Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.

IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT PUZZLES YOU?

If so please EMail us with your question and we will do our best to give you a satisfactory answer.EMailus. (But preferably not from aol.com, for some reason they do not deliver our messages).

FREE Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.

THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- PSALMS 1-50--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

By Dr Ptere Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

Chapter 8 Jesus - The Light of the World and the ‘I am’ (John 8.12-59).

In this chapter Jesus is revealed as ‘the Light of the World’. This is a reminder of the one spoken of in the words of Isaiah, ‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has the light shone’, and significantly Isaiah’s words were spoken concerning Galilee of the nations (Isaiah 9.2). And this light would be One born to be the coming King (Isaiah 9.6-7), who was by the time of Jesus seen in Messianic terms. In this regard we should note that the words ‘walk in darkness’ used by Isaiah are echoed here in 8.12. The concept thus has Messianic implications, demonstrating that ‘Jesus is the Christ’ (20.31). But in 1.1-9 the light has also been shown to be Word Who was God Himself. Thus as the light of the world Jesus is to be seen as both the Messiah and the Son of God, both looked at the heightened level revealed in John’s Gospel.

This statement concerning Jesus as the Light of the World is then followed by discussions in which Jesus reveals more and more of Himself, leading up to His declaration of Himself as the ‘I AM’, with the result that He came under threat of stoning because of His strong claims.

Jesus Is The Light of the World (John 8.12-20).

In the original text these verses follow immediately on 7.52. As can be seen the transition is fairly abrupt as the context moves swiftly from the Pharisees discussing Jesus among themselves to them listening to and talking to Jesus. It is, however, also equally abrupt if it follows after 8.11. The proclamation is now of Jesus as the Light of the world, a concept already revealed in the Prologue, and the abrupt opening brings the significance of His words and prepares for what follows. All men recognised the importance of light. While it was dark the world proceeded at slow speed, for until the sun arose the working and worshipping day could not begin, and when the sun set that working day was over, for although in those days artificial light from torches allowed an extension of the day, it was never fully satisfactory. It was the day that was the time for living. And it was the day that allowed men to see where they were going.

At this point we should perhaps consider the fact that Jesus continually likens Himself to those things which are basically essential to man. He has revealed Himself as the bread of life, as man’s basic food and provision (6.35), He has revealed Himself as the divine spring of living water, that resource which was necessary for all forms of life and brought life to the world (3.5; 4.10-14; 7.37-38), and now He reveals Himself as the light, that which originally drove back the darkness and was the foundation of creation (Genesis 1.2-3), and in the light of which men live their lives and accomplish their major tasks.

8.12 ‘Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”.’

Note that this next section commences with the introductory words, ‘Again Jesus spoke to them’. ‘Spoke to them’ refers to the large crowd in 7.43. The controversy with the Pharisees continues. Here Jesus declares openly, while speaking to the crowds in the Temple treasury (presumably the place where the large trumpet shaped collecting boxes were in the court of the women - v.20), ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life’. This is His second distinctive ‘I am’ saying, His first having been ‘I am the bread of life’ (6.35). Here then is the One Who not only feeds the hearts of men but Who also brings the ‘life which is the light of men’ (1.4), Who is the One Who shines in the darkness (1.5) and is the true light which lightens every man who is open to receive it (1.9).

These statements are specifically drawing attention to His uniqueness as God’s revelation and source of life to man, and indicating that He is One Who cannot be ignored. Others would speak of the Scriptures as ‘a light’ (Psalm 119.105) to lead men into faith and truth, but He speaks of Himself as the light. It compares with the way He could say ‘but I say to you’ in the Matthew 5.22 etc. It was a claim to unique authority.

In the Old Testament God is constantly revealed as the Light (Psalm 27.1; 36.9; Isaiah 2.5;10.17; 60.1-2, 19; Micah 7.8-9), a light of glory which was to shine on His people (Isaiah 61.-1-2) and in the same way the Servant of God in Isaiah was to be a light to the nations (the world - 42.6; 49.6). Now the world needs to recognise that One has come Who is that Light.

The mention of ‘light’ at this particular feast was especially significant. The feast was seen as a reminder of the journey through the wilderness under Moses, and a great lampstand of fiery flames would be erected in the Temple courtyard and the whole Temple illuminated as a reminder of the pillar of fire that illuminated the way for the people of Israel at the time of their deliverance. The pillar of fire had been Israel’s light on the way to freedom, and it represented God Himself as present with His people. Jesus is now saying, therefore, that He is that light, seeking to lead all men to safety and a new life, and revealing the presence of God with them. Just as Israel of old followed the flame of fire as God led the way, safe and secure because God was with them, so now all who become His people can follow the new manifestation of God, Jesus Christ Himself, the light of the world, the light which springs from His life.

But once the feast was over that lamp would cease to be lighted. The courtyard in the Temple would cease to be brightly illuminated. The people would return to their humdrum lives. That light was temporary. But now Jesus, as the Light of the world, was here and would continue to shine on and within His people, shining ever brighter day by day.

By this He was claiming uniquely to present men with truth and understanding, both about God and about themselves, and to give them a new spiritual life within, by bestowing on them eternal life and shining in their hearts with the truth of God. His own life would act as a light to show men that truth, and along with His teaching would lead them ‘out of darkness into His most marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2.9). Furthermore men’s sins would be revealed in that light, and some would turn away from their sins and begin to live lives approved by God (John 3.19-21). Thus would they find life through faith in Him.

But His glory would also be revealed though His own life and teaching, so that John could say ‘we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1.14). That is why Paul could say, we see ‘the light of the good news of the glory of Christ who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4.4). And, as we see this light, it shines in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God Himself in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4.6). No one has ever seen God, but the only Son, Who came from intimate closeness with the Father Himself, makes Him known (John 1.18). So through Him as the light, God is revealed as never before to those whose eyes are opened (compare Isaiah 60.1-2, 19).

These amazing benefits were and are available to all who follow Him and receive from Him ‘the light of life’ (see Psalm 36.9) by responding to His words and receiving the work of the Spirit in their hearts (John 6.63). This life illuminates them so that they see His glory and come to know Him for what He is, and gain a new awareness of God. They receive a totally new spiritual and moral outlook as His light shines in their hearts, and ‘they see’. Conversely, those who do not respond fail to see. They continue to walk in darkness.

