“A fascinating story appeared in Time magazine a few years ago.
By day, Randolfe Wicker, 63, runs a lighting shop in New York City. But in his spare time, as spokesman for the Human Cloning Foundation, he is the face of cloning fervor in the U. S. ‘I took one step in this adventure, and it took over me like quicksand,’ says Wicker. He is planning to have some of his skin cells stored for future cloning. ‘If I’m not cloned before I die, my estate will be set up so that I can be cloned after,’ he says, admitting, however, that he hasn’t found a lawyer willing to help. ‘It’s hard to write a will with all these uncertainties,’ he concedes. ‘A lot of lawyers will look at me crazy.’
As a gay man, Wicker has long been frustrated that he cannot readily have children of his own; as he gets older, his desire to reproduce grows stronger. He knows that a clone would not be a photocopy of him but talks about the traits the boy might possess: ‘He will like the color blue, Middle Eastern food and romantic Spanish music that’s out of fashion.’ And then he hints at the heart of his motive. ‘I can thumb my nose at Mr. Death and say, ‘You might get me, but you’re not going to get all of me,’’ he says. ‘The special formula that is me will live on into another lifetime. It’s a partial triumph over death. I would leave an imprint not in sand but in cement.’ (Gibbs, “Baby, It’s You!”).”
[Carter & Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John, 200].
Maturity and transformation
Judy will tell you that she saw a transformation take place in me, as it pertains to studying God’s Word, after I was laid off from Child Evangelism Fellowship
I guess that event, as hard as it was for me to go through, only drew me closer to the Lord
It was a time of great growth and maturity for me
I was evaluating my life and God’ purpose for it
It was several years later that God confirmed His calling on my life to serve in pastoral ministry
Times of hardship always drive me to spend more time with the Lord, so I can truly know Him and keep His Word
When we go through hardships it can cause us to reevaluate our lives
When an illness hits us or a close family member, we think more about life and death
We think about spiritual things and about eternity and life after death
Some people fear death, especially those who are younger, because they have so much life to live (they haven’t experienced everything they’ve wanted to, yet)
Jesus is completing His Temple Discourse with these final verses in chapter 8. In chapter 9 we’ll see a transition that takes place. As Jesus finishes speaking at the temple courts, He shares with the crowd that He is eternal. This does not settle well, especially since the crowd is stuck on the literal instead of the spiritual. He will explain the importance of knowing God and keeping His Word. He will also express that physical death is not the end for those who keep His word. What Jesus wants us to understand is that . . .
BIG IDEA – Those who know God will keep His Word and have eternal life.
GOD (John 8:48-59)
Keeping Jesus’ Word (vv. 48-53)
Protecting our family
It seems to be a part of the DNA of every family that we stick together and protect each other when one of the members comes under attack
We may not be getting along with a particular family member, but if someone, outside the family, attacks them we’re pretty quick to come to their defense (blood is thicker than water)
When I was growing up, the “Your momma” jokes were pretty popular
Each person would try to outdo the other person with slams against their momma
It usually started with the statement, “Your momma is so . . . that . . .”
I’m glad that’s not a trend anymore, at least that I’m aware of
If you’re still using those, I’d encourage you to stop (we want to honor our mothers and fathers)
When our family is threatened, we will sometimes revert to name-calling or speaking ill of the other person, in an effort to protect our family and to make ourselves feel better
That seems to be what’s happening here with the Jews who believed Jesus
Last week, we saw that the Jews where trying to use their physical heritage as justification for salvation and entrance into heaven
They claimed to be Abraham’s descendants which meant, in their minds, that they were free from slavery to sin, but Jesus refuted that by saying that everyone who sins is a slave to sin (their physical heritage didn’t count, it didn’t save them)
Next, they claimed to be Abraham’s children which meant, in their minds, that morally and ethically they were still going to heaven without having to hold to Jesus’ teachings or believe in Him, but Jesus refuted that by saying that they weren’t doing the things that Abraham did (their actions and words proved that Abraham was not their father)
Finally, they claimed that God was their father, but Jesus said that wasn’t true, because He had come from the Father and they did not love or accept Him
In refuting the believing Jews, Jesus said three times that they were listening to and doing what their father does – it wasn’t God, but rather the devil
All of that leads up to what we see in verse 48 today
Samaritan and demon-possessed (v. 48)
The way in which the Jews attack Jesus shows that what He has said about them is true – they listen to and do the work of their father, the devil
If Jesus was questioning their heritage, then they are going to question His
If their father is the devil, then Jesus must be demon-possessed
The first part of their question referenced that Jesus was a Samaritan
This was a particularly harsh designation
The Samaritans were considered half-breeds by the Jews (half-Jew and half-Gentile)
There were certain Jews who remained in Assyria after their captivity had ended and they intermarried with the Assyrian people
“For a Jew to be called a Samaritan was the grossest of insults . . .” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 1, 323]
The Samaritans were later associated with demonic and cultic magic [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 1-11, 307]
Perhaps the two designations were actually one in the same
The Samaritans were known for worshipping many gods, which could lead to the idea of them being demon-possessed [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 523]
“It may simply be that Jesus’ accusers thought that for a Jew to question the paternity of other Jews was so despicable that only demon-possession could explain it.” [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 355]
I find it intriguing that when Jesus says the Jews are following their father, the devil, that their response is that He is demon-possessed, which would mean that they are both following the devil (“If we’re not God’s children, then neither are You.”)
