Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 8

A Trap for Jesus?

At the feast of tabernacles, the incognito Jesus amazed the crowd by standing and crying out, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37,38). When the officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Him returned empty-handed, the hierarchy was concerned that Jesus was getting to them. “You have not been led astray also, have you?” (John 7:47). When Nicodemus tried to point out that the Law of Moses required a fair hearing before condemnation, the ranking Jews brushed him aside with the irrelevant comment that “no prophet arises out of Galilee” (John 7:52). Jesus, in accordance with a custom He would continue to follow roughly six months later at His final Passover, “went to the Mount of Olives” (John 8:1).

Joseph, when he found out that Mary was pregnant out of wedlock, “being a righteous man,” did not desire her punishment. Jesus, in even a greater sense, loved this woman “set in the midst.” How is He going to escape the trap set for Him, pinning Him between the horns of Moses’ Law and His being the Bearer of mercy?

 

 

Sin No More

The woman was caught in adultery. But the intent of the Jewish hierarchy had nothing to do with the woman’s innocence, guilt, or punishment; the goal was to “get Jesus.” Pitting the mercy of the Lord against the Law of Moses, they “were testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him.” So what would Jesus say? Nothing! “But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground” (John 8:6).

“All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” Hebrews’ writer informs. Any person who commits sin is “caught in the very act” by Him who never slumbers. But He is willing to grant mercy, and motivate His children of faith to love and good deeds. “I urge you therefore, brethren,” pleaded the apostle Paul, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

 

 

The Light of the World

Light and darkness are absolutely incompatible. Darkness is driven into the corners by blast of light, and the light of day is snuffed by the inky curtain of night. God allows the circadian battle of light and darkness to go on, that His children might understand that the war between good and evil is a daily one.

Having sent the accusers of the adulterous woman packing, Jesus was teaching in the treasury area of the temple, working on one of His themes of light vs. darkness. “Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ ” (John 8:12).

Be “doers of the word,” said James, early on one who did not believe in Jesus, but who later became one of His followers, “and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). The choice is clear: follow Jesus, or walk in darkness. No exceptions.

 

 

The True Witness

Men, for the most part, are a pack of liars. Even if they seem to be telling the truth, they often have a hidden agenda. So, within the confines of the church of living God, that most noble group of people ever assembled on the face of the earth, there are likely to be those who are using the freedom of Christ “as a covering for evil” (I Peter 2:16). There are men and women who are “hidden reefs in your love feasts, when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves” (Jude 12). “They are stains and blemishes,” chimes in Peter, “reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin” (II Peter 2:13,14).

The Pharisees, then, being in general a bunch of hypocrites and liars, expected that Jesus was lying and running a hidden agenda also. When the Lord spoke of His being the “light of the world,” they responded as expected. The apostle John records, “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You are bearing witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.’ ” (John 8:13). The Lord was not going to let that pass. Speaking in the temple treasury, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true …’ ” Then follows His reasoned discourse.

Jesus’ claim to the be the only light for the whole world was bold and bodacious, but He affirmed that He could back the claim with the witness from heaven! “These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come” (John 8:20). That hour would come.

 

 

“You Shall Die in Your Sin”

The desire of God is that men might know Him as God. The Jews of Jesus’ day were in general ignorant of God (although scripturally literate), trusting in a series of laws and customs to provide comfortable boundaries for their behavior and activities. The Lord’s words cut like a blow torch through thin iron: “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also” (John 8:19). Instead of trying to find out how to know God, the Jews attempted to seize Jesus and kill Him. “He said therefore again to them, ‘I go away, and you shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come” (John 8:21).

For most, the god of this world has blinded their eyes that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They shall die in their sin.

 

 

Not of This World

It is a basic Biblical truth: if you chose earth, it will cost you heaven; if you choose heaven, it will cost you earth. Jesus, outside the splendor of the newly built Roman capital of Ceasarea Philippi, explained to the apostles, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it” (Mark 8:35). Those who are of “this world” feather fruitless earthly nests instead of laying up treasures in heaven.