We are reminded again of those words, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death on them has the light shined’ (Isaiah 9.2), words which as we have seen are connected with Galilee (Isaiah 9.1). In the original Greek text 8.12 came directly after 7.52. This was thus Jesus response to the denial of the Pharisees that a prophet could arise out of Galilee. Even Scripture had declared that the light would first shine in Galilee. And He was now here as that light, shining in the land of the shadow of death (or ‘in the deep darkness’).

8.13 ‘The Pharisees therefore said to him, “You bear witness of yourself, your witness is not true”.’

The Pharisees were not, however, pleased. They recognised the enormity of His claim, and they replied, ‘You testify about yourself. What you say is not true’. They were no doubt appalled that a man should claim to be the light of the world, and that in the context of the festal light which pointed to the presence of God with His people as revealed by that light. In their eyes it was almost as though He was taking men’s minds away from the glory of God and pointing them to Himself. Their prejudice prevented them from giving fair consideration to His life and teaching and they therefore fell back on claiming that what a man says about himself carries no weight. Indeed their Rabbinic law of evidence stated that a man’s own testimony to himself was invalid.

8.14a ‘Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I do bear witness of myself, my witness is true, for I know from where I came and where I am going”.’

Jesus reply is that in His case the general principle is not true. This is because ‘I know where I have come from and where I am going’. This made Him a special case. As the heavenly Son of Man (John 3.13), who had come from Heaven and would return to Heaven, He had authority to testify about Himself, and indeed it was necessary, for no other man on earth could do so. He alone knew His source and His destiny. As with men’s conceptions of the Messiah, His source was mysterious and unknown (7.27).

8.14b-15 “But you do not know from where I come and where I am going. You judge after the flesh, I judge no man”.’

Thus they should recognise that they were not in a position to judge His testimony for they judged only ‘according to the flesh’ as earthly men. They were unable to enter Heaven and so they could not truly be aware of Who He was, where He had come from and where He was going. They were limited to earthly knowledge. They judged ‘after the flesh’. That is why they saw only a man like themselves, but their very starting point invalidated their judgment. How then could they know He Who ascends into Heaven Who came down from Heaven (3.13), the Son of Man? If only they had listened to John the Baptiser. He was one who ha been illuminated by Heaven.

‘I am not (at present) judging anyone’ (v.15) . The Judge of all the world was here but at present Jesus will not pass judgment, even on the Pharisees. There was still an opportunity for them to open their eyes and see. The heavenly court was in abeyance, waiting to see who would respond to Jesus, and who would turn away. The light was here and men would pass judgment on themselves, depending on how they responded (John 3.17-21).

The adulterous woman was a good example of this. In her case judgment had been deferred and she had received forgiveness. It was now up to her whether she took advantage of it. So it was with all. His time to pass final judgment was still in the future. For now He shone as a light in the world, calling men to the light. And some came to Him as the Light, aware that their sins were judged and through Him forgiven. And they began to walk in the light, while others turned away into darkness. And this continued to be true for them even though they were sinners, for ‘if we walk in the light as He is in the light, --- the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us continually from all sin’ (1 John 1.7).

8.16 “Yes, and even if I were to judge my judgment would be true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me” (v.16).

However, He also points out to them that actually He was in a position to judge, and that if He were to judge, they should be in no doubt that His judgments would be accurate and just. For His relationship with the Father was so close that any judgment He did make would be in association with the Father, and would be one with the Father’s. Thus it would be totally reliable. For He and His Father judged as One.

So Jesus, while claiming to have the full ability to judge on His own, puts Himself in parallel with His Father and stresses that any judgment that He makes is equally the result of the Father’s judgment. The truth of it could not therefore be doubted, and the fact was evidence of Whom He was. One again He is making clear His co-equality with the Father.

8.17-18 “Yes, and in your Law it is written that the witness of two men is true, I am he who bears witness of myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness of me.”

He then goes on to point out that the law of Moses says that the testimony of two men is true (Deuteronomy 17.6; 19.15). Well, let them then consider this, He can give them two witnesses, Himself as the sent One, and His Father as the One Who sent Him, for He Himself bears testimony through His own works and words, and by the Spirit.

‘Your Law.’ That is, the Law (the Torah) which they loved and on which they continually laid such emphasis and which was the very basis of their lives, the Law which they had multiplied by a multiplicity of regulations. There is the specific suggestion in the ‘your’ that they have altered God’s Law and replaced it with a Law of their own, making it far more onerous. It was no longer God’s Law, but their Law. Yet even their own Law acknowledged that the witness of two men was true.

8.19a ‘They therefore said to him, “Where is your Father?” ’

They responded to His challenge by putting the question, ‘where is your father?’. It may well be that they had mistaken His meaning and were genuinely confused. He kept speaking of His Father. Well, where was his father? Surely his father was dead? How then could he be a source of information? On the other hand it is possible that they were merely trying to blur the issue by speaking in terms of an earthly father because they did not want to accept His claim that God was His Father. Either way it enabled Him to press home His message.

This is another example of how, throughout the Gospel, John constantly uses the misunderstanding of men to act as a platform to bring out the truth. Their reply is that if as He says he has two witnesses, let Him produce the other one. Let them see Him so that they can judge for themselves.

8.19b ‘You do not know either me or my Father, if you knew me you would know my Father also’.

Jesus’ simple reply was that it was not possible for them to see the Father because they were spiritually blind. That is why they did not know the Father, nor recognise Him. In fact their failure to see what He meant was itself significant. They possibly thought they were being clever but they were really indicating that they did not know either Who He was or Who His Father was. They were demonstrating their spiritual blindness, and proving that they did not know God.

For the truth was that the fact that they did not recognise Him for what He was, demonstrated that they did not really know what God was like. For had they really known the Father and what He was like, they would have recognised His Father in Him and in what He was doing. How then can He tell them of the Father? Of what use would it be? Their minds are equally closed to knowledge of the Father.

This made clear that they were really spiritually blind. In spite of all He was saying and doing, which revealed the glory of God, their minds would not or could not grasp it. If then they could not recognise the truth when it was revealed by the Father through Him on earth, how could they claim to know the Father?