Matthew 12:22-28, Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
The Jews are perhaps so enraged that they cannot see God’s work through Jesus
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge their claim that He’s a Samaritan, but rather addresses their claim that He is demon-possessed
Honoring God (vv. 49-50)
Jesus denies that He is demon-possessed
Jesus is obviously not demon-possessed
Rather He is from God
Honor and shame society
Honor and shame were very important in the 1st Century culture
It was pretty serious if a child dishonored his/her parents
The punishment for a stubborn and rebellious son who would not obey his parents after being disciplined was to bring him before the elders at the gate of the town where they would stone him so that evil would be purged from among them (Deut. 21:18-21)
It was equally serious for a person to shame another person
Perhaps the Jews felt dishonored and shamed when Jesus refuted all their claims to Abraham’s heritage, yet Jesus was telling the truth as God saw it
Jesus tells them that His words and His actions are all done to honor His Father, God
Jesus isn’t doing or saying anything that God has not told Him to say or do
He is not doing or saying anything that is self-seeking or trying to bring Himself glory
God is seeking glory, because He is God
This is not a self-seeking or arrogant statement that Jesus is making
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1
What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
1 Corinthians 10:31, So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Romans 11:36, For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.
God is seeking glory from His creation, because He is the Creator
God is also the Judge
As sovereign, He has the right to rule and He rules rightly
He is Holy (perfect), so we know He will judge fairly and equitably
He is Righteous, so we can trust that His judgements will be right and correct
“In a non-Western society the experience of honor and shame has always been viewed as an extremely crucial reality. The dishonoring of a person was regarded as practically inexcusable.” [Borchert, 306]
Jesus doesn’t hesitate to call the Jews on the carpet for dishonoring Him
Jesus has not dishonored the Jews by saying their father is the devil, because He is speaking the truth and they know it
The Jews calling Jesus a Samaritan and demon-possessed is false – there is no truth in it, therefore, they had dishonored Him
We are just as guilty of dishonoring Jesus and God with our lives
We may not call Jesus a Samaritan or demon-possessed, but our words, actions, and attitudes prove that our father is the devil
Perhaps we don’t do everything to the glory of God
Maybe we use words that are not honoring to God or Jesus (taking the Lord’s name in vain or using God and Jesus’ names as a curse word)
Sometimes our attitudes, thoughts, and actions are not God-honoring
My Next Step Today Is To: Take time to evaluate my life and see if there is anything that is not God-honoring and make the commitment to stop doing those things.
Perhaps Jesus spent more time explaining how the Jews had dishonored Him, but in this passage He seems to move quickly over that to the most important part of His message
Eternal life (v. 51)
Keeps my word
Last week we saw that Jesus explained to the Jews that they needed to hold to His teaching to become true disciples
Now, He tells them that they need to keep His word in order to never see death
Jesus is saying the same thing, but in a different way
To “keep” means “to attend to carefully, take care of, and specifically to observe”
Observe is defined as, “notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant”
Jesus wants the Jews and us to notice and register His word as being significant
John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
Never see death
“Never see death” is the negative way of saying “has eternal life”
1 John 1:1-4, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.
PRINCIPLE #1 – Jesus provides eternal life.
Those who know God will keep His Word and have eternal life.
We have to notice and register that God’s Word is significant, inerrant, and applicable to our lives today
John 3:36, Whoever believes the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
We are being saved from God’s wrath
His wrath remains on us, because we have not accepted His plan of redemption, His plan of eternal life, and because everyone is born in sin
Psalm 51:5, Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23)
We deserve to be punished for our sins (Rom. 6:23)
God loved us so much that He made a way so we wouldn’t have to take our own punishment for sin (Rom. 5:8)
Jesus fulfilled God’s plan for eternal life (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
Each person has to believe in Jesus and what He said about eternal life in God’s Word
My Next Step Today Is To: Believe in Jesus and receive God’s gift of eternal life.
