Summary: Jesus draws a line in the sand, one the Pharisees couldn’t miss, and one which forces us to commit ourselves as to who we think Jesus is.
“Who Do You Think He Is?”, Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Author Salman Rushdie authored a book critical of Islam, back in the 80’s, The Satanic Verses, and has been under a death sentence for blasphemy ever since, a judgment imposed by the Ayatola Khomenie of Iran. Our Scripture passage shows a similar conflict. In a confrontation with the Pharisees, the religious authorities of the day, Jesus reveals Who He is, which they condemned as blasphemy. Jesus draws a line in the sand, one the Pharisees couldn’t miss, and one which forces us to commit ourselves as to who we think Jesus is.
Jesus is debating the Pharisees concerning the nature of true religion. He says in vs. 42, “If God were your father, you would love Me.” We’re all biological children of God, but not everyone is a true spiritual child of God. Jesus uses the terms “father” and “children” in an ethical sense—true children are those who reflect the Father’s qualities. If these critics had been true children of God they would have recognized Jesus as their Messiah, and responded to Him with love. If they loved the Father they would love the Son. Our level of holiness is gauged by how much we love Jesus. That love controls us; it stirs us to live moral lives. As we surrender to the Lordship of Christ, we surrender our priorities to Him. The Pharisees refused to even recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
In vss 43-45 Jesus uncovers their blindness and identity. The Pharisees are unable to understand Jesus’ Message and that He was sent by the Father. His was not a self-initiated mission. They were so convinced by their preconceptions that they couldn’t hear what Jesus was saying. One translator puts it this way: “Why do you not understand My language? Because you cannot comprehend My thought.” They are so wrapped up in their biased thinking that they can’t catch the truth of Jesus’ teachings. They are likewise clueless as to His origin, identity, and redemptive purpose. Paul says that people apart from Christ are spiritually deaf; he explains that the words of life are spiritually appraised (I Cor 2:12, 14). This means a non-believer can read the Bible and be unable to make any sense of it. This is why many refuse to accept God’s authoritative word. It’s not a lack of education but an inability to grasp what the Holy Spirit is saying.
Next Jesus accuses these self-righteous men that they don’t belong to God but the devil, the one who brought death into the world. Keep in mind that the public regarded the Pharisees as saintly individuals, the ones closest to God. But actions reveal the condition of the heart. Elsewhere, John writes, “When people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil, who has been sinning from the beginning” (I Jn 3:8). By opposing Jesus the Pharisees reflect their kinship with the devil. (By the way, this is why it’s important to marry within the household of faith; non-believers, according to Jesus, are of the devil; he’s their father. So if you marry an unbeliever, you get the devil as your father-in-law!)
Jesus rebuts them in vs 45, “When I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe Me” (NLT). The nature of unbelief is to reject the Truth. If we’re not open to the words of God we’re susceptible to the devil’s lies. The devil uses stubbornness, prejudice and pride to keep people from believing in Jesus. If we fill our lives with distracting and conflicting messages from the people we admire, the books we read, the songs we listen to, and the movies we watch, we may discover that it is harder to hear God speaking at all. We may be tempted to believe the world’s lies. God has not stopped communicating, but many people are listening to other voices.
Jesus then challenges the Pharisees to prove that He is guilty of sin, vs 46. These are powerful words—about Himself, and about His accusers. The only one without sin is God…and that’s the point. The author of Hebrews points out that Jesus “was tempted in every way, yet was without sin” (4:15). Sinlessness is an attribute of God. The Pharisees were speaking the devil’s language of lies, and were his tools in carrying out his evil plans…but Jesus spoke only the Truth. He is the Truth. His question, “Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin?” was a prime opportunity for them to discredit and destroy Him. But no one could. They had scrutinized His life and could find no fault in Him.
In vs. 47 Jesus makes perfectly clear the distinction between His attackers and true followers of God: “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God” (NRSV). Their hearts were hardened. This is why some people aren’t even open to consider spiritual things. They are in no way interested because they are not God’s children.