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At the end of our last lesson, we left Jesus standing in the Temple in Jerusalem, brazenly declaring that He is Yahweh’s promised Messiah and urging everyone to come and submit to Him. Him—not the magnificent Yahweh. Well, naturally such talk is enough to get the Pharisees and Sadducees worked up into a righteous huff. It’s not like they give a flip about pleasing Yahweh, but it sounds oh so holy to accuse Jesus of being some evil Blasphemer. So that’s what they do, and they’ve got good grounds for it because the Torah is loaded with verses in which Yahweh condemns the worship of anyone other than Him. Naturally the Pharisees and Sadducees don’t mind being worshiped, but they most certainly do mind sharing the glory with some nobody from Galilee. Can’t anyone shut Jesus up? They tried to have Him arrested by the Temple guards, but the guards chickened out. Great. Now Jesus is back again another day, making more obnoxious claims.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (Jn 8:12)
Really? Jesus is calling Himself the Light of the world? The Light that leads to life? Is there no end to this Man’s ego? It’s all fine for the Pharisees to declare that they are morally perfect and sinless in the eyes of God, but when Jesus starts claiming to be some beacon of salvation to the world, they just can’t stand it.
The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about Yourself! Such testimony is not valid.” (Jn 8:13)
In the Torah, Yahweh specified that no one could be charged of a crime without the testimony of two or three witnesses. The idea was to try and protect innocent people who were being the targets of vicious slander. Of course the Jews quickly found a way to get around this law: just pay people to lie in court. Anticipating this, Yahweh came up with a clever retaliation. In Deuteronomy 19:16-20, He says that if anyone is caught bearing false testimony against someone else, that false witness will have to bear the punishment that the supposed criminal was to get. For example, you don’t like John, so you lie in court and say that you saw John kill someone. You’re hoping John will get executed. Well, under the Old Covenant, if you got caught, Yahweh said you would have to get executed in John’s place. You would have done to you whatever nasty thing it was you were hoping to have done to someone else. Isn’t God just?
Now here in the Temple, the Pharisees are trying to say that Jesus’ claims about Himself are invalid because He has no witnesses to back Him up. In other words, before Jesus can expect anyone to believe His claims to be God or the Messiah or anything else, He’d better find a couple of humans to verify His testimony. Is this stupid? Utterly, but the same idiocy is still being practiced today. There are certain denominations within the Church who say that you can’t really be sure that God actually said anything to you until you receive community confirmation. In other words, God Himself should be viewed as having no credibility—it’s your pastor and the deacons and other bimbos at your church who should be viewed as the supreme authorities in your life. This is utter nonsense of course, and if you take community confirmation seriously, you’re guaranteed to end up in a mess (see Why You Don’t Need Community Confirmation).
So what does Jesus say to this accusation that He doesn’t have any witnesses to back Him up?
Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about Myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about Me. You judge Me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, My judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent Me is with Me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and My Father who sent Me is the other.” (Jn. 8:14-18)
First, Jesus says His claims are valid because He knows Himself better than anyone else. Then He points out that this isn’t a court case. The requirements for witnesses only came up when someone was on trial. Jesus is not on trial, so He doesn’t need witnesses. He’s not trying to cast judgement on anyone at the moment. But notice how He says that if He did cast judgment, His judgements would be flawless because He actually has two witnesses on His team: Himself and the magnificent Yahweh. What glorious confidence is on display here: Jesus doesn’t hesitate to claim Yahweh’s full support. Now being God Himself, Jesus hardly needs anyone else to affirm Him, but these Pharisees are denying Jesus’ Divinity so He throws Yahweh in their faces and says, “The Father completely agrees with everything I say.” Isn’t this rather pompous? Not when Jesus says it. Jesus can say all kinds of things that would sound very arrogant and inappropriate coming from humans. Jesus is God Almighty. God is always in the right.
Now of course the Pharisees don’t like this. Even though they know darn well that Jesus is referring to Yahweh, they feign ignorance and mockingly demand to know where Jesus’ father is.
