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John 8:48-58 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 33 secs

The Undiminished Deity of Jesus
John 8:48-58
John Lesson #060
August 15, 1999

John 8:48 NASB "The Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'" How does Jesus respond to their contention that He has a demon? [49] "Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me'." It looks at first glance in the English that they charge Him with two things: that he is a Samaritan and that He has a demon. But He only seems to answer the second of the charges. Why?

Here we have to do a little background investigation into Jewish-Samaritan relationships. We also have to remember some things that have already gone on in the text. Back in John 7:52 the Pharisees had claimed that he could not be the Messiah because he was a Galilean. Why is it that the day before He was a Galilean and yet they call Him a Samaritan now? They wouldn't. Samaritan is a bad translation. They knew He was from the north, were ignorant of His birth in Bethlehem, and were just claiming He was from Galilee and therefore can't fit the messianic credentials. Secondly, Jesus had not come to Jerusalem through Samaria or from Samaria and therefore couldn't be in reference to that, so it must mean something else. Some have suggested that the term was an idiom for someone who was either an enemy of Israel or that it referred to somebody who was a law-breaker, or to someone who was spiritually unclean. But that is not the answer. We have to dig a little deeper into Judaism's angelology. Judaism had developed its own view of the angels and demons that was beyond what was in the Old Testament Scriptures.

If we look at the way language was used then, if they were accusing Jesus of being a Samaritan they would have accused Him first of all by the use of a word which was also a term that became an idiom for a heretic. But they don't use that terminology here. The word that is used in the Greek can very easily related to the Hebrew word shomroni, and the name Shomron was a name that was assigned to the highest prince of the demons, second only to Satan. He also went by the name Asmodai. This is all according to the mystical angelology of Judaism and is not biblical terminology whatsoever. According to the mystical views of the Jews Asmodai or Shomron was second in command to Satan and Satan was also called Samael, and in their somewhat mythological construction of demonology Samael had a son, Asmodai or Shomron. So when the Jews come along here and say: "Do we not say rightly that You are a Shomron and have a demon?" What they are saying to Jesus is: You are a child of Satan and you possess a demon. It is the same charge that is found in Matthew chapter 12 after He cast out a demon and they claimed that He was casting out the demons by the power of Beelzebub.

This is the major shift that takes place in all the Gospels in the ministry of Christ from its inception with inauguration with the baptism of John the Baptist through the crucifixion. There came a point whenthe Jewish religious leaders reject Him and claim that His power is demonic and not from God. They are accusing Him of being demon possessed.

There is a tremendous amount of confusion abroad today over demon possession. So we have to stop and look at demon power and how this fits into Scripture.

1)  God originally created an innumerable army of rational spirit beings which were called angels. The Greek word is aggelos [a)ggeloj] and it means messenger. He created them instantaneously and simultaneously, and there are different orders of angels—cherubs, seraphs, and various ministering angels including guardian angels and others that have different responsibilities.

2)  Then according to Job 38, He created the universe, their habitation.

3)  The highest of all the angels was Lucifer, and when he sinned he became the adversary of God and challenged God's authority to rule the universe. Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19.

4)  At the point the universe goes under judgment. When Lucifer fell that was decision-making time for the angels. The issue was whether they would follow Satan or not. If they chose to follow Lucifer in his fall then that would seal their doom for all eternity, and we know from Revelation that one third of the angels followed Satan in his revolt against God.

5)  This one third is referred to as demons, also as fallen angels. These can further be classified into two groups: those that are imprisoned in Tartarus and those that are operational. The imprisoned demons are those that cohabited with the daughters of men in Genesis 6:3. Those who left their first estate, according to 1 Peter 3, are imprisoned in Tartarus and are not released until part way into the Tribulation. Then there is another group that are operational which we call demons, and there are times when they can possess human bodies. The ones who are operational today are Satan's henchmen who carry out his desire to control the earth. They function as his messengers because Satan is not omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent. In fact, Satan spends most of his time before the throne of God accusing believers and relying upon his chain of command to carry out his wishes in human history and to try to influence human history.

