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John 8:21-30 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:51 mins 53 secs

Christ-Like Confrontation
John 8:21-30
John Lesson #058
August 1, 1999

Starting in chapter five through the end of chapter twelve we have a series of head-on confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees. There is one confrontation after another and what we are seeing is a court room scenario. On one hand there is the prosecutor and on the other hand there is the defense. The prosecutor is the Lord Jesus Christ representing the kingdom of God and He is bringing a charge against the human race represented by the Pharisees. The Pharisees are the defense attorneys in a sense. So there is this clash as the prosecutor is laying out His evidence for who He is and what God is doing in human history, and in opposition we have the Pharisees. It is a very antagonistic and controversial situation.

All the events of chapter seven took place during the feast of tabernacles. Then there was the interlude after the end of the feast when we saw the episode of the woman taken in adultery which, as we have seen, fits dynamically within the development because it uses various terms related to the courtroom scenario and it brings to focus the fact that the Pharisees don't care anything about the law, which is just what Jesus had accused them of at the end of chapter seven. What Jesus is saying is that even though the Pharisees are religious, have memorized the Old Testament and know it backwards and forwards, are involved in all sorts of ritual day in and day out, go to the temple and pray three times a day, but they don't know God at all. He is saying that they are negative to God. Just because someone is involved in religious activity does not mean that they are positive toward God. In fact, one of the clear evidences of negative volition to God is positive volition toward religiosity and religious activity and all the ritual that goes with it, because that is where the emphasis is. It is a rejection of teaching in favor of ritual and experience.

Jesus is confronting the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin which makes up the governing body of Israel, and these are used as representatives of the leaders of the nation. Now some people have said that perhaps as many as 30 or 40 per cent of Jews at the time of the incarnation accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour. We don't know how they make that claim. We know from passages that "many believed on His name," so we know that many are truly saved. But the majority do not and the leadership does not, and because the majority reject Christ and because the leaders reject Christ, this gospel also stands as an indictment the nation Israel for their rejection of the Messiah. And John is marshalling all of this evidence to show that there was more than enough evidence to demonstrate that Jesus was who he claimed to be, that He was the Messiah, that He fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies, and that He was qualified to go to the cross to die as our substitute. There is more than enough evidence but in spite of it He is rejected.

John 8:19 NASB "So they were saying to Him, "Where is Your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." The Pharisees don't have a clue as to what or who Jesus is talking about, they are in complete darkness. John is making us aware of the fact that there are two realms of activity here, light and darkness. There's no middle ground.

John 8:21 NASB "Then He said again to them, 'I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come'." The subject here now is going to be the second death. Jesus is going to explain to them the issues related to eternal condemnation and to His own plan and purposes. This verse takes us back to verse 14. He keeps on going back and unpacking what he has already said and giving us a little more information. Back in v. 14 Jesus said: "I know where I came from and I know where I am going, but you don't." Now He is says: "where I am going, you cannot come."

When Jesus says "and will die in your sin" we have to understand this whole context. The unbeliever has a sin nature. On the cross Jesus is going to pay the price for every single sin so that sin is no longer the issue. But because the unbeliever does not accept the payment of Jesus Christ on the cross the problem of the sin nature (and that is the thrust of "sin" in the singular here) they cannot go to heaven. So Jesus is saying if you don't accept the penalty then you are going to die in your sin. He is not saying they are going to be judged eternally for their sins. At the cross he paid the penalty for all sins so that the only issue left over is human good, but the unbeliever because of the sin nature is in bondage to that sin nature he is a slave to sin. That is what Paul teaches in Romans chapter six. This is exactly where Jesus is going. Down in verse 31, 32 Jesus is going to start teaching the disciples a few basic principles, and He makes the statement: "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, {then} you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." When we read this we have to ask what kind of freedom Jesus is talking about. He is talking about spiritual freedom. In v. 34 Jesus explains: "Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin'." That is a present active participle of poieo [poiew] which means to continually practice sin, and that represents the person who has a sin nature, is not a believer, and is in complete bondage to that sin nature. When we trust Christ as our Saviour we still have a sin nature but we are going to be set free from the power of the sin nature.

