They know about Jesus but they don’t have a relationship with Him. Just as it is possible for you to be a churchgoer for decades and never know Him. You can quote the Creeds and still not know Him. You see the importance difference? So, there is a huge difference and a huge distance between them. So we see this contrast, and, “They were saying to Him, ‘Where is Your Father’? Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father. If you knew Me you would know My Father also’.” This is another strong claim. “These words He spoke in the treasury as He spoke in the temple and yet no one seized Him because His hour had not yet come.” Again, we have that motif of ‘His hour’ not coming.
Now we move on to a third contrast in verses 21 to 30. It is a contrast between life and death. In verse 21 He said, “’I go away and you will seek Me, and you will die in your sin; where I am going you can not come’. So the Jews were saying, ‘Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going you can not come’?” Remember earlier, in chapter seven, they thought He was going to off to the Diaspora among the Gentiles?
Now they think He is going to kill Himself. “And He was saying to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you ‘will die of your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins’.” The ‘He’ in your text should be in Italics because it is not in the Greek and it is very important that you grasp this. Just as He said ‘I-am’ in verse 12, He is making a very direct ‘I-am’ claim here. He is saying that unless you believe ‘I am’, ‘ego-ami’, “you will die in your sins.” He is claiming here to be the ‘I am’ that ‘I am’.
Those who were true would understand that. That is why the leaders said to Him, “’Who are You’? Jesus said to them, ‘What have I been saying to you from the beginning’?” So, there is this tremendous claim here. But the difference in their destinations was the difference in their origin. ‘You are from below, I am from above. Because I am from above I have a different destination.
If you are from below, you have a different destination than I do’. This is what He is telling them. Now, in the mystery of the Gospel, what takes place is all of us, as we are born in this world, are from below, are we not? We are born in Adam’s line, born in Adam’s sin, all come from dust, and to dust all return.
So, for you to be reborn in the line of Christ is, for now, you to be changed in your very derivation. That is to say, you have a new origin. No longer is your identity found in the line of Adam. Now your identity is founded on a new line, the line of Christ, a life that has no beginning and no end. If you have a new origin, and it means you have come forth from the Father, where are you going? You are going back to the Father. Before, you were going to be separated from Him. In fact, we were separated in our trespasses and sins. We were dead there, Ephesians chapter two tells us. So, the radical transformation means that we actually have a new origin. We have a new heredity.
This new heredity is what makes it possible for you to have a new destiny. So, in effect, you come from above if you are in Him because that is your new identity. Many other texts tell us this as well. Colossians 2 and Romans 6 are two of the texts that talk about our true identity in our spiritual lives now, with Christ’s death, His burial and His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father.
Let’s continue on in our discussion, then, and He is saying we have a new citizenship, a new destiny, as we see in verse 23, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” This is a very, very strong claim, indeed. It has been well said that those who have been born once will die twice; those who have been born twice will die once.
It is an important distinction. The second birth means that you only have one death. The strong statement continues as we move to verse 28, where we see another claim, but, before that, in verse 25, “So they were saying to Him, ‘Who are you’? Jesus said to them, ‘What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world’. They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father.
So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He’,” and this term, ‘lift up’, has a dual meaning. We have seen it before. ‘Lifting up’ speaks of crucifixion, but it also speaks of exultation. So, the hour when Jesus is ‘lifted up’, He is lifted up on the Cross, yes, but it also refers to His exultation and His ascension to the right hand of the Father. The two are part and parcel.
And so, it was through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension that Jesus would be revealed to the Jewish nation. The Old Testament predicted both the sufferings and the glory of the Messiah, as we well know. So, Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that ‘I am’, and I do nothing on My own initiative but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” It is always what the ‘Father teaches Me’.
Now again we have to say that we often don’t identify with the Father very well because we think of that almost like an Old Testament God. But you must understand something. Jesus never did a thing unless it was something His Father showed Him, or taught Him or showed Him how to do. Understand that if you come to love Jesus, you’ll understand that Jesus is the manifestation of the life of God and that Jesus is, so is the Father.
You must not make a disconnect between the two. It is very, very important for you to grasp that the Father has a deep and profound concern over you and He wishes to display His love to you and cherish you and there is a very real connection here and the more we know about the Son, the more we learn about the Father. And so this powerful ‘I-am’, then ‘you will know I am’, as we saw in verse 24, we see again and He does nothing on His own initiative. In verse 29, “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Now, I must be honest with you, I can not say that. I would like to say I always do the things that are pleasing to Him but I will then be totally deluded. I will say this though; He has given me a new appetite. I do desire, in my deepest self, to do the things that are pleasing to Him. So, I occasionally do not, but I like to think of myself as one who aspires to be pleasing to Him and you should see yourself that way as well. And so, “As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.”
Again we see John’s motif; many rejected and many believed. So we have that contrast again. Now we have a fourth contrast, in verses 41 through 47 we have a contrast between freedom and bondage. There is a very clear contrast between freedom and bondage. In verse 31, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine’.” There is this imagery in John of “abiding in His word,” allowing it to dwell in Him and you, and then, “You will know the truth and it will make you free.” That is the well-known text from John 8:32 You will be set free.
But the Jews responded, though, “We are Abraham’s descendants.” My own suspicion is that going back again to the religious leaders, although He was speaking to the crowd, the religious leaders get the center stage and challenge Him at every step.
