The Origin of Jesus
Self Witness (John 8:12-20)
Jesus begins speaking in the treasury section of the Temple (John 8:20) and announces that he is the light of the world. Some commentators that an event involving the lighting of lamps in the treasury was going on and Jesus used the occasion to make a greater point, as he as done in the past. Light and dark are often symbols of righteousness and wickedness (I John 1:5-7; John 1:4-5) and the difference between knowledge and ignorance (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23). It was also a symbol of the Messiah (Isaiah 42:6; Malachi 4:2). Those following Jesus would have the light (Ephesians 5:8).
The Pharisees understood his claim, but rejected it because it was self-proclaimed. Because a personal claim was not admissible evidence in a court, they declared that Jesus’ claim had to be false because he was witnessing concerning himself. The problem is that their reasoning is twisted. Self-witness may not be admissible evidence in a court, but it doesn’t imply that a testimony about one’s self is necessarily false. All a person could claim is that it wasn’t enough to establish truth.
And that is Jesus’ point. His testimony is still true even though he is testifying concerning himself. Moreover, his testimony is based on knowledge greater than any present because Jesus know his past and future, while those listening knew neither.
The Pharisees were quick to judge, but their judgement was only according to the standards of this world. People tend to see others as they themselves think (Titus 1:15). In contrast, Jesus wasn’t here to judge (John 3:17), but even if he was required to judge, his judgements would be true – unlike the Pharisees’. Jesus’ judgements are the same as the Father’s. He is not acting in isolation as the Pharisees supposed, but in conjunction with God the Father.
Jesus then points out that truth in courts are established by two or more witnesses. He does have multiple witnesses: he is offering testimony concerning himself, and the Father is also giving witness. The Jews, showing their worldly mindedness, demand that Jesus’s father be brought forward to give his testimony. Jesus points out that they did not know him, so obviously they could not know his Father, speaking of God (John 8:27).
Though Jesus’ words riled the Jews, John points out that they were unable to physically attack Jesus because it wasn’t the proper time. He is implying that God was preventing them from laying hands on Jesus.
Going Where the Jews Could Not Follow (John 8:21-24)
To prove how little they knew, Jesus stated that he was leaving and they would not be able to follow because they would die in their sins and not be able to come to where he is going.
Once again, the Jews only latched onto a portion of Jesus’ statement. They ignored the part about dying in their sins and wondered if Jesus was speaking of committing suicide. In their minds they were going to heaven, so if Jesus commits suicide, then they reasoned that they and Jesus would not be going to the same destiny. Therefore, instead of accepting that their own sins would separate themselves from Jesus, they tried to reverse the circumstance and claim that Jesus’ sins would separate him from them.
Jesus points out that he and the Jews were from two different worlds and had two very different viewpoints. He again plainly states that unless they believe that Jesus is “I am” they would end up dying in their sins. Notice that many translations add the word “he” after “I am,” but it is not in the Greek. Jesus is making an allusion to what God said to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 48:12). Jesus is stating that unless the Jews believe that he is God, they would die in their sins.
Who Is Jesus? (John 8:25-30)
Since Jesus said they would have to believe that he is, it naturally led to the question of who Jesus truly was. Jesus only hinted at who he was, and the Jews chose not to accept the hint. But this whole discussion started when Jesus declared who he was – he is the light of the world (John 8:12). It is what Jesus has been stating all along, but to which the refused to accept.
Jesus stated there were numerous things he could say about them which would reprove or judge them, but those things are nothing more than what the Father has said. But they continued to not understand that Jesus was speaking of God being the one who sent him. However, Jesus said that when they lift him up, that is to crucify him, then they would know that Jesus is I am and that he was only doing the will of God, the Father. He is not acting alone, God has always been with him, and he has been doing the things that pleases God.
Interestingly, as a result of this discussion, John note that many did come to believe Jesus.
True Freedom (John 8:31-47)
It is important to notice that the audience for Jesus’ words now shifts to those of the Jews who believed on him. We do not know whether these discussions all occurred on one day or were strung out across several days, but the audience for the various remarks do change.
It is not enough to believe Jesus’ words or to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus told these believers that they must live in his words – that is to make them a part of their life and to continue living by his words (John 15:3-8; James 2:14-26). Only then would they know the truth and the freedom that comes with the truth (Romans 6:16-23).
Jesus’ words offended his audience. The Jews were proud of their freedom, but in their pride they miss spoke. Israel spent 430 in slavery in Egypt. Later they spent 70 years in captivity under Babylon. Currently, though free people, they were the political subjects of the Roman government. But the fact is that they were continuing to think in worldly terms. Jesus was speaking in regards to bondage to sin, which he explains clearly.
