Greeting’s everybody! God’s rich blessings to you in our Lord Jesus Christ, and welcome to Wednesday’s edition of EDiBS! As most of you know, we’ve been steadily working our way through the gospel according to John over the past several weeks, and as we gather today we’re nearing the end of our look at John 8 Thanks for your commitment to be with me as we study through the Scriptures each day; as you grow in your knowledge of God’s Word, I’m always praying that your intimacy with your Savior will grow as well and that you’ll know the blessing of an ever closer walk with Him. I’m happy to have you along; let’s pray and open the Scriptures together.
Father, we praise you for your glory and your grace — your grace shown to us in the Person and work of your One and Only Son. Thank you for this day and this time to study your Word. Bless us by it, change us through it, and equip us to be your ambassadors because of it. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, in response to what Jesus has been telling an increasingly divided crowd, the unbelievers in His midst now make a final assessment regarding His teaching. Our focus: Surely you have a demon!
48The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" 49"I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." 52At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?" 54Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.”
When I was studying at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis back in the 1990s, one of the jobs I worked to help pay for school was running an after-school program for the YWCA. It was called K.E.Y.S., which stood for “Keep Every Youngster Safe,” and most of the kids I worked with needed a safe environment after school because they came from some pretty difficult family situations.
Running K.E.Y.S. was a challenging job, but I loved it — even though from time to time I had to enforce a variety of disciplinary measures when things got out of hand. I was always fair, but I was also unwavering, and sometimes that made me unpopular. In fact, sometimes in response to my laying down the law some of the children in my care would, as children are wont to do, set out to injure me with their words. Can you guess the times I endured the greatest abuse from those kids? It was when they were cornered by the truth. That’s when they would lash out the most, probably because that’s when they were at their most desperate! They were desperate because they knew the consequences for their actions would soon be on their way, and again, as children are wont to do in moments like that, they would sputter their way through a mixture of denials, accusations, epithets, and threats.
When I think of my days with the YWCA and that special after-school program that I got to be part of for several years, it brings to mind, at least to a certain degree, the outdoor school in which our Lord Jesus has been teaching for most of John 8. He has been sharing life-altering concepts, indeed, spiritual issues that carry eternal significance. He has also been steadily narrowing the scope of His words, becoming more and more explicit in His declarations about what it means to know God or, conversely, not know God. The more He has pointed to Himself as the source of salvation and the more He has told those in His midst that their rejection of Him is the rejection of truth itself, the more desperate they have become. In short, they are being cornered by the truth — and because it is convicting them, they are lashing out.
This is the setting of our text today as we begin to draw to the close of the chapter, and our reading shows our Lord Jesus being fair but unwavering as He relentlessly shows Himself to be the Great I AM. Let’s look briefly at the next portion of this exchange between our Lord and His accusers.
Verse 48: In verse 48, bristling at His Word and the implications it holds for them, the people now insult Jesus by calling Him a Samaritan (remember, to the Jews Samaritans are half-breeds and worse than dogs), and they also charge Him as being a man with a demon.
Verse 49: Jesus, however, remains unflappable and calmly uses their words as another opportunity to drive home His point. Look at verse 49: instead of getting into a name-calling match, Jesus simply says, Look, it’s all very simple, really – I Am honoring My Father, but you are dishonoring Me. Meaning, of course, that they are thus dishonoring the very One whom they claim as their God. Jesus is saying again that to reject Him is to reject the Father; they can’t have One without the Other.
Verse 50: In fact, continuing on in verse 50, Jesus says once more that the bottom line in all that He’s been teaching comes down to the glorifying of the Father. Jesus isn’t going around the countryside teaching and healing and doing other miracles in order to start a movement or gain a political following or to become a personality cult; He is doing these things as the One sent by the Father as the fulfillment of all that the Father has promised. The Father is the One seeking glory, Jesus says, and He is seeking it through the Son. And as it is the Father who seeks glory, it is the Father who judges.
Verse 51: Take a moment and notice something as we move into verse 51. Jesus has just finished giving an explicit statement about honoring the Father, right? But now in the next breath, Jesus directs the people back to His own Word as the source of eternal life. It’s a seamless thought. Jesus is in the Father, the Father is in Jesus. The equation here is that the Word of Jesus is the Word of God, and it is in embracing by faith the message of life in that Word that brings people to salvation. It’s a powerful declaration, and the people pick up on this assertion by Jesus right away. We know that’s the case by their reaction to this statement in the closing verses of the passage.
Verses 52-54: In verses 52-54 the naysayers in the crowd repeat their accusations about the supposed demon possession of Jesus, this time with an even greater sense of indignation and now mixed in with a good dose of incredulity as well. How arrogant, they exclaim! They’ve heard this declaration from Him already, of course, but each time Jesus reaffirms His identity with the Father, the people become more upset. How can this self-styled teacher even think of going so far? He’s trumped Abraham, for goodness’ sake, and He keeps insisting on this ridiculous God-complex. How can he say such things about himself? He must be demon-possessed to make such crazy and blasphemous claims. Just who does he think he is, anyway? To this Jesus simply answers, “The One you claim as your own God is the One who glorifies Me.”
As we wrap up for the day, you know something? The crowd is on to something — and though they don’t seem to have the capacity to turn the corner and complete the thought, they are at least correct in half of their assumption. Just who is this Man making these claims? If what He says isn’t true, then they’re right: He’s obviously a nut case. He should be killed. He needs to disappear from the scene and go the way of all those other self-styled messiahs who have had their 15 minutes of fame before dropping off the face of the earth. The mistake that at least part of this crowd has made about Jesus is that while on the one hand His claims are extraordinary, on the other hand, if they’re true…well, if they’re true then it changes everything. That’s what they have not yet considered.
Here’s a question for you as we close: Have you considered that today? We have a whole lot more to go on today than the people gathered around Jesus in the temple courts of Jerusalem did 2000 years ago – and it’s funny: after so long, after all these years, after hundreds upon hundred of detractors over multiple generations have tried to scoff Jesus away into the dustbin of history, this Messiah has not gone away. Why do you suppose that is? Be thinking about that, won’t you? There’s something to it…and it deserves your full attention. We’ll keep going on this theme when we come back together next time, everyone; until then, God’s peace fill your hearts, and I’ll look forward to seeing you soon. Have a great day, and take care!