It simply demonstrated that with all their claim to special knowledge they actually did not know God. This was indeed the real reason why they failed to recognise Him. They were still in darkness. For as the light of the world He had come to reveal the Father, and if they would but come to see Him for what He was, by considering His words and His activities, and what He was in Himself, and would respond to Him, then they would really come to know the Father too (compare 14.7-9). But they did not do so because they were in darkness.

8.20 ‘These words he spoke in the treasury as he taught in the Temple, and no man arrested him because his hour was not yet come.’

These words were spoken ‘in the treasury’, that is in the Court of the Women, (which was outside the raised court of Israel where only men could go), where there were thirteen trumpet shaped boxes placed there to receive offerings. Once more the author indicates his total familiarity with the Temple.

These thirteen money boxes all had their allotted offering. Into the first two were dropped the half shekels which every Jew had to pay towards the upkeep of the Temple. Into the third and fourth were dropped sums which would purchase the two pigeons which a woman had to offer for her purification after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12.8). Into the fifth were put contributions towards the cost of the wood which was needed to keep the altar fire alight. Into the sixth were dropped contributions towards the cost of the incense which was used at the Temple services. Into the seventh went contributions towards the upkeep of the golden vessels which were used at these services. Sometimes a man or a family would set apart a certain sum to make a guilt-offering or thank-offering, and into the remaining six trumpets people dropped any money which remained after such an offering had been made, or anything extra which they wished to offer.

‘No man arrested him.’ This brings out the constant threat of arrest that Jesus was under. All that He said was in the light of that threat. Yet they seemed powerless to act against Him. This was because God was in control. His hour, the hour of His death, had not yet come. His Oneness with His Father also ensured His safety until that hour.

Jesus Is From Above (John 12.21-30).

The emphasis now moves away from the fact that He is the light of the world, to the fact that He is the One Who has come from above. That is why their failure to recognise Him is very much an indication that they are of this world. This is a new incident, although following closely on the last.

8.21 ‘He said therefore again to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me and die in your sin, for where I am going you cannot come”.’

‘He said therefore again --’. We do not know how long after the previous verses He spoke these words. There is a strange pathos to them. Jesus was going away, as He knew, to Heaven via the cross. And they would go on looking for Him in vain. They would go on searching for eternal life and for a Messiah from God (‘for Me’), and they would fail in their efforts and would die in their sin, because unknowingly they had rejected the One Whom they were pretending to seek, the true Messiah Who was the only source of eternal life. And because they would not come to Him their search would be blind and futile, and they could never go where He was going.

The word for ‘sin’ here is in the singular. It sums up their whole sinful attitude of heart. They were rooted in sin.

8.22 ‘The Judaisers therefore said, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘where I am going you cannot come’?”

Jesus’ statement ‘where I am going you cannot come’ then made them ask themselves whether it was His intention to kill Himself. This is pointed irony. Even while they were seeking His death they were avoiding the issue even among themselves, and pretending that they had no such aims. They still seemed to think that He was not aware of what their true aims were. When men have reached such depths of folly and blindness there is little hope from them. And yet one among their number would one day become the Apostle to the Gentiles.

8.23-24 ‘And he said to them “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins”.’

Jesus now faced them with the central issue. He was as totally different from them as Heaven was from earth. They were from below. They had no knowledge or experience of where God dwells. They were tied to the ideas of this world. Their minds were unopened. But in contrast to them He was from above, He was not of this world. That is what they needed to recognise. The phrase ‘from above’ reflects Psalms 18.16; 144.7. It is the abode of God and His power.

And the reason why He has stated that they were without hope is because they would not recognise Him for what He was, the One from above, the One Who is not of this world. They did not recognise Him as the ‘I am’, something only hinted at here, but made clear in verse 58. This phrase ‘I am’, used in partly hidden form in verses 12 & 28, and used again specifically and unequivocally in verse 58, is the Name that God revealed to Moses and it was the root of the divine name YHWH (‘the One Who is’ - ‘I am what I am’ - Exodus 3.14). That is why in Isaiah 43.10 God says, ‘that you may know and believe and understand that I am’. Jesus almost certainly had that verse in mind. He wanted them to know and believe and understand that He was the ‘I am’.

So if they wished to be have eternal life they must accept His otherness, and His power to act, and His eternal being. (See also Isaiah 41.4; 43.13; 46.4; 48.12). At this stage, however, the phrase ‘I am’ was not unequivocal and it was thus not seen as provocative. It could alternately mean ‘that I am the Messiah’ (Mark 13.6). Some would in fact limit it to meaning ‘that I am He’, that is, ‘I am the coming One’.

‘You will die in your sins.’ Compare Ezekiel 3.18 where these words are used. The Pharisees’ total aim was so to live as to obey all God’s laws and by doing so prove themselves faithful members of the covenant. They strove manfully to do this, seeking to fulfil hundreds of requirements, expanded in detail by themselves, in order to attempt to do so, hoping eventually to rise above their sins and prove themselves true members of the covenant. For they were sure that once the covenant was truly fulfilled God would show His favour. But Jesus warned them that unless they came to know Him they would for ever be unsuccessful. What they were striving for would be in vain.

The word for sins here is plural (contrast verse 21). A sinful attitude of heart results in many sins in the life, and the Pharisees above all, with their hundreds of regulations, were conscious of numerous failings.

8.25a ‘They therefore said to him, “Who are you?” ’

His statement has brought them up short. They now recognised that He seemed to be claiming even more than they had at first realised (the crescendo is building up). ‘Who are you?’ they asked. There is a stress on the ‘you’. Was the statement one of awed curiosity, or of angry cynicism? Possibly a little of both, for among the questioners would be some who were willing to give His words consideration (see verse 31).

8.25b ‘Jesus said to them, “Even that which I have told you right from the beginning”.’

(We could in fact translate these words either as ‘even what I have told you from the beginning’ or as ‘why do I talk to you at all?’. Either is possible but the former seems more likely, for there would be some whose interest was genuine).

He had now been with them for some time, and by this stage He considered that they should have been aware of the truth about Him, but He patiently points back to what He had already said. He has been consistent in His claims from the start. If only they had listened they would have known Who He was.

‘From the beginning.’ He was drawing their attention to His past words. He wanted them to know that He had consistently said the same thing and that nothing had changed. But the writer possibly has in mind John 1.1 and sees behind it a deeper inference. It is not only what He has said from the beginning of His ministry that is important, but what He has been saying from the beginning of time.

