Bold claims – In essence Jesus says: –“I AM” God — The only savior and judge and your only hope for salvation — see john 8:12-59
These verses continue the message Jesus gave at the Feast of Tabernacles. We will look at four additional contrasts (law v. grace was the first in 8:1-11).
Vv. 12- 20 – light vs. darkness – Another theme and symbol of Tabernacles was light, celebrating the autumn equinox. Sixteen large golden bowls filled with oil-soaked, worn-out priestly garments would be lit and light up the entire city and even for miles around as Jerusalem was on a hill. (Remember there was no public lighting in cities of that day so this was quite a display.) In this context Jesus declares Himself the –“light of the world” (not just Israel) and calls us to follow Him to avoid the darkness of a lost world. –“Light” is a major theme throughout Scripture. (See Gen.1:1; Ex. 13:21; Psalm 119:105; John 1:4-9, 12:35-36; 1 John 1: 5-7) Jesus said no one can know the Father if they don’t know the Son for He has come to reveal the Father. Thus the Jewish leaders did not know God. You can imagine how this accusation angered them! All other religions deny the deity of Christ.
Vv. 21-29 – life vs. death — –“You will die in your sins if you don’t believe in Me” – We are all born in sin and choose to sin (Rom. 3:23) and thus must be born again. Those who are born once die twice (physical and spiritual death) and those who are born twice only die once. When Jesus was –“lifted up” (28) refers to the cross, His resurrection, ascension and proof that He is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father which is God’s call for each of us. Let’s pray that we will be passionate for His pleasure.
Vv. 30-47 — freedom vs. bondage/slavery — one test of true salvation is obedience to Jesus’ teachings — –“if you hold to (or continue in) My teaching you are really My disciples” which brings freedom from the bondage of sin. Jesus is saying this to those who said they –“believed” (v.30). One test of true salvation is obedience to Jesus’ teaching. (Also see 1 John 1:4-10) The Jews prided themselves in –“spiritual freedom” and were incensed that Jesus would say they were slaves to sin. Then He made the bold statement that their father was the devil and that they did not belong to God. Wow! The devil was a murderer from the beginning and they wanted to and ultimately did –“murder” Jesus. (Although only by His consent.) Being a son of Abraham or good Christian parents or church members does not mean we are Christians. –“ For he is not a Jew (true child of God) who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Salvation is an inward work of God as we trust Jesus Christ to be our sin bearer and the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us to please God.
Vv. 48-59 – honor vs. dishonor of God — Jesus’ passion was to glorify His Father not Himself. If we desire men to honor us more than honor God it will hinder our faith and obedience to God. (See John 5:44; 12:43; Galatians 1:10) We can take the Lord’s Name in vain by living in a way that does not reflect His character. We, like Jesus, must always point others to God’s glory.
Vv. 56 – This could mean that Abraham saw Jesus from heaven or by faith (Heb. 11:13), or in Melchizedek as a type of Christ (Heb. 7:1-3) or in a theophany (Gen 18:2) or in offering Isaac as a prefigurement of God offering Jesus as the sacrifice on the same mount years later.
Vv. 57-59 –“Then the Jews said to Him, –“You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, –“Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” –“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, –“who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” –“ I have been established from everlasting. From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.” (Revelation 1:8; Proverbs 8:23) –“ Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” –“ Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) –“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic or else the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up as a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come away with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”(C.S. Lewis)
Discuss how we can follow the –“light of Christ” today in His absence. See John 12:35-36.
Before we knew Jesus we –“naturally” sought our own pleasures. How as Christians can we now be passionate to live for God’s pleasure?
–“If you hold to (or continue in) My teaching you are really My disciples” which brings freedom from the bondage of sin. Share where Jesus has set you free from sins that used to hold you in bondage. Where do you need His deliverance still?
We can take the Lord’s Name in vain by living in a way that does not reflect His character and dishonor Him — at home, at work, at play, at church. How can we live our daily lives more and more for God’s glory?
–“ Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Paul said that we grow in experiential knowledge of and in intimacy with Jesus as we suffer with Him and he prayed for that –“privilege” (Phil 1:29, 3:10) How have you suffered with and for Christ?