John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” – John 8:48-59

We have FINALLY come to the end of Chapter 8! LOL! For the last few posts, we have been taking a very long look at the “I am the light of the world” discourse that Jesus has been giving to the people in the temple, mainly to the scribes and Pharisees, the group who is being most hostile towards Jesus. He has really incurred their wrath by telling them that the devil is their father and now this will climax by a statement that Jesus makes that will ultimately decide the fate of our Lord. Before we get started though looking at this final passage in Chapter 8, let’s pray…

Father,

We come before You again to hear what You have to say in Your Word. Father, this is a very difficult time for us…for our families, for our economy, and for our nation as a whole. Many of us have never seen or witnessed this kind of unrest, uneasiness, and uncertainty that our nation faces today and not only America, but the rest of the world. Father we know that You are in control of this, that You are using this COVID-19 crisis perhaps to bring the world closer to You. It may be the very last chance that we as a people can come back to You in true repentance. No one knows Your purpose for this Father…only You know that but we know by faith that You are using it for Your glory. Lord, there are a lot of people out there hurting right now. They’ve lost their jobs, perhaps maybe some loved ones and it feels like their whole world is crashing down around them. It’s actually the way I feel. Hopefully though we are using this time of isolation to get to know You and Your Word better and that is why we are here now Lord to hear Your Word. So speak Lord for Your servants are listening! In the holy and saving name of Jesus Christ we pray…Amen!

Perspective is how you see something. It’s your viewpoint on what you are seeing or reading or hearing. Everybody has a different one though. For an example a group of people witness a car accident. Now you ask each and everyone of them what they saw and each one will tell you a different story. It is why the Gospels in The Bible are different from one another not because of contradiction the way so many people believe. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, in writing about The Bible said…

“The whole history of these books (i.e. the Gospels) is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

Source: Letter of Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, January 24, 1814.

I have great respect for our founding fathers but Thomas Jefferson couldn’t have been more wrong! In Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as a king so Matthew wrote his Gospel with that perspective in mind. In Mark, Jesus is portrayed as a suffering servant so that is the focus of his. Luke portrays Jesus as a man and that is his focus in his writings. Now we come to John’s Gospel. John in his Gospel has one purpose and one purpose, perspective, only…proving that Jesus is God and he presents evidence so you the reader will come to that realization and believe in Jesus.

In this “I am the light of the world” discourse that Jesus has been giving the crowd, Jesus has been giving His own perspective of the crowd. He calls them liars, children of the devil, and that they really didn’t know God. They thought they were heaven bound because they were descendants of Abraham and because of their traditions but it was exactly the opposite. They were hell bound and would suffer eternal separation from God. It wasn’t just Jesus’ perspective…it was the truth!

The crowd on the other hand, had a different perspective of Jesus. They saw Him as a liar, a fake, a fraud, and the brunt of their jokes and anger and it all culminates right here in this last passage in Chapter 8 and as I said, will ultimately seal the fate of Jesus. Let’s look at this last passage in Chapter 8 and as always, the text link for the entire chapter and the audio are included…

John 8

(48) Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (49) Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. (50) And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. (51) Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (52) Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ (53) Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (54) Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. (55) Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (57) Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (59) Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. … John 8:48-59 NKJV

This passage, like I said, is the climax of a heated argument with Jesus. Jesus’ words are cutting to the heart and the crowd is getting very emotional. Arguments generally will start on an intellectual level. Then they will progress to an emotional level and then sometimes progress even further into a physical level which is happening here in this passage. It starts with Jesus trying to portray to the crowd who He is back in verse 12. It progresses with name calling by the crowd and finally, in verse 59, the crowd is ready to stone Jesus! This is a long passage so it will probably be a long post because there really is no point in the passage where I can divide this into two parts. Some points in this passage, we have already looked at so I won’t dwell on those that much. Let’s look at this passage more closely now. …

v 48 – (48) Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

The crowd now goes back to abusive language and name calling. They call Jesus a Samaritan. To be called a Samaritan was an insult. They were a hated people by the Jews and were considered an enemy of the Jews much like the Romans. They hated the Samaritans. If you were a Jew, you just didn’t set foot in Samaria. In fact when they traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee instead of taking the shortest route, which is through Samaria, they would go around Samaria. Back in John Chapter 4 if you remember, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well who is surprised that Jesus is even talking to her! She asks Jesus, “Why are you asking me for a drink? I’m a Samaritan woman!” The Samaritans were considered false teachers and religious heretics. They had their own temple on Mt. Gerizim and they even had their own bible. When the Jews got of captivity and came back to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls in 485 BC, the Samaritans wanted to help but the Jews flat out told them, “No!”. So telling Jesus that he was a Samaritan was basically telling Him that He was an enemy of the people, an enemy of Israel.