Jesus was not, however, deceived by them. He knew that many of them were still arguing because they hoped that He would fall into a trap. Up to this point His words, while clear, had not taken Him beyond the pale, but He knew that they were hoping for something that was incontrovertible with which to condemn Him They were like many of us are when we argue. They were not genuinely weighing up His arguments in the light of the facts, but were simply refusing to give Him credence and waiting for Him to trip up. They were simply not prepared to consider that they might need light. They considered that they had the light.

8.26 “I have much to say about you and much to pass judgment on. However he who sent me is true, and the things which I heard from him, these I speak to the world”.’

Jesus now no longer saw any hope that they would respond to His teaching, and He therefore wanted them to know that He was not blind to their failings. So He pointed out that, if He wished to do so, there was in fact a great deal that He could say about them which was not to their credit. There was much that He could show up about their attitudes and teaching (as He does in Matthew 23). However, He would not at present do so, although one day He would certainly do so. Meanwhile He wanted them to know that in contrast to what they were, He has brought the truth from the One Who is true, to pass on to those who will receive it.

Notice the way in which He makes clear, not only that He has been ‘sent’ (something which many prophets could say), but that He has previously heard from the Father the things which He is now speaking to the world. There is a continual recognition that He has come from the Father into this world as the One Who was in existence from the beginning.

‘But he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him’. In contrast to them in their hypocrisy and folly there is One Who is true. They might not be willing to listen, but the world was waiting for the truth, and what He would like to say about His antagonists must give place to His message to the world at large, coming from the One Who is true.

8.27 ‘They did not perceive that he spoke to them of the Father.’

John comments, ‘they did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father’. The problem was that they were so set in their own arguments and opinions that they did not stand back and consider what He was really saying. Having misinterpreted Him they would continue to misinterpret Him, such was the stubbornness of their minds. John deliberately draws attention to their failure to respond with understanding. He hopes his readers will not be the same. For like Jesus no doubt was, he was concerned at their failure to listen to, and understand, what Jesus was saying. But it is one of the characteristics of all ages that men listen, and then hear only what they want to hear, rather than listening with hearts open to learn the truth. ‘Eyes they have and see not, ears and hear not.’

8.28 ‘So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing of myself but say just what my Father has taught me’.

Jesus now again faces them up to what He knows they are going to do with Him. He knows that His days are numbered. But He also knows that this will be for the good of those who respond to Him.

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man.’ Note His claim again to be the Messianic Son of Man. The phrase ‘lifted up’ occurs a number of times in John’s Gospel. In John 3.14 it refers to His crucifixion, but must contain the seeds of His glorification, for His lifting up will offer eternal life to those who believe in Him. In John 12.32 it is specifically stated to also refer to His crucifixion, but again must include the idea of His glorification, for how else could He draw all men to Him? Thus here it is probably intended again to include both, while considering mainly the latter. Without being aware of it they will contribute both to His lifting up in death and His lifting up in resurrection and exaltation.

The phrase was deliberately vague, and had a deliberate dual meaning. Jesus could not say blatantly ‘when you have killed me’ (for the sake of the listening crowds), and besides that would only have signified one aspect of His death. He wanted to present His death both in its starkness and in its triumph. So ‘lifted up’ stressed both those things. He would be lifted up as a public spectacle, like the golden serpent (3.14), and yet also He would be lifted up to God.

The words here are general and not specific. ‘You’ refers to the Jews as a whole, yes, and even to the world. Their main significance is for those who would later believe, and there were many. It is they who will come to know that Jesus is the ‘I am’, and that He reflected His Father’s will. So His death will be a triumph because for many it will result in belief and understanding. But the Pharisees as a whole will know it in a more general sense when they see the impact of His death and resurrection. Then they too will have to face up to the truth about Him, even though they finally reject it.

We may compare this with the idea in Matthew 26.64 (compare Luke 22.69), when He says, again to the Jewish leaders, ‘From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of Heaven’, where the point was that while they themselves would not respond to His being made Lord, they would see that there would be many who would. They would be aware of His impact as the Son of Man.

‘That I am.’ The Pharisees would understand this as meaning ‘that I am the Coming One.’ But the writer wants us to see the deeper meaning, ‘that I am the “I am”.’ (8.58).

8.29 “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

In spite of His rejection by them He wants them to know that He is conscious that the Father is continually with Him. They may reject Him but His Father will not desert Him or leave Him on His own. Indeed He is with Him continually. For He is pleased with what He is doing. For as Jesus stresses, He always does what pleases Him. His whole life is given up to pleasing the Father.

His words remind us of the words of the Servant in Isaiah 42.1, and the words spoken by God at His baptism, ‘the one in whom I am well pleased’ (although the Greek words for ‘please’ are not the same). Jesus is the faithful Servant. Although He is facing approaching death His Father has not deserted Him, for He is doing His Father’s will. Though He may be ‘lifted up’ on the cross He will not be left alone, for He has been sent to be the One who would be led like a lamb to the slaughter that He may bear the sins of the world (Isaiah 53.6-7, 10).

8.30 ‘As he spoke these things many believed on Him’.

There was something in what Jesus said which, while not fully understood, struck a cord in the hearts of some of His listeners, and they responded in full faith. They ‘believed into him’ (eis auton - eis with the accusative), in contrast with the Jews of verse 31 who ‘had believed in him’ (auto - dative case ), the latter a faith similar to those in John 2.23 which could not be relied on. His words were thus not totally in vain. This is a typical Johannine contrast.

(The question of what is meant by a ‘believer’ is in constant tension in John. Sometimes it means full believers. Those whose response is total. At other times it means those who are ‘won over’ by some aspect of His ministry without being actually totally committed. We can rest assured that there were always some of both kinds, just as there are today, and the one often became the other).

The Children of Abraham and the Children of the Devil (8.31-47).

Note how the argument is presented in stages as the case builds up against he Scribes and Pharisees. It had begun with the revelation of Himself as the Light of the world, a light which they had failed to see and respond to (verses 12-20). It had continued with the fact that He was the One Who had come from above, One Whom they had failed to discern and listen to (verses 21-30). Now the accusation becomes more blatant. The reason that they have failed to see Him and to know Him is because ‘their father is the Devil’, in other words, it is because they are following in the Devil’s ways and behaving like him. In the words of Paul, ‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who believe not, lest the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them’ (2 Corinthians 4.4-5)

8.31-32 ‘Jesus therefore said to those Judaisers who had believed in him, “If you dwell in my word then are you my disciples indeed, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free”.’