Then they asked Him, “Where is Your father?”
“You do not know Me or My Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the Temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come. (Jn. 8:19-20)
When Jesus says these guys don’t know Him, He means they are refusing to recognize His Divinity. And while they are rejecting Him, they are also rejecting Yahweh. This is the unending irony of New Testament Israel: most of her spiritual leaders were on their way to Hell because they were willfully defying Yahweh in their souls and refusing to listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Yet in spite of this, the common people upheld the Pharisees and Sadducees as learned men of God. We do the same thing today, don’t we? We stand around admiring big name pastors and teachers and Bible scholars without ever leaving room for the possibility that such people might not even be saved. Any fool can strut around on a stage quoting Bible verses and sounding holy. Anyone with good marketing or public speaking skills could whip out a very entertaining sermon without much effort. How a man walks and talks isn’t an accurate reflection of what is really going on in his soul (see Recognizing Wolves: By Their Fruits You Won’t Know Them).
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’?”
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.” (Jn. 8:21-24)
Even though many Jews are listening to this conversation, Jesus is still talking to the rebellious Pharisees. Notice how He claims to be from above while they are from below. This is another reference to His Divinity—He is not a human, He is God Almighty. He didn’t start His existence in this world, nor is He of this world. While many today insist on teaching that Jesus is “fully God and fully man”, the truth is that He is 100% God, not some God-human hybrid. And don’t miss that chilling threat that Jesus tags onto the end of His answer:
“…if you do not believe that I am He, you will indeed die in your sins.”
By this He means that if these Pharisees don’t shape up and get back into alignment with Yahweh by submitting to the terms of His New Covenant, they’re going to end up in Hell. In both the Old and New Testaments, we find our Gods referring to people who “die in their sins”. This is a reference to eternal damnation which is the punishment for willfully defying God. But let’s be clear on what kind of defiance lands you in Hell. Yahweh never demanded that people be morally perfect. Under both Covenants and before any Covenant was given, it has always been about soul attitude. Are you submitting to your Makers? Do you recognize Them as the Supreme Authorities in your life? Do you sincerely care about pleasing Them? It is not hard to succeed with our Gods. If you really want to succeed, They will get you there.
Now the Pharisees are still trying to play dumb about who Jesus is. Here He’s making these wild claims about not being human, and He’s demanding that everyone submit to Him or else they’ll be eternally cut off from God. It is no doubt with a tone of scoffing sarcasm that the Pharisees protest:
“Who are You?”
“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.” (Jn. 8:25-26)
Jesus is perfectly capable of thinking His own thoughts, but in working with the Jews, He constantly emphasizes His perfect alignment with Yahweh. Jesus has been standing around telling everyone He’s God and the only way to salvation. Now He says He’s merely repeating what Yahweh is telling Him. In other words, Yahweh says Jesus is God. Well, yes, Yahweh does say this, but the Jews just aren’t willing to accept it.
They did not understand that Jesus was telling them about His Father. (Jn. 8:27)
The apostle John slips this assumption into his personal narration of this scene, but it’s highly doubtful that the Jews at this point didn’t understand who Jesus was referring to. He’s already been very clear that Yahweh is the One affirming Him. The Pharisees understand perfectly well that Jesus is promoting Himself as Yahweh’s Peer and equal: this is why they’re so ticked at Him. Remember that there’s a big difference between God being directly quoted and someone adding their own thoughts to the text. The Gospel writers slip in a lot of personal assumptions that are simply not right. Matthew, for example, loves to quote Old Testament prophecies which he then claims Jesus is fulfilling. The problem is that Matthew’s understanding of those prophecies is very poor and he grossly misapplies many passages (see Messianic Passages According to Matthew). You need to stay sharp and not just believe everything you read.