“I go away,” Jesus had remarked to the Jews in the temple. Not knowing that it was prophesied that the Christ was to suffer, their thought was that He must be contemplating suicide. Here the truth expressed by Isaiah is surely manifest: “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).

Those who choose earth will barter away their eternity for a daily mess of pottage. The bulk of the Jewish multitude would cave in to family pressure and centuries of customs, refusing to believe even their own scriptures which pointed so clearly to Jesus as the Messiah. “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins,” was the Savior’s warning, “for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:23,24).

 

 

“Who Are You?”

Jesus point-blank told the Jewish hierarchy questioning Him in the temple: “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). A bold statement indeed, for the Jewish mind-set was that forgiveness of sins was taken care of in their sacrifices. The writer of Hebrews exposes their shortsightedness in his argumentation. “The law,” said the inspired scribe, “can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.” The Jewish listener would be inclined to say, “Why not?” The well-reasoned sword thrust comes in the next verse: “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?” (Hebrews 10:1,2). The fact that the sacrifices had to be offered yearly on the Day of Atonement was proof to Israel that forgiveness would need to be granted through some other offering. Jesus started the ball rolling for serious thinking by stating, “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”

“And so they were saying to Him, ‘Who are You?’ ” (John 8:25).

The Chief Cornerstone not only spoke to the Jews, but eventually through His spokesmen He would “speak to the world.” And the response from many would still be, “Who are You?”

“Who are You?” is still a great question. But the answer is greater still!

 

 

Lifting Up the Son

Jesus, being a prophet and also cognizant of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him, knew that He was to die by crucifixion on Passover, 30 AD, in Jerusalem. Mark records Jesus’ instructing the apostles, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). The apostles did not understand what He meant, and they had the benefit of much close association with Him. The hostile Jews and others, listening to His responses in the temple treasury would have really been puzzled at His teaching and at a loss to understand His oblique references to His upcoming crucifixion.

The apostle John includes Jesus’ words here in his account, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28,29).

The Lord’s impassioned discourse in the temple was not without fruit. “As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him” (John 8:30).

 

 

The Truth Frees

The speech of Jesus was not like that of the scribes and Pharisees. His ability to handle questions marked His intelligence and spiritual insight, His parables pulled on people’s spiritual interests, and His personal references to His heavenly Father set Him apart from the “divines” of the day. As He spoke, then, in the temple treasury, “many came to believe in Him” (John 8:30).

In the inspired minutes, the apostle John reported, “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31,32). This powerful, remarkable, and foundational statement of Jesus is the core of Christianity. All other religions are founded upon the philosophies of men or some collective emotional appeal, whereas Christianity alone is based upon truth, presenting the testimony of about 40 witnesses, written over a period of 1500 years. The testimony is written so that those who examine the testimony have the opportunity to scrutinize and analyze its contents. Because truth has no fear of questions, the truth of Jesus invites all of mankind to come and test its teachings. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” states John in his Revelation (Revelation 19:10). God “desires all men,” said the apostle Paul, to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time” (I Timothy 2:4-6).

The only set of documents that can be proven to be completely true and accurate are those which comprise the Bible. Know the words of Jesus and obey the words of Jesus, and you will be a free man!

 

 

True Slavery; True Freedom

“You shall know the truth,” stated the Lord Jesus Christ, “and the truth shall make you free.” Mankind as a whole tends to live in one form of denial or another, pretending that things are different or better than they actually are. Truth shatters the crystal foundation of denial and scatters the fragments to the winds; then and only then can the shackles which bind the minds of men be loosed.

The Jews confronting Jesus in the temple treasury had their own little collective denial. When Jesus said that the truth would make them free, their minds immediately swung to their proud heritage as the nation Israel. “They answered Him,” the apostle witnesses, “ ‘We are Abraham’s offspring and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, “You shall become free”?’ ” (John 8:33). Everywhere in Jerusalem were signs of Roman domination and occupation, and these Jews were trying to say that they were not enslaved to anyone! They had been slaves since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, as their own scripture testified: “Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its produce and its bounty, behold, we are slaves on it” (Nehemiah 9:36). The Jewish leadership were not only in denial of their slavery, but furthermore were looking for an answer in the physical realm rather than in the spiritual.