Jesus then spoke a word to some of the Judaisers who had showed some response to Him, ‘If you persevere in and meditate on my teaching, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. It was a glorious promise of hope. The truth was now open to them, and if they will but know and receive that truth it will make them truly free. But there is only one test of true faith and that is perseverance and continuance. By such perseverance those who receive His teaching (‘word’) will come into a fuller understanding of truth, especially the truth about Him, and will thus find freedom from sin and its power. And then they will find true freedom, not the freedom from the tyranny of Rome which they have previously longed for, but a greater freedom, a freedom from the tyranny of that greatest despot of all, sin.

So even though some of the Judaisers have made some kind of response of faith towards accepting Him as from God, Jesus cannot rest satisfied until that faith is deeply rooted in the truth about Him, a truth that is in fact found in Himself (14.6).

There is an important lesson here. The only final basis of assurance of salvation for anyone is continuance in responding to the truth. A ‘saved’ man can backslide, but he can have no assurance while in his backsliding, and, if it is permanent, abundant Scriptures testify to the fact that it indicates that he was not really saved. When the Saviour saves it is effective, even though there may be the occasional blip. He does not fail in His work.

8.33 ‘They answered him, “We are Abraham’s seed and have never been slaves to any man. How do you say that we will be made free?” ’

As Jesus knew that they would His hearers bridled at His words. They prided themselves on the fact that because they were the sons of Abraham, and because they had the Law of God, they above all men were free, because their thoughts were free.

The question here is as to who are the ‘they’ mentioned here. The answer is clearly that it was the Pharisaic group as a whole and not just the believing Judaisers, with 8.31-32 being a parenthesis. The situation here is that with Jesus having addressed a word to the believing Judaisers the remainder come in and attack what He has said. What follows is thus not to be seen as meaning that the believing Judaisers were not genuine in their faith.

If we were to take the ‘they’ of verse 33 to refer to the group of ‘believing’ Judaisers then clearly the implication would be that the majority of them were not willing to hold to their belief when more deeply challenged. Now in some ways it is true that it was more difficult for them than for the common people to fully respond to the words of Jesus because they were so hidebound by their own teaching and ideas, and because this was something that they had to overcome. But there is good ground for thinking that this ‘they’ in verse 33 looks to the Judaisers as a whole, and not just to the responsive ones, for the context demands it. John’s distinctions are not always as clearly spelled out as they could be, possibly deliberately as he tries to make his readers think (compare his varied use of the term ‘disciples’).

The suggestion of not being free jars the Pharisees. The boast of the Pharisees, and indeed of all Jews, was that they were free men because they were the children of Abraham. Whatever the tyranny they were under, they proudly believed and claimed that they had a freedom that came from the fact that they had God’s Law and were ruled by it and that they were the people of the covenant with freedom to live by that Law. Besides this fact, outside interference and subjection was of secondary importance.

And indeed, under the Romans they did have specific rights to practise their own religion exclusively, and thus had reason to consider themselves as religiously free. And this had generally been true through the ages (sometimes their kings had had to bow to pressure from outside, but this had not necessarily always affected the ordinary people). And when they were persecuted they had been willing to die for what they believed in, in order to demonstrate that they were free. Thus they could say, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been in bondage to any man’. This could only apply to them religiously as they well knew, but it was something of which they were proud. They saw themselves as religiously free spirits, especially free from idolatry. So comes the question ‘How can you say that we must be made free?’

Sadly in their case their pride in their ancestry was part of what kept them from Christ (although the problem arose from their interpretation of it). In the case of others it may be pride in national privilege or tradition, blind trust in rites and ceremonies, or the overstressing of some moral code. But for all it can often be the acceptance of half truths that can keep them from the full truth.

8.34 ‘Jesus answered them, “I tell you emphatically that every one who goes on sinning is a slave of sin”.’

Jesus denies that they are free. ‘So they think they are free,’ He asks. ‘Well, let them consider this. To sin is to be a slave. It is to be sin’s slave.’ As with drugs, men may think they have sin under control, but once they try to escape they soon discover that they are helplessly enslaved. As Paul puts it, ‘the good I want to do, I do not do. The evil that I do not want to do, I do’ (Romans 7.19). For the fact is that it is only when we are happy to continue in sin that we think we have control over it. But once we seek to escape from it, it is then that we discover its bondage. We should note here that slaves, while not over common in Judea, were looked on religiously as equivalent to bastards. To be compared with a slave was thus an insult.

The problem for the Pharisees, as for many, was that they did not recognise that their very regulations brought them into slavery, and that they of all men were not free. Instead of making them sin less their regulations actually made them sin more, bringing them into deeper bondage. For the more they strove, the more they were conscious of sin.

‘I tell you emphatically.’ Literally ‘truly, truly’. This was a distinguishing mark of Jesus’ speech, which He used constantly.

8.35 - 36. ‘And the slave does not remain in the house for ever, the son remains for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will indeed be free’.

Jesus now contrasts those who are slaves to sin to those who become sons of God’s household through the power and authority of the true Son. Those who are slaves have no permanent benefits. One day they will lose out. They have nothing permanent. (The Pharisees thought that they had a permanent place in God’s household but they were wrong). But those who become sons because of their response to the Son become free from such slavery. They are made free by the Son. And their position in God’s household is therefore permanent.

There are three ways in which we can interpret this sentence in depth. The first is to interpret it in detail. Thus it can be seen as saying that sin makes men slaves to their master Sin, as they serve in his household, while the Son makes men free sons in His household. The slave in ‘the household of sin’, with sin as his master, can only be a loser. Any seeming benefits are temporary. Let those who enjoy sin recognise that it will let them down in the end. The sinner may think that he gets the best bargain but he only receives what is temporary, for as a slave he has no rights and no standing, and will one day be thrown out and will lose everything.

In contrast the one who receives sonship receives a permanent position. So the one who through breaking with sin by faith in Christ receives a place in ‘the household of God’ and has permanent existence in that household. Thus if the Son makes men free, by bringing them into sonship, and removing them from the household of sin into the household of God, then their place in the household of God is eternal, not passing or fading away, and they are free indeed from the control of sin.