The next insult that the crowd hurls at Jesus is that He has a demon. They basically tell Jesus that He is nuts, crazy, out of His mind…demon possessed. In other words they are in fact saying to Jesus, “You are the devil!”. Can you imagine telling Jesus that?! It is still widely held belief of Jesus Christ by Jews today! In fact, did you know in the Jewish Talmud, in an English translation of it, it actually says in the Talmud describing the crucifixion…

“On (Sabbath eve and) the eve of Passover Jesus the Nazarene was hanged and a herald went forth before him forty days heralding, ‘Jesus the Nazarene is going forth to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and instigated and seduced Israel to idolatry. Whoever knows anything in defense may come and state it.’ But since they did not find anything in his defense they hanged him on (Sabbath eve and) the eve of Passover. Ulla said: Do you suppose that Jesus the Nazarene was one for whom a defense could be made? He was a mesit (someone who instigated Israel to idolatry), concerning whom the Merciful [God]says: Show him no compassion and do not shield him (Deut. 13:9). With Jesus the Nazarene it was different. For he was close to the government.”

In short, the accusations in the Talmud says, “Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and deceived and led Israel astray”.

So the crowd basically is calling God, Satan and Satan, God! Moving on now…

vv 49-51 – (49) Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. (50) And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. (51) Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

There are two things that are taking place that you need to pay close attention to here. First, notice the calm way that Jesus reacts to their insults. He isn’t shouting (at least John doesn’t make mention of it but He could have been talking loudly over the crowd) and He isn’t being taken in by their insults by insulting them back. He is giving them a gentle answer. In Proverbs 15, Solomon says…

A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. … Proverbs 15:1 NKJV

Jesus gives them a soft answer. Peter writes in one of His letters…

(23) who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; … 1 Peter 2:23 NKJV

It is human nature to lash out when we are attacked and fight back, however Jesus doesn’t do that here. Jesus tells them that His teachings do not come from a demon. They come from God The Father. He tells them, I honor my Father and you dishonor Me. In the next verse, Jesus says, I do not seek My own glory. Everything that Jesus said and did was not to draw attention and glorify Himself but to glorify His Father in heaven. He is the One that Jesus tells them who seeks and judges. Pay close attention to the last part of verse 50. Anyone who dishonors Jesus is, in fact, dishonoring God and God will seek out and judge those who do!

The second thing that is going on is Jesus’ attempt at yet another invitation to them. In verse 51, Jesus says to the crowd, Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death. Jesus did not mean that they would not die physically. Everyone in that crowd would eventually experience physical death but what Jesus told them was spiritual, that they would not die spiritually. He was telling them and us that as long as they believed in Him and His word, they would have eternal life with Him in heaven and would escape hell and eternal separation from Him. This is an odd way to respond to one’s insults. Like I said, human nature is to lash out at someone who is attacking and insulting us not to offer them an invitation! I like the Christian music band Casting Crowns. There is a song that they do called “If We Are The Body” and in the lyrics, the song says…”Jesus paid much to high a price for us to pick and choose who should come”. It means that we can’t decide who to extend an invitation to Christ based on our likes and dislikes of people. Our job is to invite people to Christ and then it is their job whether or not to accept that invitation. Moving on to verse 52…

vv 52-53 – (52) Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ (53) Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

Again the Jews did not understand what Jesus was talking about. They had it in their minds that He was talking about a physical death. They were now convinced even more that Jesus was “mad” and again accused Him of having a demon. They reminded Jesus that Abraham was dead and so were the prophets so how could He say that if they kept His word that they would never see death. They began to realize that Jesus was insinuating that He was greater than Abraham and the prophets all who were dead. Abraham had never delivered anyone from death and neither had the prophets. This was not entirely true because Elijah had raised the widow’s son who had died which is told in 1 Kings 17. Probably a case again of the Jews not knowing their own Scriptures but Elijah couldn’t save anyone from a permanent death which is what they probably meant. None of their fathers could deliver anyone from death. The only one who could do that was God Himself so now the question becomes…who do You make Yourself out to beBefore moving on, this is the fundamental question in John’s Gospel…who do you think that Jesus is? That is the title of this study in John’s Gospel that I have chosen…”But who do you say that I am?”. The way you answer this question and your true belief in that answer determines your eternal destiny! Moving on to verse 54 now…

vv 54-56 – (54) Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. (55) Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

These verses here are a repeat of what Jesus has been telling them throughout this chapter. He didn’t come to honor Himself but to honor and the work of the Father and that they did not know the Father. The Jews thought Jesus was seeking to attract attention to Himself. Jesus reminded them that this was not the case. It was the Father who was honoring Him, the very God they professed to love and serve. The Jews said that God was their Father, but actually they did not know Him. Yet here they were speaking with One who did know God the Father, One who was equal with Him. They wanted Jesus to deny His equality with the Father, but He said that if He did this, He would be a liar. He knew God the Father and obeyed His word. Let’s back the truck up here so to speak for a second. If you want to know if you’re truly saved or not, ask yourself this question…do I keep His word? Many Christians profess to believe in God but not many actually keep His word. I can read The Bible every day, backwards and forwards but if I am not reading it with an open heart and a humble desire for God to rebuke me, teach me, and change me, if I have my heart set on the things of this world and not things in the heavenly kingdom, then I don’t really know God at all and therefore, I am a liar as well! These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves and the big reason, that I believe, why the church has not been raptured yet. The Lord is certainly not going to take us back with Him if we don’t show a true desire to be with Him!

