John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” – John 8:21-30

One of the hardest subjects that people have to confront, is the subject of death. I had to recently confront that last year when my mom died on March 13th. It was probably for the best though. She had had a stroke back in 2009 and had been suffering for ten years or so. I knew she couldn’t have been happy in that condition. I’m sure she’s ecstatic though now because she is truly back home now! That said, her death was very difficult, and still continues to be sometimes, for me because I had to wrestle with a lot of feelings because we didn’t have the greatest of relationships.

Prior to her death though, I had confronted death a few times. Actually, 5 or 6 times! Before you get the wrong idea and call “America’s Most Wanted”, let me explain! LOL! The first time was when my roommate in the Army died in a car accident in Germany. Then there was the time my best friend committed suicide which was very troubling for me. Then perhaps one of the most strangest was when my roommate died in his sleep when I was staying at a homeless shelter in California. Woke up the next morning and found him dead apparently, they say, from an overdose. Then I ran across my co-worker dead in the back office after drinking himself to death. I have accidentally stumbled upon two other dead bodies as well. One had apparently been shot and the other was dead in his car probably from a heart attack. I was beginning to think I was the Grim Reaper! LOL!

Seriously though, people die differently. They not only die differently physically but also mentally, that is with different attitudes, and a lot of it depends on whether someone is a believer or not. Voltaire, one of history’s best known atheists, often stated that “by the time I’m buried, the Bible will be non-existent.” His last words were: “I am abandoned by God and man; I shall die and go to hell alone.” Contrast this with Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a believer and beloved preacher and author, on his deathbed: “I can hear them coming!” He sat straight up in bed and asked: “Don’t you hear them? This is my coronation day. I can see the chariots, I’m ready to board.” Thomas Paine, one of America’s great patriots, in his book: “The Age Of Reason” ridiculed the Christian religion. He slowly lost his friends. He left America and while in England came to a premature death. On his deathbed he said to a friend “I would give worlds if I had them, if the ‘Age of Reason’ had never been published. Oh Lord help me. Christ help me. You stay with me. It is hell to be left alone. If ever the devil had an agent, I have been that one”. George Washington, a believer, said before he died, “Doctor I am dying but I am not afraid to die” and then added, “It is well”. Michelangelo said, “I die in the faith of Jesus Christ and in the firm hope of a better life”. Contrast this with Sir Francis Newport, Newport cigarettes are named after him, an obvious unbeliever who said when he died, “Oh eternity! Oh eternity! Oh the insufferable pains of hell forever, forever!”. Get the picture? People with a relationship with Jesus Christ are generally not afraid to die and sometimes even welcome it whereas unbelievers tend to die bitter, full of regrets, and fear of what lies in store for them.

There are best ways to die and worst ways to die and in this passage that we are going to look at as we continue in Chapter 8 of John’s Gospel, Jesus spells this out clearly to the people in the crowd that He is addressing and to us as well. A lot of ground to cover and this time, we will be looking at the passage verse by verse instead of just looking at one or two and generalizing the rest like in the last post so let’s get started! As always the text link for the chapter and the audio are included so you can follow along but before we get started, let’s pray…

Father,

Thank You for this time in Your Word again. Bless this time and make it fruitful. We put away all distractions and our hearts and minds are open to hear what You have to say. Speak Lord for Your servants are listening in Jesus’ name…Amen!

John 8

Let’s look at the passage for this post…

(21) Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” (22) So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” (23) And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (24) Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (25) Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. (26) I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” (27) They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. (28) Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (29) And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (30) As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. … John 8:21-30 NKJV

So far in John’s Gospel if you have been paying attention, John has been telling us that we fall into an “either/or” category. You’re either this way or that way. You’re either born again and entering the kingdom of heaven or you’re not born again and not entering the kingdom of heaven. You’re either going to be in the resurrection of life or the resurrection of damnation. You’re thirst is quenched with living water or you’re dying of thirst and here in Chapter 8, you’re either in the light or you’re in darkness. This passage continues Jesus’ “I am the light of the world” discourse, the beginning of which we looked at in the previous post. Jesus is addressing a group of Pharisees and a crowd of people going back and forth in the temple area paying their temple tax. Jesus had just saved a woman from being stoned to death and now He is addressing a group of “holdovers” telling them, in a cryptic way, the worst ways to die and the best ways to die. We’ll look at the worst ways to die first. The first one is in sin looking at verses 21 & 24…

vv 21 & 24 – (21) Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” (24) Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

