

They were also in bondage to a religious system of laws that had become a millstone round their necks (Matthew 23). Unfortunately many Christians today worship in communities which again impose rules for Christian Living which actually seem more like slavery than the freedom Jesus intended.

37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 

The Jews were a proud race. Proud of the fact that they were God’s chosen people and that they alone had been entrusted with God’s Law. But their religious system was so ‘cut and dried’ that they simply refused to accept the words of Jesus:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to’ (Matthew 23:13).

They built tombs for the prophets (Matthew 23:29-31), but that was only a reminder that their forefathers had killed them, and their response now was the same as then:

Their ears are closed so that they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:10)

And so now they planned to kill Jesus too.

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.’

They claimed that Abraham was their father, and through Abraham, God. But the reality was different. Jesus spoke the words of truth from his Father; their words actually came from a totally different source.

39 ‘Abraham is our father,’ they answered.

‘If you were Abraham’s children,’ said Jesus, ‘then you would do what Abraham did. 

What did Abraham do? What marked his life?

Abraham was a merciful, charitable, and hospitable man, as well as a man of strict justice and integrity; he feared God, believed in him, and was ready to receive and act on every message and revelation which came to him.

Particularly: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness(Galatians 3:6, quoting Genesis 15:6). It was precisely this that Jesus was alluding to.

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 oing the works of your own father.’

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

What do you make of the phrase ‘We are not illegitimate children’?

Those who studied the scriptures would have been well aware that the prophets (particularly Hosea) had pronounced God’s judgement on a nation that had turned its back on the true God and effectively committed adultery with false gods; thus producing a nation of illegitimate children

(Hosea 5:4-7).

Sadly they could not accept that God could still be speaking to them.

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. 

Jesus could not have made it clearer: God was his father – not theirs! But more than that, God himself had sent him: he was their expected Messiah.

43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 

What prevented them from hearing?

How was it that the ordinary people heard and believed? (7:36)

Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.’ Ezekiel 12:2

But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.’ Zechariah 7:11-12

Was it simply the leaders of the people who had deliberately turned against Jesus or was there someone much more sinister and powerful leading them into rebellion against God?

44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.

Naturally, we cannot choose our parents, but spiritually we can. We can choose to become children of God (Romans 8:14-17), or choose to remain ungodly and therefore under Satan’s power (Romans 5); doing nothing is really not an option.

What did the devil desire?

He had been opposed to God and all his good works from the beginning; now he saw his opportunity to kill God’s son: to mortally wound God himself. But it was to counter this very threat that Jesus had come ‘The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.’ (1 John 3:8)

He was a murderer from the beginning,

When was that?

Not Cain & Abel! – Before that  .  .  .

Romans 5:12 ‘ Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned

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. 

God’s nature is exactly opposed to Satan’s.

Good  : Evil

Light   : Darkness

Life     : Death

Truth  : Lies

Remember the Garden of Eden: ‘You will not certainly die(Genesis 3:4) and the Romans passage above.

45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 

The emphasis is on the ‘I’. It demonstrates a direct conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees; Truth against Lies; God against Satan.

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.’

There was actually no question that the common people accepted that Jesus told the truth: even the Temple Guards, sent to arrest him, had to admit that ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does’ (John 7:46). Rather they had become so single minded in their desire to destroy Jesus, they could literally
no longer believe the truth.

Jesus pointed out that they had nothing against him, other than an automatic reaction against God’s truth, demonstrating that they did ‘not belong to God’.

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

To start using personal insults is a sure sign that you have lost the argument!

Jesus would not be drawn into a slanging match and he ignored the minor insult, but the accusation that he was demon-possessed was unbelievably far from the truth, and he therefore had to respond.

49 ‘I am not possessed by a demon,’ said Jesus, ‘but I honour my Father and you dishonour 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.’

Jesus had just explained (verses 41-44) that he had come from Father God. By obeying God, and speaking his words of truth, he brought honour to him. By speaking in such a way they were not only dishonouring him, but opening themselves to judgement and death. Obeying his words meant that at the end if their lives believers would pass immediately into eternity, and not ‘see’ death.

(I believe that we live in a world governed by time and space. God lives in eternity where there is no concept of time. There are no days or years, no yesterday or tomorrow; in fact our brains are so constructed that we find the concept hard to grasp. When we leave this world of time and join God’s family in heaven, we will all gather at the same ‘time’. Back on the earth it will appear that ‘the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) but in heaven there will be no such distinction. This is covered in depth in the study:  1 Corinthians 16).

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?’

Everyone dies – and it was obvious that Abraham and the prophets were all dead. How could Jesus speak of not seeing death?

Only if you were the Son of God who had come to break the power of death, could you make such claims.

Their question was ‘Who do you think you are?

Now perhaps Jesus would claim to be God and they could arrest him for blasphemy. But Jesus would not make any such claim; he did not need to justify himself to these unbelievers

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. 

Jesus response was that he would not make any claim to the glory that was rightfully his – he would leave that for God himself to do (John 17:1,5)

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. 

You don’t know God and don’t obey him, so you lie when you claim that you do, I do know God and I do obey him and that is the truth.

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’

the thought of ’ is not in the original Greek. Many translators have tried to change the tense but the A.V. has translated it correctly: ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.’

Abraham, now in eternity, saw the culmination of his faith, the unfolding of God’s plan. He rejoiced to see the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and all that that meant for mankind.

57 ‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’

If you can accept that ‘this world is not my home’, and that there is an eternal heaven, then the thought that Abraham had seen Jesus, and Jesus had seen Abraham is not at all strange.

58 ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ 

Not ‘I was’. The title ‘I am’, which everyone recognised as belonging to God himself, is in the present tense and suggests the sense: ‘was, is, and is to come’. Jesus had temporarily stepped out of eternity where he had existed with God forever.

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

Jesus had unmistakeably identified himself with God. The Leaders of the people were blinded to the truth and had only one response, kill the blasphemer. They would, but not now, and not like this. For now, Jesus took advantage of their blindness and simply walked away.  

John 9aJohn 8a

John 8:31-59  Children of Abraham or the Devil?
                      ‘I am’

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