True slavery is slavery to sin, while true freedom is freedom from the dominion of sin. Announcing the coming of Jesus into the world to Joseph, eventual husband of Mary, the angel said, “And you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He was given the very name “Jesus” (God our Savior) to emphasize the freedom from sin He was making possible; rephrased, He was making it possible for His people to live sin-free lives. Praise God that the Son has made us free. Rejoice in the weekly freedom celebration at His table!

 

 

“My Word Has no Place in You”

The biggest case of “sticker shock” comes when an individual finds out the price of his sin. First he finds out that he has sinned, and then he finds that the wages of even one sin is eternal death in the lake of fire. The recoil from that shock is no minor matter; it is what got Jesus killed. His analysis near the end of His earthly sojourn was, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (John 15:22-24). An irrational hatred of exposure arises in the hearts of those who are slaves of sin and who have no intention of changing their condition. Jesus, reader of the hearts of men, knew what the recoil would be every time He encountered slaves of sin.

Abraham’s offspring — “We are Abraham’s offspring,” the Jewish hierarchy had puffed. They did not recognize that the true offspring of Abraham were those who would trust the words and works of Jesus rather than one who could lay out an earthly pedigree. But for the moment Jesus was not quite ready to say that, so He conceded that they were physical descendants of Abraham. “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring, yet you seek to kill Me …” (John 8:37).

There are only two voices to listen to: the voice of the devil and the voice of the Lord. The Christ made it plain that the voice these Jews heard was Satan’s, and, consequently, His word has no place in them. The devil works through the desires of the flesh, whispering his suggestions in weaker moments and times of temptation. The Lord now speaks only through what is written, that there might be no mistaking His voice for the voice of darkness.

 

 

Abraham’s Children?

Abraham was promised that his descendants would be as numberless as the sand of the seashore or the stars of the sky. Because God had repeatedly emphasized the importance of Abraham, the Jews — particularly the hierarchy — always claimed their physical descent from Abraham to give themselves an elevated position as they regarded their standing with God. The Pharisees and Sadducees had conveniently forgotten the admonition of John the Immerser when they had come for their immersions in the Jordan: “Therefore, bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance,” he had excoriated those whom he regarded as a brood of vipers, “and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9,10). Those who had paid careful attention to the message of God were aware that physical descent gave a person no standing whatsoever before God; only the proper heart was acceptable to Him.

The Redeemer of Israel and Savior of the world was therefore working on the Jews who were confronting Him in the temple treasury. “My word has no place in you,” He said. He was able to draw this conclusion because of their response to Him; to Him it was clear that spiritually they were not of Abraham but of another “father.” “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father,” He had stated, “therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father” (John 8:38).

Abraham is called the father of the faithful because he listened to God and did what he was told. Jesus likewise possessed “the faith of Abraham,” saying that He spoke “the truth, which I heard from God.” Abraham would not have persecuted the Son of Man; he would have fallen at His feet and worshiped Him.

But there was one lurking about, probing the recesses of men’s minds, who did want to kill Jesus. This evil one, the serpent of old, was the true father of those who claimed their descent from Abraham.

 

 

“Your Father the Devil”

Truth is a very powerful weapon. In fact the combination of truth and love cannot be matched by any of the forces of darkness in the long-term discourse of mankind. “You shall know the truth,” Jesus had told those who would be honest disciples of His. But the truth also exposes hidden motives and guilty consciences. The Jews disputing with our Lord in the temple were step-by-step pinned to the wall by the verbal sword thrusts of the Prophet from Galilee. Claiming to be of Abraham, these Jews were pushed from that position as the Christ established that they were not of the same mind-set as Abraham, having their own guilty consciences used against them to drive them on like leaves scattering before an autumn storm wind.