Notice that Jesus uses the word sin in its singular form in verse 21 and then in verse 24, He uses it in its plural form sins. In verse 21, Jesus is talking about our nature. We are sinners by birth. We are born in sin. In verse 24, Jesus is talking about the expression of that nature. A dog barks and pants because that’s its nature. That’s what they do. It’s an expression of that nature. I can do the same thing, and trust me, I have a lot of fun with this on my job with dogs sometimes at the airport, but it doesn’t make me a dog! LOL! Same thing with people. We commit sins because we are sinners. It’s an expression of our nature. How did we become that way? Thank Adam and Eve for that. When Eve took that fruit off the forbidden tree and took a bite out of it and then gave it to Adam and he took a bite out of it as well, we became “dead on arrival”. They doomed all of mankind from then on. We are their descendants. Paul gives a great explanation in Romans Chapter 5. He says…

(12) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— … Romans 5:12 NKJV

Here’s a practical explanation and I have done this many times. Picture yourself on the shores of a beautiful lake or pond. There is no wind and the water is completely still almost looks like a giant mirror. Who hasn’t been seized with the temptation of picking up a rock and skipping it across the water?! LOL! Someone has to do it! Might as well be you! LOL! Anyway, so you pick up that rock and skip it across the water. Now what was once a beautiful, serene, mirror-like image becomes marred as tiny waves form and spread out. It was the same way when Adam and Eve sinned against God. They marred God’s image within mankind.

So what is the solution to spiritual death? A spiritual birth! To be born again! Jesus says that unless we are born again, we will not see God’s kingdom. The way we become born again, is to accept God’s solution to the sin problem…Jesus Christ. In fact that is what The Bible is truly all about…the fall of mankind and God’s plan to fix it and Satan’s attempts to thwart that plan! So that’s one of the worst ways to die…dying of sins unrepented and unatoned for. The second worst way to die is in self righteousness. Look at verse 22…

v 22 – (22) So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?”

When Jesus said to them in verse 21 I am going away and where I am you can not come, He was speaking of going back to the Father in heaven. However, the Jews thought that Jesus meant that He would literally kill Himself. In Jewish culture back then, those that committed suicide would be condemned to hell. In fact according to Josephus in his writings claimed that the darkest places in Hades (hell) was reserved for those that took their own lives. They thought Jesus meant that He would kill Himself and therefore, would go to hell and of course, they wouldn’t be following Him there. Get the picture? Jesus was going to hell and they were not. They were being self righteous. Mind you, these are religious people that are saying this. They were scribes and Pharisees, the religious elite. Self righteousness is goodness that substitutes itself for the new birth. Many of us Christians fall into this trap. It’s the thought of, “We’re Christians! We’re going to heaven and everyone else is going to hell because they’re not!”. If you want to know how far away someone is from God, listen how they talk about how good they are versus everyone else! In Proverbs 30, Solomon says…

(12) There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. … Proverbs 30:12 NKJV

I thought this proverb was about judgemental unbelievers but it turns out Solomon meant self righteousness and hypocrisy in religious people in this proverb. Jesus also condemned self righteousness and hypocrisy in religious people as well…

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. … Matthew 23:27-28 NKJV

The bottom line is everyone needs forgiveness both believers and unbelievers and we don’t become suddenly perfect when we become believers. We think we do though because we start comparing ourselves to others and we work really hard to be good. In other words we work to appear righteous before God. The fact is though that God doesn’t accept our righteousness but the righteousness given to us through His Son Jesus Christ. This is not what I think but what Jesus said…

(20) For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. … Matthew 5:20 NKJV

When Jesus said this, it sent shock waves through the crowd because the scribes and Pharisees were to believed to have been the religious elite and if they couldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven, who could? What Jesus is saying here though is external righteousness will not gain access to heaven without internal reality. The only righteousness that God will accept is the perfection He gives us through the acceptance His Son Jesus Christ. …

(21) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. … 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV

The last of the worst ways to die is in worldliness and for that we go back and look at verse 23…

v 23 – (23) And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

The word for world is the Greek word kosmos. From it, we get the word cosmos. John uses it 77 times in his writings. It doesn’t mean the earth or the people in it. It means the world’s system. It means an ordered system of values, ideas, activities, and people opposed to God, under the control of Satan. Right now, God is not in control of our world. In 2 Corinthians, Paul says…

(3) But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, (4) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. … 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV

