Summary: Jesus presented Himself as God, only to be rejected by the theologians. Would we have reacted any differently? John compels us to think seriously about our own response to Jesus, the Living God.
*Jesus, the Great “I Am”: The Eternal God*
“The Jews answered [Jesus], ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon, but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.’ The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, “He is our God.” But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’”
Jesus was not crucified because He was a good man; He was crucified because He claimed to be God. Unlike many of His current apologists, Jesus’ Jewish antagonists understood quite well what Jesus claimed about Himself. Christians worship Jesus as very God in human flesh. If He is not God, our practise is in grave error, and we are guilty of perpetuating a gross deception. However, since the Word of God presents Him as very God, and since He presented Himself as God, then we sin grievously against Him if we fail to receive Him as God.
The text before us records Jesus’ own words concerning His eternal nature. Both Christians and non-Christians will benefit from reviewing His words. Surely His Words will encourage us in our faith and give us strength in the face of a fallen world to stand firm in the Faith. Undoubtedly, His teaching will rebuke our timid response to the denial of those who denigrate Him as God. Above all, knowing the Saviour more completely will glorify His Name.
*The Setting for the Account* — It seems that every time Jesus spoke, there was a religious “Truth Squad” present that attempted to discredit whatever He said. This time was no different. This encounter took place during the Feast of Booths. In earlier sermons we explored two earlier pronouncements Jesus made during this Festival that was observed near the end of His ministry. Following these statements concerning His Person and His ministry, Jesus taught those present of the freedom that is found in knowing Him. The “Truth Squad” took exception to His teaching and accused Him of being born as result of an immoral relationship [*John 8:41*].
Jesus responded, not with vitriol and vituperation, but with reason. He exposed their ignorance concerning His words because of their lack of relationship to the True and Living God [*John 8:42-45*]; and He exposed their inability to demonstrate that He was either imprecise or errant [*John** 8:46*]. Above all, their failure to heed His words was because they had no vital relationship to the Father of Lights [*John** 8:47*]. Jesus spoke a significant truth when He said, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God” [*John** 8:47a*].
That day was now drawing to a close; the Master was still in the Temple. It seems reasonable to conclude that He was still in the Treasury. He had been teaching the crowds, and it is almost certain that many present had deliberately elected to linger in the Treasury because they wanted to hear what this Galilean would say. Some were undoubtedly curious, but others sought to know what was pleasing to the Lord, and therefore they wanted to hear what Jesus might say. When the “Truth Squad” increased the level of invective, and Jesus failed to rise to the bait, rather than driving people away, we can imagine that many were drawn to hear Him.
Whenever Jesus spoke, those who heard were not permitted the luxury of remaining neutral. Either they were stirred by the majestic glory unveiled in His words, or they were repelled by because He exposed their perfidy. In a similar manner, whenever His Word is declared in purity and power today, people are compelled to make a choice to either accept what is said as truth, or to reject it as unsuitable—too difficult or inconvenient—for their lives. Neutrality is not an option when the Word of the Lord is delivered.