The voice of the Lord is given in the Bible. The voice of the darkness is heard in the promptings from the prince of the power of the air, working on the fleshly side of man. Each of the peoples of this world decide to hear the prompting of the evil one or to search out and obey what is written in the word of God. Each chooses his spiritual father.

 

 

What You Want!

The human race as a whole is in mad pursuit of what it wants, or what it has been persuaded that it wants. Sometimes political tyranny blocks the rush, sometimes community moral standards, and sometimes financial or other problems — but the rush is on, on a mass and individual scale.

Into this rush steps Satan himself. The master of deceit and the champion of fomenting unwholesome desires awaits each person at each corner hawking his wares and fanning the smallest fancy into a mighty flame of desire. Rebellious himself, and kicked out of heaven for his insubordination, the deceiver wants to “sell” others on joining him in his rebellion, shoving God aside to satisfy self.

The Lord Jesus, of course, was always aware of the lord of darkness. “Parachuting to earth in his Adam suit,” in the words of Steve Doty, He personally came behind enemy lines to rescue man and thwart the rebellion. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose,” stated the apostle John in his first epistle, “that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8). His sensitive spiritual nose trained to detect the pungent odor of evil, Jesus was conscious of Satan in the midst of the Jews who confronted Him in the temple.

How is darkness able to gain such ascendancy among man that walks? How is it that the evil one is able to block the penetration of gospel seed in the hardened ground? It comes back to the desire of each individual. If someone is honestly searching for truth, he will come to the Light. “For everyone who does evil,” the Lord had earlier mentioned, “hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). It’s “what you want!” If you want your own desires, the devil is your father. If you want truth, then you can become a child of God.

 

 

“I Speak the Truth”

The outcast angel of darkness is more subtle and influential than even most Christians realize. An outsider, watching the exchange between Jesus and the Jews in the temple treasury, would not have been particularly conscious of the presence of the devil. He would have seen the words and expressions become increasingly intense as the Lord first challenged His hearers in regard to their personal sins and then moved on to say that they were of their father the devil. The Prince of Righteousness, however, was acutely aware of the movement of Satan in their midst and conscious of his inciting the Jews to take his side against truth. “He is a liar,” said Jesus, “and the father of lies.”

Jesus, though once dead, now lives! Jesus, though once He spoke on earth, now speaks from heaven! He “speaks the truth” through what is recorded in the pages of the book of Acts onward, and those who have hardened hearts reject His words. “Because I speak the truth,” is His everlasting excoriation, “you do not believe Me.” And the great positive principle likewise stands everlastingly: “He who is of God hears the words of God.”

 

 

Demon-possessed?

Things were getting pretty hot and heavy in the temple treasury. Jesus the Messiah had pressured the Jews about their own slavery to sin and had pointed out that He was the only One who could free them. They recoiled at the thought of being convicted as sinners and mentally were plotting to kill Him. Knowing the thoughts and intentions of their hearts, Jesus went on to accuse them being in league with the devil, being liars and murderers. Then He dropped the ultimate hammer; those who did not listen to Him were not of God, because He spoke the words of God.

Rebellious men still use Jesus’ name as an epithet, and still call Him and His teachings crazy. Demon-possessed? No! Possessor, instead, of the words of life!

 

 

Greater than Abraham

What an audacious claim! Jesus, the Man from Galilee, flatly told an increasingly hostile group of Jews, “If anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.” Fear of death has always plagued mankind, and no man had ever been totally victorious over death. The Lord’s claim that anyone who would keep His word would never see death was more than they could handle; to them He was obviously crazy. “Now we know that You have a demon,” they shouted. But if He had merely been crazy or demon-possessed, they could have dismissed Him easily. The problem was that He did not act demon-possessed, and the clarity of His reasoning and ability to out-think His opponents testified to His sanity. Inwardly, they knew that their accusations were wrong, and they had a serious challenge on their hands.