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.” (Jn. 8:28-29)
Suppose we were to tell you that we only ever say and do exactly what God tells us, and that we never fail to please Him. Wouldn’t such a claim strike you as a bit arrogant? One of the most absurd claims Christians make about Jesus today is that He demonstrated great humility in the Gospels. Really?? He stood around claiming to be absolutely perfect. He said He was sinless. He said He was superior to all of us humans and that He was nothing but pleasing in Yahweh’s sight. What’s humble about such claims? To call Jesus “humble” is ludicrous. He is a fountain of Self-exaltation, yet should you point out the fact that Jesus’ ego is clearly without limits, Christians today get all huffy. Why? Where did we ever get this notion that our Gods are supposed to be shrinking violets? Yahweh boasts about how awesome He is throughout the Old Testament, and when Jesus comes onto the scene in the New Testament, the brag fest continues.
Jesus is awesome and He knows it. He doesn’t act all shy and hesitant to draw attention to Himself. It’s more like He marches into synagogues and the Temple and takes over the scene. You can bet someone was attempting to teach the crowds until Jesus came in and ousted them from the stage. Jesus is all about being in the spotlight. He’s all about calling attention to Himself. Jesus would be that dude in your small group who always hogs the floor and thinks He knows everything about everything. He’d be the preacher who runs way overtime. He’d be the theologian who says that anyone who disagrees with Him is an idiot. Time and again we’ve seen Him going out of His way to start fights with the local pastors of His day. Why? To draw attention to Himself, of course, and show how good He is at shutting people down. Jesus likes a good fight. He enjoys being a feisty Troublemaker. Like Yahweh, He enjoys launching into long speeches about how fabulous He is even when no one’s asking. He enjoys flaunting His power and control over the created world. As far as He is concerned, the whole universe revolves around Him. A humble Jesus? What an unbiblical idea.
Now Jesus is speaking to a mixed crowd: there are those who are starting to believe that He is who He says He is, and there are those who hate Him. First He talks to the souls who care.
To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8:31)
Now the rebels get huffy. They don’t like this talk about being set free, because if Jesus is the One setting them free, He must be some kind of Master over them, and they loathe the idea of submitting to Him.
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can You say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill Me, because you have no room for My word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s Presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” (Jn. 8:33-38)
Jesus is well aware that many of these rats are encouraging schemes to murder Him behind His back and He keeps throwing their nasty plans in their faces. It’s quite a crock for the Jews to claim to not be slaves of anyone when their nation has a long history of being severely oppressed. At this time, Israel is under the rule of the Roman Empire. She is hardly free. This is just human pride chafing, and notice how these spiritual rebels want to nitpick about Jesus’ wording while skirting the more important issues at hand.
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” (Jn. 8:39-41)
When Yahweh spoke to Abraham, Abraham listened. He was sincerely concerned about pleasing God, and he responded to God’s convictions, even when he was being asked to do something very upsetting, such as sacrifice his favorite son. Jesus argues here that these brats don’t qualify as true children of Abraham—at least not in the spiritual sense.
The ancient Jews considered themselves to be Yahweh’s favorites. They thought merely being a biological descendant of Abraham got them in line to receive all kinds of extra favors. Some Jews still think like this today, yet in reality ancestry alone has never been enough to make anyone accepted by God. Plenty of the ancient Jews wound up cursed and eternally damned by God because their soul attitudes were so defiant. It’s always been about soul attitude. Jesus points out to these brats that while Abraham respected messengers from Yahweh, they are rejecting Jesus: the ultimate Messenger. Their rotten attitude makes them not at all like the man Abraham and more like the demon Satan. Satan and his fellow demons continuously defy God. These Jews Jesus is talking to are also continuously defying God in their hearts, thus Jesus argues that Satan is their true father.
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own; Yahweh sent Me. Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (Jn. 8:41-47)
This is a common pattern which you will find still holding true in the world around you today: spiritual rebels emphatically reject what God says. They refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit’s convictions. They intentionally tune God out and then many of them stand around acting like they actually care about pleasing Him. Notice these rebellious Jews claim to care about Yahweh—they identify Him as their Father. But do they care? Not hardly. The world today is filled with Christian posers—folks who talk passionately about belonging to Christ while they are inwardly spitting in Christ’s face. We humans find it impossible to accurately sort out the fakers from the legitimate believers. Happily our Gods do not.