When Paul says the god of this age, he means Satan. Satan, right now, is the god of our world. In the Book of Job though, we find that God limits Satan on what he can and can not do in our world. However, my belief is that the more the nations of the world and its people, as a whole, oppose God and turn away from His Son Jesus Christ, the more and more that leash that God has on Satan gets longer and longer. When mass shootings, incredible disasters and other seemingly unbelievable evil things happen in our world, our first response is to question God. How could a God of love allow this to happen? That’s the question we ask. The question we should be asking though is how do we continue to allow things like that to happen? We live in a nation with, as a whole, mostly worldly Christians. Christians who care more about their comfort and their entertainment than they do about matters of the kingdom of heaven. Here are some good examples. Have you noticed that church services on Sundays are mostly scheduled around football games? How many churches hold Sunday afternoon or evening services for those who can’t make Saturday evening services? Have you noticed that Halloween is treated with more importance and celebrated more than Christmas and Easter in our country now? How we continue to allow idolaters to pour into our country from Third World nations just because we hold more reverence to what it says in the US Constitution than what The Bible says? A right by the way totally misinterpreted from the way the founding fathers meant the freedom of religion to be. These are just some of the examples of worldliness in the church. Jesus warns about worldliness. In Luke, Jesus says…

(33) Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. (34) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … Luke 12:33-34 NKJV

Jesus is mainly talking about material possessions here but the fact of the matter is treasure can be anything that you put ahead of God and His Word. When you care more about worldly things such as material possessions, entertainment, sports or other things than matters of the kingdom, that my friends is your treasure and where your heart is and not with God. It’s worldliness and even John warns about worldliness  in in his writings…

(15) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (17) And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. … 1 John 2:15-17 NKJV

There is a fine line here. Yes as Christians we are to keep from getting caught up in the world but we don’t sit on the sidelines and allow a government or it’s leaders who are opposed to God remain in power. As Dante said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a time of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

We’ve looked at the worst ways to die and now let’s look at the best ways and for this, we need to go back and look at verse 24 to start with…

v 24 – Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

There’s three words you need to pay close attention to. The first word is the word if. It is a transitional word telling us don’t want to wind up this way, then do this. It tells us there are other options. The next word of importance is believe. The first and foremost best option and best way to die is belief in Jesus Christ…to believe in Him. So what does that mean? To believe in Jesus Christ? Christians say they believe in Jesus but do they really? To find out if someone truly believes in Jesus, ask them who Jesus is. If the answer is anything other than God in human flesh, then you don’t believe! That’s not my words. Those are Jesus’ words! Take a look at verse 24 carefully again…”for if you don’t believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”. The other word you need to pay attention to is the word He. If you notice in the text, the word is italicized. Why? Because it wasn’t in the original text. It was added by the translators later on. It originally read “if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins”. See those two words, I am? They are the Greek words ego eimi. Loosely translated they mean “that’s it” and “no other”. They are very emphatic words. This is important because if you look at the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, you will see that the phrase or the words ego eimi appear in Exodus Chapter 3 when God is speaking to Moses. …

(13) Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (14) And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” … Exodus 3:13-14 NKJV

They also appear further on in Deuteronomy 32 verse 39. Look what it says…

(39) ‘Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. … Deuteronomy 32:39 NKJV

Again in the Septuagint, those words, ego eimi, appear again. Let’s move on now to the next few verses. …

vv 25-27 – (25) Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. (26) I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” (27) They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.

The Pharisees then ask Jesus, Who are you?. It wasn’t an informational question. It was a statement that they were asking. When Jesus told the Pharisees if you do not believe that I am, ego eimi, the text in Exodus 3 and Deuteronomy 32 is what came to their mind and they knew exactly what Jesus was saying…that He was God! This is why they ask Who are you?. The translation is really “How dare you!”. This is something that continues to infuriate the Pharisees the more Jesus presses the issue as we will see as we continue further along in the chapter.

Verse 26 is a bit of a mystery to the Pharisees especially how Jesus ends it. Jesus is telling them that He has a lot of things to say about them and judge them with but that is not the reason that He had come into the world. He didn’t come into the world to judge people at least not yet. Jesus will do that when He comes the second time. The Pharisees get a bit confused when Jesus tells them but He who sent Me is true and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him. Their minds were getting more and more clouded as Jesus spoke to them. They were saying to themselves, “First he is telling us that he is God and now he is telling us that someone else sent him? Who is he?”. This is why John adds in the text that they did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.