Alternately, the intention may have been to indicate the simple contrast of a temporary position in a household with a position of permanence, contrasting Isaac, the primary son, with Ishmael, the son of the slave girl, who was cast out. The idea then is that sin offers only what is temporary, while Jesus offers sonship, which is permanent, and gives total freedom (‘the house’ not having any interpretative significance). Compare for this Paul’s argument in Galatians 4.21-30.

Alternately ‘the son’ might refer to Jesus in both cases, in which case the meaning is that sin only gives you what is temporary while the Son invites you to forsake sin and share His permanence, thus receiving freedom from sin which is true freedom. In the end the overall meaning is the same.

8.37 “I know that you are Abraham’s seed. Yet you seek to kill me because my word does not have free course in you.”

Jesus then took up their claim to be Abraham’s children, and from now on, when He said ‘you’, He was certainly referring to the Judaisers as a whole.

‘I know that you are descendants of Abraham.’ He did not deny that in the flesh these men could call themselves ‘children of Abraham’. While in many cases it might not be literally true they did belong to a nation whose roots were in Abraham, and they proudly sought to trace their ancestry back to him (even though often the relationship was only by adoption). But He then pointed out that they were not behaving like children of Abraham. ‘Yet you seek to kill me because my words find no place in you’.

Among Israelites ‘son of --’ could have two levels of significance. On the one it could indicate ‘by ancestry’, on the other it could mean ‘by behaviour’. Thus the ‘sons of Belial’ were those who behaved like Belial (Judges 19.22; 1 Samuel 2.12; 1 Kings 21.10). A true son is revealed by his behaviour. What He was thus saying was that while they might be natural sons of Abraham they did not behave like it and were therefore not true sons of Abraham (compare John the Baptiser’s contemptuous dismissal of their claim in Matthew 3.9).

So while there were some among them who were friendly disposed and had given His words entry, the wider group still sought His death, and it was they whom, identifying themselves as ‘children of Abraham’, Jesus was addressing.. That Abraham would not have behaved like they did is implied, (and stated in verse 40), thus they were not truly ‘sons of Abraham’.

8.38 “I speak the things which I have seen with my Father, and you also do the things that you have heard from your father.”

Jesus now contrasted Himself with them enigmatically. He pointed out that He spoke only of what He had seen with His Father. Thus what He spoke was good and true. His abiding in the Father was constant and affected all that He said. But the Judaisers on the other hand spoke what they had heard from their father. The implication was that their father was less worthy. (Later he would show that this referred to the Devil, for it was he, not Abraham, whose ways they followed).

Note the distinction between ‘seen’ and ‘heard’. Jesus was speaking of what He had actually seen and witnessed (compare 3.11, 32; 14.7). They had only ‘heard’.

8.39a ‘They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham”.’

His listeners were quick to pick up the fact that He was distinguishing His Father from theirs. This immediately set them on their mettle. ‘Abraham is our father’, they declared proudly and firmly. Surely being connected with Abraham could only be good?

Like many they thought that they could be judged by their connections. They were inordinately proud of their connection with Abraham for it was to him that God’s great promises were given. But Jesus would now point out that if they were Abraham’s children it only counted if they behaved like Abraham. And this was something that they should indeed have recognised, for their history and their Scriptures were full of God’s rejection of those who did not obey Him. We can compare Matthew 3.9 where to the same claim to be sons of Abraham, John the Baptiser says wryly that God is able to raise up ‘these stones’ to be sons of Abraham. There is nothing to a name. Evidence of true sonship lies in behaviour.

8.39b-40 ‘Jesus says 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 that I have heard from God. This is not what Abraham did”.’

Jesus now explained that if they were really Abraham’s children they would behave as Abraham behaved. But the very fact that they were plotting His death proved that they were not doing so. He had come as a man who had told them the truth which He had heard from God and yet they were seeking to kill Him. Abraham, in contrast, welcomed the messengers that came from God (Genesis 18.2 etc.). Thus they were not behaving like Abraham.

8.41a “You do the works of your father.”

He repeated His enigmatic statement. ‘You (Judaisers) are doing just what your father does.’ They could now hardly fail to realise that there was an unpleasant implication behind His words. He was linking their ‘father’, whoever that might mean, with a murderous attitude. So recognising that they could no longer defend themselves by reference to Abraham they changed tack.

8.41b ‘We (Judaisers) were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God’.

This may well have been a sneer at the mystery surrounding the birth of Jesus. They may have been saying, ‘Well your birth may be doubtful but there is no doubt as to our position.’ Alternately it may have been because they saw non-Jews as impure, and not true children of God. Both were possibly in their thoughts. They may well also have been still smarting at having been called ‘slaves’ to sin, for slaves were equated by them with bastards. So they were contrasting that state with their own. They were proud of the fact that God was their Father as the Old Testament often implied (Isaiah 63.16; 64.8; Hosea 11.1; Malachi 1.6; 2.10) and overlooked the strictures in Malachi, which they thought (rightly to a certain extent) no longer applied to themselves. They overlooked the fact that there might be other things that could exclude them from God’s Fatherhood.

8.42-43 ‘Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father you would love me, for I have come forth and am come from God, and I did not come of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my word.’

Jesus now denied what they claimed. He pointed out that their very attitude was clear proof that they were not true children of God, for if they had been they would have loved Him, the One Who came from God at the express will of God. Indeed the reason that they did not understand this was because they did not want to, and it was simply because His preaching was too uncomfortable. It demanded far reaching changes and an acceptance that the system on which they had built their lives might not be as satisfactory as they thought. So the reason why they did not understand Him was simply because their ears were too heavy to hear. ‘Cannot hear my word’ means ‘cannot because their prejudice prevents them from hearing it’.

Note His emphasis on the fact that He had not come on His own accord. Later many Pharisees would back some who came on their own accord (first in the final days of Jerusalem and then in the days of Bar Cochba) and it would mean disaster for the Jewish people.

8.44 “You are of your father the Devil, and it is your will to do the longings of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and did not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and a father of them.”