When a person commits sin, they voluntarily place themselves in subject to sin. But just as a slave’s position is not permanent, neither is a person stuck in sin just because they have committed sin. But Jesus, as the son, is in a permanent position. Jesus is offering them true freedom. The reference to “son” in both verses 35 and 36 are the same in Greek, ho huios. Unfortunately, many English translations make one read generically and the other specifically. However, both would refer to the same person: Jesus Christ. As a permanent member of God’s household, if he offers freedom, then it would be true freedom from sin (Isaiah 61:1; Romans 8:15-16; I John 3:4-10).
Physically they could claim to be descendants of Abraham, but Jesus points out that they do not behave like Abraham. They are seeking to kill him, something Abraham would not have done (James 2:21-23). The difference is because they won’t make Jesus’ words a part of their lives. Thus we realize that the faith they currently have in Jesus is a shallow faith. Jesus speaks what he has seen with God the father, and the Jews imitate their father.
Because Jesus spoke of their father in the singular, the crowd listening knew he was not speaking of their physical fathers, but they took offence that Jesus claimed a different father than their own. In pride, they again claimed Abraham as their father. But Jesus pointed out that if such were true in the spirit, then they would have acted like Abraham. Jesus told them the truth from God, something Abraham would have gladly received, but it was something that caused these people to seek to kill Jesus (Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 3:7, 29). Thus, Jesus asserts again that they are imitating their father.
Since Jesus denied their claim that Abraham was their father because of how they behaved, they reached for a stronger claim: they are God’s children. As such they cannot be accused of having a mixed parentage, implying that they are not involved in idolatry (Hosea 1:2; 2:4). But Jesus pointed out that if they were truly children of God, they would have accepted him because he came from the Father to them. Instead, they are refusing to understand Jesus’ words, as if it was a foreign language to them, and thus proving that they were not God’s children.
Jesus finally bluntly tells the Jews that spiritually they imitate their father, Satan. They do what Satan wants them to do. Satan has always been a murderer. He got Adam and Eve to sin, and in that sin they died (Genesis 2:16-17). Because they sinned, mankind was denied access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Remember that Jesus has repeatedly pointed out that they were seeking his death, an accusation they were no longer denying.
Satan is also a liar. He has told so many lies, Jesus stated that it was his native language. As we have seen in the Jews’ denial of what Jesus stated, they often took positions which simply were not true. They again prove that Jesus told the truth when he said they imitated their father. It is because Jesus told the truth that they did not believe him.
Jesus challenges them, which of them convicts him of sin? If he lied, then he would be sinning. But they accept that what Jesus said is not a lie, then why do they not believe him? People who follow God listen to God’s words, but because they will not listen, they prove that they are not of God.
Rejection of Jesus (John 8:48-59)
Unable to stand against Jesus’ arguments, the Jews fell back an old line of defense. They claimed he wasn’t a true Jew, but a Samaritan (a half-Jew whom they despised), probably because Jesus stated that their father and his Father were different. They also dismissed his words as the ravings of a mad man possessed by a demon (John 7:20). By maligning who he was with lies, they felt justified in ignoring what he said.
Jesus points out that he doesn’t have a demon – something everyone could see for himself. He has been giving honor to God the Father, but they have responded by maligning his character. But such doesn’t matter because Jesus is not seeking personal glory, but the glory of God (John 7:18). God seeks His glory and He will judge those who do not glorify Him (John 5:23).
Jesus assures his audience that if anyone obeys his words, he will not die. The Jews found this as just more proof of how insane Jesus was. Abraham and the prophets spoke the words of God and they died and those who heard them died. Is Jesus claiming to be greater than these men? How can his words keep a person from dying? Just who did Jesus think he was?
Once again, Jesus points out that he is not seeking personal honor. If he was, it won’t mean anything. The honor that he has is because God gives him honor, the very God they claim to be following. But they don’t know God. But Jesus does know Him personally. In fact, if he claimed not to know God he would be lying. But Jesus both knows God and follows God’s teachings.
Abraham looked forward to the day when Jesus would come to earth. He saw it and rejoiced; that is, Abraham saw it through prophecy. The Jews, however, took Jesus’ words literally. How, they demanded, could Abraham have seen Jesus when Jesus is not even fifty years old and Abraham lives thousands of years earlier? But also notice that if Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day, then Jesus has answered their question as to whom was greater. And in their refusal to accept that Abraham saw Jesus’ day, they are denying that Abraham was a prophet of God.
Surprisingly, Jesus stated, “before Abraham was, I am.” In this simply is the claim that Jesus existed before Abraham was born. More, Jesus once again calls himself by the phrase “I am” which the Jews knew to be the name of God (Exodus 3:14). They could not ignore the fact that Jesus just stated that He was God – deity with no past or future tense, just simply eternal existence (Psalm 90:2. This was too much for the crowd. They took up stones to kill him for blasphemy. And yet, they could not because Jesus simply walked away, right through the middle of the crowd, giving yet another proof of his divinity.