So one of the best ways to die is in the firm belief in Jesus Christ and one of the ways to know you have that firm belief in Him is the second best way to die…to have confidence in His work. Look at verse 28…

v 28 – (28) Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.

When Jesus says when you lift up the Son of Man, it didn’t mean lifting Him up in praise and worship. He meant His crucifixion. Jesus always knew what His ultimate mission would be…to die on the cross. Remember back in John Chapter 3 what He said? …

(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. … John 3:14-15 NKJV

Which is why the many occasions we read in the Gospels where Jesus is about to be stoned or thrown off a cliff, Jesus was probably saying to Himself, “Ain’t nothing but a thing!” because He knew that He would ultimately die on the cross. So when we talk about “lifting up” Jesus in our worship, we’re literally saying, “Let’s crucify Him!”.

So Jesus was telling the Pharisees and those in the crowd, “When you put Me on that cross and raise Me up, then you will know who I am!”. Notice that those words I am, ego eimi, appear again. Notice again that the word He is italicized because, once again, it was not in the original text. Looking now at verse 29…

v 29 – (29) And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”

All these statements that Jesus made showed the close relationship that He had with the Father. He was never alone because the Father was always with Him. The only time that the Father may have abandoned Him was briefly on the cross when Jesus cried out, “My God My God why have you forsaken Me?”. Jesus was taking the punishment for the sins of mankind and, as many scholars believe, experiencing the pains of hell and separation from God so for those who believe in Him wouldn’t have to.

The reason why the Father never left Jesus alone because He always did those things that please Him. It was proof of Jesus’ sinless nature. No human being could possibly make that claim! Human nature has been and always will be to do those things that please us not God! The last best way to die is to be fixed on Jesus’ word as we look at verse 30 and finish out the passage and this post. ….

v 30 – (30) As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

It would seem that some people that were listening to Jesus’ words in the crowd believed in Him. We don’t know if this was a true, firm belief or just people paying lip service to Jesus because John doesn’t really say. Throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth, He had thousands of followers but only eleven true disciples. I say eleven because Judas later turns on Jesus so he can’t be considered a true disciple. This verse come to real fulfillment when Jesus is crucified. One person that comes to mind is one of the criminals who is hanging on a cross next to Him who tells Jesus, “Lord remember me when you come into Your kingdom” and Jesus tells him, “Today you will be with Me in paradise”. Another one is the Roman centurion witnessing how Jesus dies and says, “Truly this was the Son of God!”. Then later on in Acts Chapter 2 during Pentecost when Peter is addressing the crowd and tells them, “you, by your wicked hands, have taken Jesus and crucified Him and slain Him along with the Gentiles. But God raised Him from the dead because death could not hold Him”, The Bible says that they were “cut to the heart” and they ask, “What must we do?” and Peter tells them, “You must repent”. The Bible then says that thousands believed that day.

The point is that Jesus is speaking God’s words to this crowd and Jesus’ words to them pointed His world to them and us. When we become Christians, we are no longer part of this world. We have a new position. In John 17, Jesus says…

(14) I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (15) I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. … John 17:14-15 NKJV

If you are a true believer in Christ then the world hates you because you are not one of them and they despise you for it. They hate the words of Jesus and everything about The Bible because deep down, they know it’s true. It’s called conviction!

So to quickly wrap this up because I’ve gone longer than I wanted to, the best ways to die is to believe in Jesus, have confidence in His work, and be fixed on His word. Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins so you wouldn’t have to. There are just two options that you have. You can either die in your sins or accept Jesus into your heart and your life and have Him take your sins away from you. One last point, go back to verse 29. See where Jesus says to the crowd, The Father has not left Me alone? The same is true for those of us who are in Christ. As we go through the many trials we face in life, God is with us too and the best way to get through these trials we face in life is to have God on your side and you can only do that through His Son Jesus Christ. Let’s pray…

Father,

Thank You for the many blessings that You bestow on us. We not only thank You for the blessings but also the trials which give us strength. We pray that You would keep us from falsehoods and lies and give us neither poverty or riches but give us just what we need in our daily lives. Father we thank You for Your Son Jesus Christ and His words that give us strength and hope in these troubled times that we are facing. We have the comfort in knowing that with You in our hearts and by our side Lord, there is nothing that we can’t face and that these troubling times will be the closest that we get to hell. We pray Lord that others would come to know that peace and comfort as well in Jesus’s name we pray…Amen!