Through the Bible in One Year

Day 142

John 8:21-30

Yesterday we saw once again a dispute over Jesus’ testimony about himself.  And today we are going to once again see a dispute over who Jesus is, and it is this dispute that is the fundamental concept that John is developing in his Gospel.

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”—8:21-22

Jesus returned to the theme of his departure.  In the previous section, the truthfulness of Jesus’ witness was the lens through which to view his identity.  In this section, Jesus’ departure—his death, resurrection and ascension—now becomes the lens.  The fact that Jesus was going away meant that the crowd would not be able to follow him and would die in their sin.  The singular use of “sin” suggests that Jesus was speaking not about individual sinful acts but about the single and decisive sin of rejecting God’s Son.  The Jews wondered if Jesus was talking about commenting suicide.

But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”—8:23-24

Jesus explained the reason for their lack of comprehension.  They did not understand him, because they were of this world, while he came from above.  Jesus’ followers do not belong to the world.  Jesus warned the crowd again of the danger of dying in their sins if they refused to believe in him.  His switch from the singular “sin” to the plural “sins” means that the sin of rejecting him manifests itself in individual sinful acts.

“Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him.—8:25-30

The question of Jesus’ identity represents the fundamental question of John’s Gospel.  Jesus responded to the Jews by restating that he had been sent by God and that he spoke for God.  Jesus had told them this from the beginning of his ministry.  The crowd failed to grasp Jesus’ words concerning his relationship with God.  His comment about being “lifted up” point to his crucifixion, resurrection and exaltation.  He spoke with boldness and peace about his own brutal death because he would not die alone; even in death the Father would not abandon Jesus.  In contrast to the reference to Jesus’ arrest that concluded the previous section, here in response to Jesus’ words, many believed him.  And what is your response to Jesus’ words about his identify?  Do you choose to believe in him or do you choose to reject him?  Because that is the fundamental question of John’s Gospel.  And we will pick up from here tomorrow when we discuss the dispute over whose children those who oppose Jesus are.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Samuel 2:12-3:39, John 13:1-30, Psalm 119:1-16 and Proverbs 15:29-30


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