They say, “We have never yet been enslaved to anyone.” Are you kidding me? These are the same people who were enslaved by the Egyptians, by the Assyrians, by the Babylonians, by the Persians, by the Greeks, and now by Rome, and they think they have never been enslaved? It may have to with the Jewish concept of being physically enslaved but not spiritually enslaved. Even those who died in Masada said, “We will be no one’s slave.” It may be this symbolic understanding. Clearly, though, the worst kind of bondage is a bondage that the person doesn’t recognize. The idea is that Jesus is saying He wants to turn their condition. He says, “I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.”
I believe that is true. If you get into the bondage of sin you discover that it begins to form a slave out of you. It will enhance its appetite and become an addiction. He continues, “The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” He is offering to turn them from slaves to sons. Only as sons can they be guaranteed a future.
Frankly, a slave can be sold off. But if you are God’s son, no one can sell you off, you are secure. The true security, then, is the acceptance. We all know what it is like, in our experience, to not be in fellowship with our parents. It didn’t mean that you were not your parent’s child, but there were times that you might as well have not been, in terms of your relationship with them.
Still, it did not change the reality that you were a member of that household. That is the concept. There will be times when the fellowship is not there but the relationship still exists. So it is with our relationship with God. Of course, and better than any earthly parent, He is always there to welcome us when we return.
We see this theme, then, between slavery and freedom and it is a tremendous contrast. Jesus goes on to discuss this in verse 37. “I know you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” Again, this is a very strong statement. “’If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham didn’t do. You are doing the deeds of your father’.
They said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication, we have one Father: God’.” So, their insult, of course, is to say that He is a bastard. That is basically what they are saying. He was born of fornication. That is your father. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your father, you would love Me, for I have proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not come of My own initiative, but He sent Me.”
In other words, He is saying that if you really love God, you would also love Me, because the two of us go together. Why don’t they understand what He is saying? Because they don’t hear His word. They don’t have the capacity. Now He makes this very strong claim: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” This is the clearest description of Satan we can think of, in terms of his true, intrinsic nature, when He says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
May I parenthetically tell you, that in the spiritual warfare, you are vulnerable to the degree in which you believe the enemy’s lies. If you do not believe his lies, he has little power over you. It is only through his lies and deception that he will cause you to believe and he will seduce you in that way. Usually, it is by a little bit at a time. You can disguise, for example, a pint of poison in a lake of truth.
Frankly, he is a lot more cagey than we might suppose. He is actually going to be a spiritual counterfeit. He tries to use religiosity rather than use something clearly in his own territory. So, I think that his most effective ploy is to be that of an angel of light and to disguise himself in that way. There is a deception that can take place and to believe his lies is to really believe a false idea about who you are and where you came from and where you are going.
So, when we refuse to believe his lies, and we allow the Father to define us, then we can stand against him. Note the order of this; submit to God first, then resist the devil. Do not try resisting the enemy without first submitting to God. That would be a very big mistake.
The sequence is clear. Jesus goes on to say, “Because I speak the truth you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” This is a theme He developed earlier in chapter six. “The Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon’?” There is the great ‘two-fer’, not only are You a Samaritan, but you possess a demon as well. This was more than a double insult because calling Him a Samaritan was about the worst thing they could call Him. The Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answers, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.”
While I was writing this I was wondering, what are the ways we can honor Jesus? And, what are the ways we can dishonor Him? I was thinking about certain philosophies and things in literature that dishonor Him and then other things that do honor Him. Then I was thinking about our own lives as well. There can be very subtle things by which we dishonor Him. For example, when we make the overt claim to be followers of Jesus, then we do not pay our bills when people expect us to pay them. How is that honoring to Christ? I was talking to a believer who has been consistently manipulated by people who presume to his grace by not paying him, even though they had contracted to do so.
That to me is as dishonoring to Jesus as are more overt kinds of activities can be. There are subtle ways in which we can be dishonoring to Him and we want to be pleasing to Him and to honor Him in that regard. The problem of slavery to sin, then, is one that Jesus discusses and deals with and then we have this contrast between honor and dishonor. So, in verses 48 to 59, the contrast here is between dishonor and honor.
The Jews accused Him of being a Samaritan and having a demon and Jesus answered, “’But I do not seek My glory; there is one who seeks and judges. I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death’. The Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets also; and you say’, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste of death’. Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make yourself out to be?
Jesus answered, ‘If I glorified Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’.” He makes it very explicit there. If they were wondering about who His Father was, He makes it clear to them right there. Jesus continues, “You have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word.”
I must tell you, Jesus doesn’t mince His words. He is being very forthright in the things He says to them. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” That would be an outrageous thing to make a claim about. “So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham’? Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, ego-ami’.” This is ‘ego-ami’ for the third time; verse 24, verse 28 and now in verse 58. Before Abraham was born, ‘I am that I am’.
It is the claim of Exodus chapter three, the One before whom Moses stood at the burning bush. That is an awesome claim and they understood what He was saying because, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” How He did that I am not clear on, especially when He was surrounded by such a huge crowd. But clearly the reason He could do that was that His hour had not yet come.
I want to tell you something; your life is immortal until God’s purpose has been fulfilled in your life. There is no force that can take you out until God’s purpose is complete. Understand that; your hour has not yet come. God alone knows your hour and you must work while you can still work.
Use your time and your opportunity. Some people often say, ‘He is so heavenly minded, he has no earthly good’, but actually the more heavenly minded you are, the more you will treasure the opportunity of your present time because you know right now does count forever. Or, to quote our pal, Maximus, from Gladiator, “What we do today echoes in eternity.” There is a truth in that.
What we do right now does reverberate and it does have an impact. So, we want to treasure the opportunity and to honor the Father as the Son honored the Father. He who honors the Son honors the Father, and so we want to be people who pursue that, allowing God to define us, then we discover true security, true significance, and true worth.