Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jesus' Discourse with the Jews on Law & Death (Jn. 8:48-59)

John 8:48-59

It is unavodable that there is bipolar reaction against Jesus. Either people love him or hate him. Those who could only see his humanity wonder why he said what he said but those who could see his divinity understand. The Jews could only accept him as a man, son of Joseph and Mary, born in Galilee, whose brothers they knew. Yet Jesus spoke as if he was of divine origin so they could not accept it and this sparked hatred among the Jews.

Jesus asked “which of you can convict me of sin?” It is not an easy sentence to say. When Jesus asked this question, the people who were with him day and night were present, and the people who constantly tried to find his fault were present too. If he had any fault, they could easily jump at the opportunity to expose Him. He dared to ask the question because He is indeed sinless and nobody could point out his errors. Since that is the case people should just kneel down and worship him. But that is not what happened.

They were jealous and hateful, instead they answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (Jn. 8:48). They accused that He was not a pure Jew therefore He could never be right. Samaritans were Jews who descended from mixed marriage after the Israelites were captured by Assyrians. The Jews despised Samaritans. The lineage of Jesus Christ could be traced to Abraham, showing that He is the true of Israelite – whether through the lineage of Joseph or Mary. But Jesus was not born out of Joseph’s relationship with Mary, therefore the Jews took this as an opportunity to insult him of having illegitimate birth.

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.” He did not try to seek justice for Himself but submitted to God. When unjustly treated, most people immediately seek justice and take vengeance. A mature person does not care how people treat him, as long as God is pleased he is at peace.

Jesus continued, “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” (Jn. 8:51). This declaration is very bold and amazed the Jews. Jesus meant to teach them that they had the law but had failed to obey it, and the wages of sin is death. But salvation came from Him who gave Himself as a ransom. The Old Testament introduced the law which proves we are sinful therefore deserving of death, but in the New Testament we have the ministry of grace which save us from sin and death. Because of their arrogance, they could not understand Jesus’ words.

Their reaction, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

These are stern words. The patriach and the prophets are so great but they died, they were appalled how Jesus could make such declaration that those who obey Him would not see death. In the first place, they did not know who Jesus was and saw Him as an unimportant figure. But Jesus knew He was speaking the truth. God the Father sent Him to the world, Word become flesh, to become a man born under the law, and die under the curse of the law to save those under the law. God the Father promised inheritance to the Son, which is the redeemed people of God. They die under the law but have eternal life in Jesus Christ. True hope is not in the law, but in the salvation of Christ. The law came from Moses but grace comes from Jesus Christ.

The Jews waited for the Messiah. The prophets wrote that Messiah would never die. The prophets wrote and they died but one day they would be resurrected. So the Jews never really understood. The patriachs and prophets would be raised to life.

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” The glory of Jesus is related to His resurrection. The Jews thought the death of Jesus is also the end of His story. But with Jesus’ resurrection He is glorified forevermore. Jesus said the Father whom they claimed to be their God is the one who glorified Him.

Jesus said, “Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” (Jn. 8:55-56) Jesus was just declaring the truth. Their father Abraham looked forward to His day. They were surprised, “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!” Abraham died 2000 years ago, they wondered how Jesus could claim He had seen Abraham.

Jesus declared, “Very truly I tell you,before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (Jn. 8:57-59) Here Jesus revealed His divinity. When He declared, “I AM”, He meant He was before Abraham, extracted from Ex. 3:15 when Moses asked for God’s name, and God said, “I am who I AM.” He is not constrained by time. He is, He was and He is to come. He always IS. He never changes. So He is God. Jesus told them He transcends history thus they could not treat him as someone who is not yet 50 years old. Jesus left them after He said this. If the Jews recognised who Jesus is, they would have grabbed hold of Him. But they never recognised Him so all His words never entered their hearts. The eternal word of Jesus Christ transcends all the words of the passing world.


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