Truly great men are rarely recognized as great by their contemporaries. Pride and personal ambition generally cloud the view, and only from the elevation of history do the peaks of great character stand out from their peers. Jesus, without question, was an Everest among foothills, but the Jews of His day could not even contemplate that He would even be as great as Abraham or the prophets.

 

 

All Glory to the Father

The Jews charged Jesus with being arrogant. In response to His statement that if anyone would keep His word, he would not taste death, the Jews queried, “Whom do You make Yourself out to be?” They knew that death had demonstrated its power over even the greatest of the Old Testament greats; consequently, they presumed that Jesus was boasting with great, swelling words about His mastery over death.

The Lord definitely was not interested in earthly glory. The hierarchy present certainly had the network in place wherein Jesus could have come to the pinnacle of the Jewish political structure. He sought not earthly glory, however, and desired only to please the Father. He told the truth.

 

 

Abraham’s Joy

Abraham, said the apostle Paul, “in hope against hope believed” (Romans 4:18). What was Abraham’s hope, and what promises did he believe?

When Abraham was seventy-five years old, he departed from his central staging point of Haran for the Promised Land. After wandering for an unspecified number of years — five or six perhaps — the word of the Lord came to Abraham and promised him that “one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). When Abraham was eighty-five, his wife Sarah (ten years younger than he) persuaded him to take her bond-maid Hagar and become a parent through her. Thus at the age of eighty-six, Abraham became the father of Ishmael.

Ishmael, however, was not the child of God’s promise. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram” (Genesis 17:1). “Sarah, your wife,” said the Almighty, “shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac” (Genesis 17:19). For years and years, “in hope against hope,” he had waited, and in honest Abe’s one hundredth year, Isaac was born.

The major promise Abraham believed, however, was not that he and Sarah would have a son, but that God would make him “a father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). This promise could only come through Isaac, by the will of God, and not through Ishmael or any of Abraham’s later sons, as the Lord had spoken, “through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Genesis 21:12). Abraham’s joy was the birth of Isaac, and Isaac appropriately means, “He laughs.”

Abraham rejoiced in the day when he saw Jesus, and when Jesus promised him the son through whom his offspring would come. “Is anything too difficult for Jehovah?” was the Lord’s question then. And now!

 

 

Yes, Jesus Is Jehovah

“For a Child will be born to us,” stated Isaiah the prophet, “a Son will be given to us” (Isaiah 9:6). While not quoted in the writings of the New Testament, this passage clearly refers to the coming Christ. The government would indeed “rest on His shoulders.” The rest of the verse, if analyzed, carries a powerful, powerful truth about who Jesus is. “And His name will be called,” come the inspired words of the prophet, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” It is, to most, no surprise that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, bringing pardon and peace to those who are obedient to the faith. But the prophecy also notes that He is the Mighty God, the great “Elohim” of the Hebrew writings. The word of the Lord, however, is not content with only these two listings; it also states that the Child is the “Eternal Father.” The words are simple and not easily twisted — Jesus is the Father. Furthermore, the scripture reads that the Son born is the “Wonderful Counselor” — another name for the Holy Spirit. All there is about God was poured into Jesus’ earthly body. “All the fullness,” remarked Paul, was “to dwell in Him” (Colossians 1:19). There is only one conclusion that can be drawn: Jesus is Jehovah (Yahweh).

When Abraham was informed that Sarah his wife would give birth to Isaac, it was Jehovah who appeared in earthly form. The record in Genesis 17 is: “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah appeared to Abram” (Genesis 17:1), and the record of the restated version of Genesis 18 is the same. Jesus, in the temple treasury, stated to the hostile Jews in His presence — referring to the day of His appearing in Genesis 17 and 18: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The Christ was saying that He was the Jehovah who appeared as recorded in the scriptures of these Jews.

Yes, Jesus is Jehovah. The ranking Jews refused the evidence rendered by miracles done and the powerful and consistent teachings of the Christ, regarded Jesus as a blasphemer, and attempted to stone Him for His blasphemy. But the truth they rejected would become the core concept upon which the church of Jesus would be built.