Jesus is the only way for us to have eternal life
That’s what Scripture tells us, so we have to keep God’s Word
Jesus’ statement that keeping His word would guarantee that they would not see death was too hard for the Jews to believe
Spiritual over literal (vv. 52-53)
Jesus’ statement was proof and justification for their claim that He was demon-possessed
Death had already come
The Jews were thinking in the physical realm
Abraham and the prophets of old had died physically
So, how could Jesus say that if they kept His word that they would never taste death
Matthew 22:31-32, But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
From God’s perspective, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not dead, because they had received eternal life
Read Hebrews 11:10, 13-16
The same would be true of the prophets – they were looking forward to the new heaven and the new earth
The Jews had to stop thinking literally and start thinking spiritually
When Jesus said they would never see death, He was not talking about physical death
Jesus was talking about spiritual death
“He is not suggesting that his disciples will never experience physical dissolution. Rather, they will never have to confront death in its terror as the occasion of final separation from God; death as the curse of sin.” [Milne, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of John, 135]
“You see, for those who know Jesus, death is neither annihilation nor termination. Death is transformation because the moment we close our eyes in the final minute of this life, we’ll see Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8). And in seeing Him, we’ll become like Him (1 John 3:2).” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, New Testament, 510]
2 Corinthians 5:8, We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
1 John 3:2, Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
We are guaranteed the same thing – we will never see or taste spiritual death when we keep Jesus’ and God’s Word – when we accept God’s Word concerning faith in Jesus being the only way to heaven
The Jews needed to change their perspective
“When I was a boy growing up outside of New York City, I was an avid fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In fact, I have not yet quite forgiven them for moving west. The archenemy in my childhood was the New York Yankees. I had seen them only on television and heard them only on the radio until I was invited by my father to skip school and to go to the World Series game between the Yankees and the Dodgers. I'll tell you, it was one of the great thrills of my childhood. I remember sitting there, smelling the hot dogs and hearing the cheers of the crowd and the feel of it all. I knew those Dodgers were going to shellac those Yankees once and for all. Unfortunately, the Dodgers never got on base, so my thrill was shattered. I tucked it away somewhere in my unconscious until, as an adult, I was in a conversation with one of these fellows who was a walking sports almanac. I mentioned to him when I went to my first major league game. I said, ‘It was such a disappointment. I was a Dodger fan and the Dodgers never got on base.’
He said, ‘You were there? You were at the game when Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in all of World Series history?’
I said, ‘Yeah, but, uh, we lost.’ I was so caught up in my team's defeat that I missed out on the fact that I was a witness to a far greater page of history.
Leith Anderson, "Unlistened-to Lessons of Life," Preaching Today, Tape 48.
The Jews were missing out on a far greater page of history, because they couldn’t see past the literal and physical to the spiritual
They want to know who Jesus thinks He is
Does Jesus really believe He’s greater than their father, Abraham?
The question has changed from “Who are you?” (John 8:25) to “Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:53)
We’ll see that Jesus points to the Father in answering their question
Keeping God’s Word (vv. 54-55)
I am nothing
In the heat of an argument or tense discussion, we are often tempted to share our credentials when someone challenges us (“Well, let me tell you who I am!!!”)
That was not what Jesus did
The Jews obviously believed that Jesus’ mission was “self-appointed and his claims are self-exalting.” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 271]
In humility and meekness, Jesus said, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing.”
It’s so much better when someone else shares who we are, with others
God the Father is the key to who Jesus is [Milne, 135]
God glorifies Jesus
PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is deity (He is One with God)
Jesus again claims deity when He says “My Father . . . is the one who glorifies me.”
God is the One who is speaking on behalf of Jesus and telling the world who He is
God is the One who is glorifying Jesus and not Jesus Himself
Jesus’ Father is the same person that the Jews claim as their God
They think they know who God is and what He requires of them
We do the same thing today
We may hold to things we were taught many years ago that are sometimes not Biblical
We believe that a particular interpretation or application of God’s Word is right, because it agrees with what we believe – it makes us feel better about ourselves
We take one verse (sometimes out of context) and form a theology around that verse
We proof-text verses or passages of Scripture to make it say what we want it to say
We read into Scripture our preconceived ideas even when that was not what was being said to the original hearers
When we do any of those things, we are basically saying that we know God and what He requires of us
We smooth off the rough edges (all the hard sayings and challenging commands) of the Gospel and what God requires of true disciples, so we feel better about our Christian walk
Yet, Jesus says that the Jews don’t truly know God
He could say the same of us
Do we truly know God?