Now He no longer restrained His words, and explained His enigmatic earlier statement about them being like their father. Far from showing themselves to be children of God and children of Abraham they were showing themselves to be like their father the Devil, for they were behaving just as he did. They were plotting to murder the One Whom God had sent and they were unwilling to face up to the truth. For the Devil too was a murderer, right from the beginning, and he too did not hold to the truth, and that was because there was no truth in him. When he lied he spoke according to his own nature, for he was a liar and ‘the father of lies’. The corollary was that there was no truth in them either, and that they too were deceivers.

‘He was a murderer.’ He brought death into the world for Adam and Eve, and through his interference Cain slew his brother and from then on all men died.

‘Did not stand in the truth’ could be aspirated to mean ‘does not stand in the truth’, meaning ‘has nothing to do with the truth’. He had ever been, and would always be, a deceiver.

‘According to his own nature.’ From his first efforts in the Garden of Eden he had demonstrated that deceit and falsehood were an intrinsic part of him. That is what his nature had become through rebellion against God. Indeed deceit began with him. He was ‘the father of lies’.

They were like ‘their father the Devil’ in that they longed for His death and could not bear the truth. They clung to their beliefs regardless of reality, deliberately refusing to see the weaknesses in them. These were traits of the Devil which were clearly coming out in them. Far from being the children of God, they were showing themselves by this to be as far from God as it was possible to be. Among the Jews it was customary to say that someone was a ‘child of’ whatever influenced them. Thus Jesus was saying to the Judaisers that their behaviour marked them out as ‘children of the Devil’ because they behaved like him.

We can compare here Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4.4. ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe lest the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ shine through to them’.

8.45 ‘But because I tell you the truth you do not believe me’.

Jesus then scathingly points out that they are willing to receive anything but the truth. How could they believe when they were so dishonest that they behaved like the Devil, He is saying. Had He brought them lies they would have believed, (as later they would believe other false Messiahs who pandered to them). What they could not stand was the truth. They were determined to hold on to their prejudices rather than admit that there were things in their teachings and attitudes that needed putting right.

Facing up to the fact that we might be wrong is a problem we all have. We too become so set in our ways and our ideas that we do not step back to look. No one person or church is fully right. We must learn that there is truth that we have yet to find, and that what we consider the truth may only be partially so. There is only One Who is ‘the Truth’.

8.46a “Which of you convicts me of sin?”

What an amazing challenge. Jesus blatantly throws Himself open to His enemies. He knew that His recent life had been subjected to constant investigation and examination (that was the duty of the religious leaders), and yet He was unafraid to lay down the gauntlet. This demonstrated His supreme confidence that He was without sin. A belief in such a state is sometimes possible to a hardened sinner unaware of his own failings, but the first thing a man does when he comes to know God is admit his sinfulness. Once he sees himself in God’s eyes he repents deeply. This is the first test of the genuineness of religious experience. When Isaiah saw himself in God’s eyes he declared woe on himself because of his unclean lips (Isaiah 6.5). When Job saw God he hated himself and repented deeply (Job 42.6). Yet Jesus, with all His knowledge of, and fellowship with, God, and having ‘seen’ God, had no such consciousness of sin. This was remarkable evidence of His uniqueness.

Furthermore not one of His enemies could point a finger at anything in His life, apart from His disagreement with them on theological matters, that even hinted at sin. And He knew that that would be so. All good men are deeply aware of their own faults, yet here was One Who not only claimed to be without fault, but also challenged others to disprove His claim. And He did it without a hint of spiritual pride. In this too Jesus was unique.

8.46b-47 ‘If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God, hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is because you are not of God’.

So then He asked them why, if He was speaking the truth, they would not hear Him and believe Him. And His solution was that it was because they were ‘not of God’. For His life substantiated His teaching, and if they could not fault the one they should have accepted the other. But their response to His teaching brought out the truth about their own lives, for what He taught was the truth, and yet they rejected it. Whatever their claims might be, therefore, they were not of God, for any man who studied the teachings of Jesus, and then turned away from them, was demonstrating thereby his own sinfulness. And that was because if his heart had been right he would have had to respond.

The Challenge Comes To Its Climax By Jesus Revealing That He Is The ‘I Am’ (8.48-58).

In this final section Jesus deals with their insults by facing them up with the issues of life and death, and this then leads up to a claim that He is not only pre-existent to Abraham but is also the ‘I AM’, the ever-existing One.

8.48 ‘The Judaisers answered and said to him, “Do we not rightly say that you are a Samaritan and have a devil?” ’

Turning to insults is the refuge of men who have been beaten in arguments, and the Judaisers responded hotly. ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?’ To call Him a Samaritan was to accuse Him of being heretical. But the term was intended to be even more insulting than that, for they deeply despised the Samaritans. To call him a Samaritan was one of the biggest insults a Jew could direct at another Jew.

Furthermore, the Judaisers considered that to link them with the Devil was a clear sign of demon-possession. (Yet they had previously linked Jesus with the Devil because He cast out demons (Mark 3.22-30). What did that say about them?). The way they linked the Samaritans with the idea of demon-possession also demonstrated their general attitude towards Samaritans. And perhaps they had become aware of what He had done among the Samaritans, and the favour that He had shown towards them.

8.49-50 ‘Jesus answered, ‘I am not demon-possessed, but I honour my Father and you dishonour me. Yet I do not seek my own glory, for there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge’.

Jesus denied their charge. Rather than being demon possessed it was He Who truly honoured the Father. That was patently something that no demon possessed person would do. Furthermore He wanted them to know that He was not fighting for His own honour. There was Another Who would defend His honour. And that One was the Judge of all men. And as such He was seeking to glorify Jesus. By seeking to dishonour Jesus, therefore, the Judaisers were attacking God Himself.

8.51 ‘In very truth I tell you, if a man keeps my word he will never see death’.

The fact that they should recognise was that His words offered life. Those who fully responded to them would never die. Jesus was of course speaking about eternal death. The way to eternal life, He was telling them, was by studying Jesus’ words, receiving the truth about Him, believing in Him and responding to Him, and then obeying His teaching. The Pharisees taught that eternal life was obtainable by a constant study of the words of Moses, and a determined effort to obey them as they were expounded by the Rabbis, demonstrating their participation in the God’s covenant. Jesus was now replacing Moses and putting Himself in his place.

The Judaisers, probably mainly Pharisees, either could not understand, or probably preferred not to understand. They preferred to take His words literally.