6)  Demons are involved in blinding the minds of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4. They are involved in influencing mankind through false doctrine, 1 Timothy 4:1; and they are involved in counterfeiting the truth, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15, and there we learn that they masquerade as angels or ministers of righteousness. This whole process of influencing man through false doctrine is what is called demon influence.

7)  Demon influence is distinct from demon possession. Demon influence means that demons are influencing the thinking of mankind through various counterfeit doctrines. It means demons are seeking to influence the thinking of man from an external vantage point—from outside. Demon possession, on the other hand, means that a demon takes up residence within the body of a person, influencing the soul from within the body. So demon possession is an internal vantage point.

The controversy that tends to rage today: The Greek word that is normally translated demon possession is the present passive participle daimonizomai [daimonizomai]. Because it is passive it means that the subject is acted upon or the subject receives the action. So what has happened is that people are looking at this word and defining it etymologically, i.e. breaking it down according to its root, its basic parts of speech, but not defining it by usage. Every word means what it means by usage, not just by etymology. So it will be translated as to be acted upon by a demon. But then there is always somebody who somewhat self-righteously says the Bible never talks about demon possession, it never uses that terminology anywhere in the Greek, it only talks about being acted upon by a demon. We need to know why that is false because this is the root of a lot of misinformation today.

Luke 4:33 NASB "In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice." The Greek here uses a different phrase than daimonizomai. Here we have the phrase echon daimonion [e)xwn daimonion]. This is the same phrase that the Pharisees used in their accusation of Jesus in John 8: "You have a demon." It means to be demon possessed and it is accurately translated as such in this verse. [34] "Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!" [35] But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be quiet and come out of him!' And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst {of the people,} he came out of him without doing him any harm." It is important to look at the verb here. In the Greek it is exerchomai [e)cerxomai], a compound word. erchomai means to come; ex means to come out of. With the preposition eis it means to go into. These are the words that are used over and over again in these demon possession stories. So if you are to come out then that implies that you must be in.

Luke 8:27 NASB "And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons [daimonizomai, the verb form]; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. [28] Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.'" This is the demon controlling the vocal cords of the person being possessed and is speaking to Jesus. [29] "For He [Jesus] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man [e)cerxomai]. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and {yet} he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. [30] And Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' And he said, 'Legion'; for many demons had entered him [e)iserxomai]. [31] They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. [32] Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and {the demons} implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission. [33] And the demons came out of the man [e)cerxomai]and entered [e)iserxomai] the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned."

The command used by Jesus in the New Testament when it says He cast out a demon is the verb e)kballw. The word that is used for this activity by most people is the word e)xorkizw from which we get our word "exorcist." But Jesus never ever performed an exorcism. The only time the Greek New Testament uses the word "exorcist" is when some pagan is trying to cast out a demon with magic. This word is never used of Jesus or the disciples when they are casting out a demon by the power of God. Exorcism is the pagan concept of casting out a demon through magical incantations. But Jesus just casts out demons; it is a command, and they must submit to His authority. 

When we look at all of this what we realize is that demons are very real, their influence is very real and people can indeed be demon possessed. But Christians cannot be demon possessed for a number of reasons, the strongest argument of which is that because a person is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ he was regenerated mat the moment of believing. Along with regeneration there were 38 other irrevocable things that God did for the believer at the moment of salvation, including the fact that God the Holy Spirit took up residence in the believer's body. He has the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit who converts his body into a temple for the indwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ. So we have not only the indwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of God the Father. All three members of the Trinity take up residence in the body of the believer which is a temple unto God. So the demons cannot come in and take up residence in the body of believers.