Have we really submitted our lives to His Word?
Have we allowed the Holy Spirit to really teach us the truths of God’s Word?
Or have we continued to believe what we want about the Gospel and God’s commands, so that we feel like we can accomplish His purposes in our own strength
My Next Step Today Is To: Evaluate what I know about God and seek to truly know Him and keep His Word.
Jesus explains that He knows God
Jesus knows God
He would be a liar, like the Jews, if He said He didn’t know God
Jesus is basically saying that the Jews are lying about knowing God
Last week we saw that the Jews were not really Abraham’s children or God’s children
They didn’t welcome Jesus as a divine messenger and they didn’t love Him
They weren’t obedient to God by holding to Jesus’ teachings or keeping His word
PRINIPLE #3 – Jesus is obedient to God and His Word.
Jesus is the perfect example of what He is asking the Jews to do in order to experience eternal life
He said that if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death
This truth would be played out through Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension
Jesus would experience physical death and through that take the punishment for humanity’s sin
God accepted Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross by allowing Him to come alive again on the third day (He won over sin and death)
Jesus is still alive today and offers to His disciples the same resurrection power!
We have to follow Jesus’ lead
Those who know God will keep His Word and have eternal life.
Jesus tells the Jews that their father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing God’s plan of salvation come to fruition
Jesus is Eternal (vv. 56-59)
Abraham obviously didn’t see Jesus’ day as it happened
“The coming of Jesus as the Savior of mankind was what Abraham was rejoicing about. He believed God would fulfill his promise of a Savior who would reconcile sinners to a perfect God.” [Carter & Wredberg, 205]
The Jews were still looking at the natural instead of the eternal
The Jews response tells us that they are unwilling to accept that Jesus was pre-existent
How would Jesus know that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of Jesus’ coming and that Abraham was glad when he saw it
How could Jesus have seen Abraham
By the 1st Century Abraham would have been dead for nearly two thousand years [Carter & Wredberg, 204]
Jesus wasn’t even 50 years old yet
“The age of fifty was commonly considered to mark the end of a man’s working life and his attainment of full maturity (cf. Num. 4:3, 39; 8:24-25; m. ʾAbot 5.21; see Beasley-Murray 1999: 139). Jesus, the Jews may be saying, has not even reached full maturity, and he makes claims such as having seen Abraham.” [Köstenberger, 272-73]
I just turned 50 this year, so I guess I’ve finally reached full maturity
The only explanation is that Jesus is preexistent
PRINCIPLES #4 – Jesus is preexistent.
Jesus tells them directly that He existed before Abraham was even born
Jesus uses the “I am” statement that God had used in the Old Testament
Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Jesus is claiming equality with God – Jesus and God are One
“Extending the present into the past does not compute in most of our minds. It is a confusion to the way we think. But God does not fit into the teacups of our minds. More pertinent for our purposes, however, is the fact that Jesus claimed to be ‘I am’ over against Abraham. That claim was a reminder of the claims for God in the Old Testament over against creation (cf. Ps 90:2; Isa 42:3-9) and of the self-designation for the comforting God of Isaiah (41:4; 43:3, 13).” [Borchert, 309]
Accepting Jesus as preexistent was not going to happen
The Jews considered Jesus’ claim to be blaspheme
He was not equal with God
He was not sent from God
They were ready to be judge, juror, and executioner
They were so furious at this point that they were forgetting their own judicial system
Stoning was the proper punishment for someone who blasphemed God, but that sentence was only handed down after the person had had a fair trial
They weren’t going to give Jesus a fair trial
They were going to stone Him right there in the temple courts
God’s timing and plans are perfect
It still wasn’t time for Jesus to die for the sins of the world
Jesus hid Himself and left the temple courts, and probably Jerusalem, the same way He had entered – in secret
Is there anything in your life, right now, that is or could be dishonoring to God?
Have you taken the necessary steps to keep God’s Word so you will never see or taste spiritual death (eternal separation from God)?
Do you really know God and have you really kept His Word?
“Author and Soviet Union prison camp survivor Alexander Solzhenitsyn died on August 3, 2008, at age 89. Solzhenitsyn, so full of wisdom, has often been quoted. On June 8, 1978, while addressing the 1978 graduating class of Harvard University, he offered one of his more memorable thoughts:
Harvard's motto is ‘Veritas,’ [Latin for truth]. Many of you have already found out, and others will find out in the course of their lives, that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit. And even while it eludes us, the illusion still lingers of knowing it and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth is seldom pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, addressing the 1978 graduating class of Harvard University, June 8, 1978