When Jesus says "I go away, and you will seek Me," He is talking about two things. "I go away," # 1, I am going to go to the cross, and # 2, I am going to ascend to heaven. They are going to look for Him and are not going to know where to find Him in their antagonism to Him. And Jesus say, "and you shall die in your sin." You are going to die in bondage here because you never trusted Me as your Saviour. Your whole life is going to be in bondage from the sin nature, you are never going to be free from the sin nature, never have salvation, so you are going to die in the sin nature. In terms of the second death, at the great white throne judgment which takes place at the end of the Millennium all unbelievers are brought before God. The books are taken out: the book of life and the book of works. This is not the book of sins. Why? All sins were paid for at the cross. They are not penalised in eternity because of their sins, they are penalised because when all of their works are added up they still equal R. So because they do not have +R which is required to have eternal fellowship with God they are sent to the lake of fire. That is what Jesus means when He says, "You will die in your sin." They were never freed from the sin nature and that death he is talking about is the second death.

John 8:22 NASB So the Jews were saying, "Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" It is an interesting way they put this in the Greek. They ask it in terms of a negative question: He will not kill Himself, will He? The negative in the Greek is a me [mh], which means they expect a negative answer. And they are hinting: Why don't you go kill yourself? There is a subtle innuendo here: If you are going to go somewhere, why don't you just take yourself out of the picture? So there are really in heresy, in absolute darkness, are very sarcastic in this whole interchange. Then Jesus is going to illustrate the point of light versus darkness even more.

John 8:23 NASB "And He was saying to them, 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world'." They are earth-bound with human viewpoint knowledge; they are in darkness. He is explaining that there is a vast difference. They are darkness, they are from below, they are from this world, all of which peaks of the limitations of human knowledge. Jesus is Light, He is from above, and He is not from this world but from heaven. Jesus has come to declare truth and they are rejecting it.

John 8:25 NASB "So they were saying to Him, 'Who are You?' Jesus said to them, 'What have I been saying to you {from} the beginning?'" Haven't you gotten the point yet? Let's stop a minute and recognize that Jesus has continually been making the claim to be God, but they don't hear it. This is the blindness of spiritual death. He claims in many places to be deity by the use of the phrase "I AM." Jesus claimed to be the identical function of God the Father in John 5:17 NASB "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." He uses the same verb both times, energeo [e)nergew] which emphasize the fact that He is performing the identically same work as God the Father. This means that He is claiming full deity. In John 5:19, 25 Jesus claims full deity by calling Himself the Son of God. In John 5:21, 28 Jesus claims to be the source of life and to give life like God the Father. In John 5:22 Jesus claimed to have the same right to judgment as God the Father, that he could judge just as God the Father does. He can be given the same honor as God the Father, John 5:23. He claimed to give life to the dead just as God the Father could give life to the dead, John 5:21. He claimed to be sent directly from heaven, John 6:29, 38, 51, 57; 7:28, 29. In John 6:46 He claimed to be the only one who has seen God, and therefore the only one who can reveal God. When we look at this we realize that it is absurd for anyone to say Jesus never claimed to be God.

John 8:26 NASB "I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world." Notice that He goes back to the theme of truth. He is the Light of the world, He is revealing truth. The Father sent Him in order to communicate truth to mankind, "and I am speaking what He told Me to speak." That is revelation; that is the light; that is His function as the Light of the world. And look at the reaction. John 8:27 NASB "They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father." They are in darkness because they are negative to God.

John 8:28 NASB "So Jesus said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am {He,} and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me'. [29] And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him'." And look at the result of what He has just said. John 8:30 NASB "As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him." That is the statement we have in the Greek again and again in the Gospel. The verb is pisteuo [pisteuw] which means to believe, to accept something as true, and to rely upon it. The object is expressed by the preposition eis [e)ij], which expresses the object of faith which is Jesus Christ; they believed in Him. So they are saved at this point in time. The Pharisees for the main part are dark but there are some in the crowd who are responding to the illumination of the Light of the world and they are putting their faith alone in Christ alone.

Verse 30 forms an interesting transition because at this point after making these claims, explaining who He is and that He is fulfilling the plan of the Father, and just as the Father was communicating these things to Him He is communicating them to the human race, there is the response of many in the crowd for salvation. He changes His focus now. There was the confrontation with the religious leaders and now He is going to turn and address the believers. This is a mini sermon, it will last two verses, because then the hostile Jews who are still there are going to interrupt Him. They do not understand spiritual truth or what He is saying.

John 8:31 NASB "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, {then} you are truly disciples of Mine; [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'." Now He turns His focus to those who had believed in Him and now He makes this profound statement about abiding in His Word and knowing the truth.