Some people have said that that is just an argument from silence. The claim of the New Testament is that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, 2 Peter 1:3. That would at least mean that if demon possession were a problem for believers we would be told how to solve the problem; yet, demon possession is never, never, never mentioned in the New Testament epistles. If demon possession is an accepted problem for believers, then why isn't it mentioned? The epistles were written to address believers on how to handle every issue in the spiritual life, so if something is left out it is not a problem. We are not told to take Satan captive, we are not told to rebuke Satan, we are not told to kick the devil out of church, we are not told to take any aggressive action against the devil at all in the New Testament. In fact, the word that is used over and over again in relation to Satan and demons is the Greek word anthistemi [a)nqisthmi] which means to take a stand. We are to take a stand against the devil, resist the devil. We are to take up a defensive posture; it is not a position of aggression or going on the offense. It is a militarily word for taking a defensive position. The reason is that we have no idea what is going on in the angelic realm. We are to take a defensive position and hold our ground by relying upon the Word of God. The offense is taken by the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. How do we use that? The model for that is given by the Lord Jesus Christ in His temptations in the wilderness. Every time Satan tempted the Lord with something how did the Lord respond? He said: "Thus says the Lord … Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Satan would thrust and the Lord would parry with the Word of God. That is a defensive move.

John 8:49 NASB "Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me'." Notice how Jesus comes right back to looking at their life. The contrast is that their desire to murder Him dishonours God and He is about His Father's work and it is honouring the Father. [50] "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges." Here He is referring to God the Father and the fact that eventually there will be judgment.

John 8:51 NASB "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death." The Pharisees are very confused at this point. They want to translate death as physical death but Jesus is not talking about physical death, he is talking about the second death which is eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. What is His word? "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." If anyone obeys His command and accepts Him as saviour then they will not see the second death.

John 8:52 NASB "The Jews said to Him, 'Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets {also;} and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.'" Notice how they changed His words. Jesus said: "If anyone keeps my word he shall never see death." They said "taste of death." In rabbinical writings and in the idiom of the day "taste of death" was a Jewish term for physical death. [53] "Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out {to be?}" They are so caught up in thinking physical death that they miss the point. They cannot understand the things that He is saying. John is giving us all of these illustrations from the Pharisees to show how they are continually walking in darkness.

John 8:54 NASB "Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'." His argument is that they are claiming to follow and honour God, but if they honour God they would honour Jesus. He is not here to glorify Himself, He is there to glorify God. But they do not glorify God, they are glorifying themselves. They don't even know who God is. Notice the crescendo in this confrontation in the next four verses.

John 8:55 NASB "and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word." They may know the Mosaic law backwards and forwards but they are ignorant of God. Emphasis here: they are liars; they don't keep His Word. [56] "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw {it} and was glad." Abraham, because of the revelation of God to him, anticipated the coming of the Messiah and rejoiced to see that fulfilled. Now the Jews react. [57] "So the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?'" Then Jesus really punches them right between the eyes. [58] "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am'."

Their response tells us what Jesus said. John 8:59 NASB "Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple." Why were they going to stone Him? They understood that He claimed to be God. Why did they know that? When He says, "before Abraham was, He uses the Greek verb ginomai [ginomai] which means to come into existence; eimi [e)imi] indicates continuous existence. This is why the name of God was translated Yahweh [YHWH], I AM THAT I AM. It was translated and brought over into Greek as ego eimi [e)gw e)imi], I AM. So Jesus said: "Before Abraham came into existence, I continually existed." He is claiming eternal life which only God has. He is claiming to have been a live with Abraham, to be the God of Abraham, and so they picked up stones to stone Him.

Jesus doesn't leave us, as He didn't leave them, with any options. You cannot claim that Jesus was just a good man, moral teacher, or religious innovator. Jesus made incredible claims, and we have seen in almost every chapter that He claims to be full deity. He claims to be the one that the Old Testament prophesied and the fulfilment of all those prophesies, and he claimed to go to the cross to die as our substitute.