Verse 56 is a little puzzling. Jesus says, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. When exactly did Abraham see His day? There’s a lot of speculation and it fills up pages in a lot of commentaries. It could have been when Abraham took Isaac up to Mt. Moriah to offer him up as a sacrifice. The whole crucifixion and resurrection scene was played out here. Abraham was told by God to take his son, his only son whom you love. By the way, that is the first time the word love appears in The Bible and it refers to a sacrifice being made. Abraham sacrificing Isaac takes place on Mt. Moriah the exact location it is believed to be where the crucifixion of Christ took place and then the part where God stops Abraham at the least minute from sacrificing Isaac. Perhaps Abraham saw this by faith as future events where Jesus would offer Himself up as a sacrifice for man’s salvation and perhaps what Jesus is referring to in this passage. That’s really not the issue here about what Jesus is telling this crowd. The issue that Jesus is reinforcing here is that “it was Abraham who recognized My superiority and My priority–not vice versa. You’re talking about Abraham and he’s the guy and he’s our father and he’s the superior one.” However Jesus is telling them that Abraham, that guy that they keep pointing to, recognized the superiority of Jesus and that He was the priority. He saw His day and was glad. Let’s move on and finish out the passage and the chapter now. …

vv 57-59 –  Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (59) Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

The crowd then tell Jesus that He couldn’t possibly have seen and known Abraham because He wasn’t even 50-years-old yet. Actually, Jesus was believed to have been about 32 or 33-years-old at this time. Once again the Jews revealed their inability to understand divine truth. Jesus had said, Abraham rejoiced to see My day, but they answered as though He had said that He had seen Abraham. There is a great difference here. The Lord Jesus claimed for Himself a position greater than Abraham. Jesus was the fulfillment of Abraham’s thoughts and hopes. Abraham looked forward by faith to Christ’s day.

Jesus then sums up His entire “I am the light of the world” discourse. He begins with Most assuredlyVerily, verily in the King Jimmie version. Whenever Jesus began a statement using this, it was to say, “Listen up and pay attention!”. In other words, it was a message of grave importance. Jesus continues by saying, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM. This was the claim that Jesus made to be not only equal with God but to be God Himself! If anyone ever tells you, “Well you know Jesus never claimed to be God!”, you can point out this verse to them. It was exactly what He was claiming because He was and is God. Notice that Jesus didn’t say before Abraham was, I was. That might simply mean that He came into existence before Abraham. Rather, He used the Name of God: I AM. The Lord Jesus had dwelt with God the Father from all eternity. There was never a time when He came into being, or when He did not exist. Therefore He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The phrase I AMego eimi in Greek, comes from Exodus 3:14…

(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

The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming which is why the chapter ends with the Jews wanting to pick up stones and stone Him. The penalty for blasphemy, which they believed that Jesus was committing, was to be stoned to death. Jesus eludes the seething mad crowd and gets away because it wasn’t His time to die yet. The funny thing though, Jesus’ enemies understood what Jesus was claiming and yet those who profess to love and follow Him today deny this claim!

To close this out. it wasn’t Jesus that was committing blasphemy…it was the Jews. So far up to this point, Jesus claimed…

  • to be the quencher of human thirst
  • satisfier of all hunger
  • light of the world
  • that He came from heaven not from earth
  • that if one believes in Him that they would never see death
  • that He predated Abraham

Nobody could have made these claims that Jesus made unless they were in fact God! In Colossians, Paul says…

(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (16) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. (17) And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (18) And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. … Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV

He is the Redeemer, Creator, Regulator of the universe, Savior, Head of the church, pre-eminent…He is God!

Now, this is a moment of invitation to you if you do not have Christ in your life. If you are rejecting Christ, you too do not have that much more time. When Christ comes and the curtain is drawn, time is up and there will be no second chances! It doesn’t have to be this way though. Nothing that we can say, nothing that we can do will be acceptable to God unless we accept His Son Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who died for our sins. He paid our sin debt and He, and He alone, is the only way to salvation. Jesus says in John 14:6:

““I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” … (John 14:6 NKJV)

All you have to do is ask Him to come into your life! In Romans 10:9-13, Paul says:

“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” … (Romans 10:9-13 NIV)

Now just pray this simple short prayer. Remember it really doesn’t matter what you say. What matters is that what you say comes from your heart!…

“Dear Lord, I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. Amen.”

If you’ve prayed the above prayer with a sincere heart, then you are saved. The next step is to start going to church, getting baptized to publicly profess your faith, and reading the Bible and learning God’s Word. I pray with all of my heart that you prayed the above prayer!