8.52-53 ‘The Judaisers said to him, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed. Abraham is dead, and so are the prophets. And you say, ‘If a man keep my word he will never taste of death’. Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who are you making yourself out to be?” ’

The Judaisers tried to ridicule His teaching. They must have known what He really meant but they were as aware as He was that others were listening. So they altered ‘see death’ to ‘taste of death’ with the intention of emphasising physical death, as their comments about Abraham and the prophets demonstrated. They were refusing to acknowledge that He was speaking of ‘the second death’, something that they too believed in.

‘Are you greater than our father Abraham?’ In the Greek the question is put in such a way as to assume a negative answer.

‘Who is dead, and the prophets are dead.’ The Pharisees believed in the resurrection from the dead. Thus on this at least they should have acknowledged what Jesus meant. They too believed that Abraham and the prophets would live again. But caricature is the weapon of deceivers, and that was what they were. So they pretended to believe that He meant physical death. They were playing to the crowds. How could He say that true believers would never taste of death when both Abraham and the prophets were all dead?

8.54-55 ‘Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him. But I know him, and if I said that I did not know him I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and keep his word’.

Jesus did not directly answer their jibe. Rather He diffused their argument by disclaiming any desire to glorify Himself. They claimed that His Father was their God. Well, let them consider this. It was the One Whom they claimed as their God Who was the One Who would glorify Jesus, and indeed was already doing so through His wonderful works. Thus by not recognising Him they were proving that they did not actually know the Father. In contrast with them Jesus did know Him and He kept His word faithfully, as their own failure to convict Him of sin earlier established. To suggest any other position would make Him a liar like them. There was obviously now no holding back. Both had made their positions clear.

‘You have not known Him --- but I know Him.’ The first ‘know’ is ginosko, to know by experience, the second is oida, to know by understanding. This may be an intentional contrast, stressing that whilst they had not even truly experienced the Father, Jesus had not only experienced His Father but knew His mind. He knew Him through and through (compare Matthew 11.25-27).

At this point Jesus, in full awareness of what He is doing, now makes His past comments absolutely clear. They had asked Him whether He was greater than Abraham. Well, He would now tell them the truth.

8.56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad’.

Abraham had been told by God that ‘by you all the families of the earth will be blessed’ and that ‘kings would be born of him’ (Genesis 12.3; 17.6; compare Genesis 22.18-19), and as he looked forward to kings being born from him he might well have associated the coming time of blessing with the coming of a righteous future king descended from him, one who would rule nations as he ruled his family tribe (compare Genesis 49.10-14). How else could the nations of the world be blessed through him? Abraham thus rejoiced in the great day when God and the world would be at one through his descendants and looked forward to that day of God. This came out especially when at last the chosen son, through whom the promises would begin fulfilment, was born, for laughter was continually associated with that birth, even in the very name Isaac itself (meaning ‘laughter’). Abraham rejoiced at the birth of Isaac for he rejoiced at him as the sign of the fulfilment of the promises in the future.

There was also a Rabbinic tradition that when God made His covenant with Abraham He showed him the day of the Messiah. Genesis Rabbah 44.25ff states that Rabbi Akiba, in a debate with Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, held that Abraham had been shown not this world only but the world to come, which would include the days of the Messiah.

But this statement of Jesus, taken over-literally, produced derision.

8.57 The Judaisers therefore said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”.’

Their reply was over literal. They must have known something of what Jesus meant but they were pandering to the crowds. It must be clear that if Abraham had seen Jesus, then Jesus must have seen Abraham. So was this mature, rather than old, man, claiming to have met Abraham? It was ludicrous. And it is true that what they were suggesting to be the truth was indeed ludicrous, but that was not what Jesus had said. It was all part of their deceit. For in their hearts they must have known, had they considered the matter fairly, that Jesus had meant that Abraham looked forward as a prophet.

But now they discover that they finally get what they wanted, for Jesus reply is an unequivocal statement of His divine origin.

8.58 ‘Jesus said to them, “In very truth I tell you that before Abraham was, I am’.

At this claim they must have been shocked to the core. They had accused Him before on the basis of enigmatic statements, but this final statement could not be misunderstood. Whatever Jesus had meant previously it was now patently clear that He was claiming to have had eternal existence, to have been in continual being long before Abraham. He was indeed saying that He was the ‘I am’, the eternally existing God, the One Who existed even before the world was created (compare 17.5).

In the Septuagint (LXX - the Greek Old Testament) God claimed in Exodus 3.14 to be the ‘I am’ (ho on -the One Who is) the equivalent of ego eimi (which literally translates the Hebrew ehyeh), the phrase Jesus used here, whilst His Name as YHWH meant ‘the one who is’. Now His claim was unequivocal. He was claiming to have pre-existed Abraham and to have everlasting perpetual existence. He was claiming supreme deity. Thus the chapter ends with His uniquely claiming to be ‘the Son of God’ in the fullest sense of the word.

8.59 ‘They took up stones therefore to hurl at Him. But Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

Unlike many moderns the Judaisers understood His meaning precisely, and in fury they picked up stones to stone Him, willing to risk the wrath of the Romans, although in fact they did have certain rights to inflict the death penalty in cases of open blasphemy. By this they openly demonstrated their desire for His death. But Jesus was able to slip away and hide, we are not told how. No doubt He was assisted by His willing supporters as His enemies went to find their stones. And after this He left the Temple. (‘Going though the midst of them and so passed by’ is certainly a later interpolation, although it has fair manuscript support and must have been introduced fairly early in the areas where it was introduced). His end was not to occur yet.

Go to Home Page for further interesting articles

Back to John 7

Forward to John 9

Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.

IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT PUZZLES YOU?

If so please EMail us with your question and we will do our best to give you a satisfactory answer.EMailus. (But preferably not from aol.com, for some reason they do not deliver our messages).

FREE Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.

THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- PSALMS 1-50--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

Light,world,Abraham,devil,pharisees,Moses,pillar,fire,Tabernacles,booths,
ingathering,feast,life,glory,Father,Son,Messiah,Christ,New,Testament,
Old,Testament,Genesis,Revelation,Bible,Helps,articles,correspondence,courses,
Bible,word,search,question,answer,research,links,Bible,Help,links,Christian,
Web,Search,faith,facts,repent,Holy,Spirit,Creation,use,numbers,old,new,
testament,love,forgiveness,Jesus,teaching.