Summary: This passage is complicated and challenging. This sermon attempts to cut it down to the four interactions and what is going in each. What's the key to seeing Jesus' light?
- This is a very challenging passage. There is a lot going on here in general. There are questions and answers that don’t always flow from one another. There are a lot of theological statements that are not easily processed.
- When you add it all up, there’s a lot to handle here. I struggled to get a firm grasp on the big picture here and how the smaller parts fit into it.
- This is a long outline I know, but I want to try to make sense of the back-and-forth between Jesus and His accusers. We don’t have to spend a lot of time on each interaction, but I do want to touch on each to try to point out what it adds to the passage as a whole.
JESUS' CLAIM: To be the One who illuminates lives.
- John 8:12.
- The opening statement is clear and straightforward: Jesus is the light.
- This is another of Jesus’ “I am” statements in the gospel of John. They help us to understand who exactly Jesus is and what He is offering us.
- Jesus gives light to our lives. We no longer walk in darkness but instead in the “light of life” that He brings.
- Now, it is not surprising that the Pharisees challenge Him on this point. They rightly discern that this is another claim to be one with God. So they begin to question Him, but not toward seeking to know the truth. No, they are questioning to try to accuse Him. But their questions reveal more about their shortcomings than they expect.
- There are four “question and answer” interactions here. With each, we’ll see the problem the Pharisees have and what Jesus’ answer reveals about what they should be seeking.
PROBLEM #1: Blinded by the rules.
- John 8:13.
- This immediately takes us to the Law and their endless focus on the rules.
- Part of the Law was that you had to have two witnesses in a capital murder trial. Now, what relevance that has to this particular situation is debatable. I think the likely version is something like this: they didn’t trust Jesus and therefore discounted His statements about Himself. They need a verse to quote to justify that and this one sounded as good as any other, so they applied it.
RESPONSE #1: Ask God to help me see the situation clearly.
- John 8:14-18.
- Jesus’ reply indicates there is a lot the Pharisees are ignorant of.
- First He dismisses their “two witnesses” accusation.
- Second, He notes they don’t know where He’s from or where He’s going. That points us to their lack of awareness of His divinity.
- Third, they are judging by worldly, fleshly standards, which are not the right ones.
- Fourth, even if you do use the standard they suggested, their accusation still doesn’t hold because the Father testifies with Jesus, giving Him two witnesses.
- The overall gist of this could be summarized that they don’t at all see the situation clearly. They’re off in numerous ways.
- So if we want the “light of life” in our ways, we need to ask God to help us see the situation clearly.
PROBLEM #2: Blinded by thinking physically.
- John 8:19a.
- That leads us to the second interaction.
- Having talked about His Father as His second witness, the Pharisees respond by asking Jesus where His father is.
- We cannot be certain what they mean by this, but I think they are thinking physically. They’ve made this mistake previously in the gospel: thinking physically when Jesus is talking spiritually (see, for example, the “born again” discussion in John 3). I think they are thinking of Jesus’ earthly father and asking, “Well then, where is this father that’s your second witness?”
RESPONSE #2: Ask God to help me see spirituality clearly.
- John 8:19b-21.
- Jesus makes two statements in response, both of which have something similar going on. They are things that the Pharisees will likely take in a direct, physical way when Jesus means something spiritual.
- First, in v. 19b He says that they don’t know Him or His Father.
- He is, of course, speaking of His heavenly Father but they are, I believe, thinking of His earthly father.
- Second, in v. 21 He speaks of going away.
- We know that He is referring to what His spirit will be doing while His body lies in the grave. So, again, He is speaking spiritually. (It is possible that the Ascension is in mind here, but I think the reference to “die in your sins” makes it the less likely option.)
PROBLEM #3: Blinded by ignorance of God’s plan.
- John 8:22.
- This “going away” statement confuses the Pharisees and so, taking it physically, they speculate that perhaps Jesus intends to commit suicide.