Summary: Explores the superficial belief many had concerning Jesus--His interaction with them--and their ultimate response.
Fortifying the Foundations # 21
In John 8 Jesus has been teaching at the temple court. That teaching was interrupted by a challenge from the Pharisees in verse 13 and the crowd listened attentively as Jesus answered their defiance. We concluded last week with the very encouraging comment in John 8:30, “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” Praise God these people are responding to Jesus’ message. How nice it might have seemed had the chapter ended there. But there is much, much more to the story.
Now Jesus turns to these people and begins to talk to them about discipleship. Notice carefully the way our text begins in John 8:31, “To the Jews who (what?) believed him," Jesus said.” The rest of this chapter records Jesus interaction with these people who “believed him.” How does it all end? Look with me at verse 59 “At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
What happened between verse 30 and verse 59? (A powerful lesson on the difference between easy believe-ism and real discipleship)
There is in many church circles a misunderstanding about what the job of the church is. Is the job of the church to simple gather a crowd of people? Is it to simply get people to pray a prayer or join a subculture with strong family values? Is it to get people to “believe in Jesus”? The answer to that depends on what we mean when we talk about believing in Jesus or receiving Christ. The people in our text had some kind of belief. But it was the kind of belief that when confronted with true discipleship led them to want to kill Jesus.
In the Great Commission Jesus has told us as his church what we are to do. (Matthew 28:19) “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations...” The interaction of Jesus with these “believers” in our text is a powerful commentary on that assignment. What is the difference between these superficial believers who seem to be responding to the Jesus at first then later turn against him and a true follower of Jesus Christ (a disciple indeed)?
Look with me at the
I. Opportunity of Discipleship Offered by Jesus in verses 31-32.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." NIV
These people have had a positive response to Christ. At that moment their response is so encouraging that Jesus talks with them about real discipleship. And he is telling them that to really be his disciple involves a long-term comment to live the way he says to live—to meinhe –remain in his word—to abide in him--to continue to follow his teachings.
(1) “If you hold to my teachings (logw) you are really my disciples.”
In John 15 Jesus talks extensively about what it means to abide in him. There is a perseverance that comes out of a deep commitment to Christ that was certainly not in these people. The old saying is, “Time will tell.” And it didn’t take much time for the truth to tell on these superficial believers. A true disciple will be there when its fun and be there when it’s not fun. A true disciple will follow Christ when it is bringing great joy and prosperity. He will rejoice in God’s goodness and enjoy every minute of it.
But he is not just a fair weather friend of Jesus. When the rains come, when there are trials and difficulties—when it would be easier to give up than to go on—still he continues to follow the Lord (through thick and thin).
In his first epistle John wrote about those people who professed a faith in Christ but then departed from it. 1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” Their departure from the faith demonstrated that they were not a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
There is an important doctrinal balance in scripture between the assurance of God’s keeping power and the warning against apostasy. To those who would sincerely choose to follow Christ there is much assurance in scripture that God will uphold us and lead us like a shepherd leads his sheep. Read the 23rd Psalm. Read John 10. And you will be encouraged and assured of God’s keeping power. (John 10:27-29)
27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. NIV