The Jews answered Him, “Aren’t we right in saying that You are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (Jn. 8:48)
Now here’s a stupid question. What do they think Jesus is going to say—“yes”? The ancient Jews were dedicated bigots and they despised the Samaritans. Everyone knows Jesus is a Jew—the Samaritan crack is a derogatory insult. It’s like saying “you’re a low life.” Jesus doesn’t even address the Samaritan comment, but instead responds to the notion that He is demon possessed.
“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. I am not seeking glory for Myself; but there is One who does seek to glorify Me and He is the Judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys My word will never see death.” (Jn. 8:49-51)
Now of course Jesus does seek His own glory all the time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking God is ever telling the complete truth in the way He talks to rebels. This whole tiresome debate has come down to a question of credentials. The rebellious Jews say Jesus is full of baloney. Jesus keeps arguing that Yahweh is the One who validates Him. Here He goes so far as to say that Yahweh is seeking glory for Jesus. If you know your Old Testament, this statement should sound quite brazen because Yahweh is notoriously obsessed with glorifying Himself and only Himself. Yahweh doesn’t glorify mere mortals, yet Jesus claims that Yahweh is eager to glorify Him. Well, yes, because Jesus is not a human, He is Yahweh’s Peer. Yahweh most certainly does enjoy exalting Jesus and the magnificent Holy Spirit. Once you really start paying attention to what Jesus is saying, you realize He’s constantly exalting Himself as a second Divine Being.
Now there is no New Testament in these days. There are no written records of Jesus’ words yet. The references to God’s “word” that you find in the Bible are reference to His spoken words. Today we massively confuse ourselves by calling our Bibles “the Word of God.” Because we have chosen to use this phrase, we then declare that we find references to our modern day Bibles in passages from the Old Testament—passages that were written centuries before our current Bibles were ever conceived of. It is utterly ridiculous to suggest that anyone who contributed to the Bible was referring to the Bible you read today—none of the biblical authors had ever heard of the book you use, so of course they weren’t referring to it. But this is how silly we get when we stop thinking and just believe whatever we’re told in church.
At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that You are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet You say that whoever obeys Your word will never taste death. Are You greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do You think You are?” (Jn. 8:52-53)
Are you seeing how pointless this argument is? Jesus is just going around in circles with these dingdongs and they aren’t really listening to a word He says, they’re just flipping out over semantics. Jesus says that those who believe that He is who He claims to be and submit to His Authority will never die. Of course He’s using the term “die” figuratively to refer to eternal damnation. This is nothing new—Yahweh used the same kind of terminology throughout the Old Testament. But these rebellious Jews are just looking for reasons to argue so they twist Jesus’ meaning to imply that He’s trying to say His followers will never die physically.
You’re going to have the same kind of draining experience today if you get into long debates with souls who are not really listening to the Holy Spirit. It’s a total waste of time to get into verse wars with closed minded Christians or God haters. With so many internet sites begging for feedback, there are scores of folks who just surf the web looking to start fights. Unfortunately, many of them are Christians. Such people tell themselves they’re witnessing for God, but really they’re just addicted to verbal warfare. Are you one of them? If you are, knock it off. Stop using God as an excuse to be rude, hostile, and snarky. The world doesn’t need one more attitudinal Christian beating people over the head with Bible verses and spreading their judgmental condemnation all over the place. God is quite capable of defending Himself. He hasn’t authorized us to go jumping down people’s throats. Arguing for the sake of arguing is a total waste of time. Trying to have a productive conversation with someone who is only invested in proving how wrong you are is a futile effort. Debates rarely result in growth because once people get emotionally agitated, they usually stop caring about anything else but defending their pride. As a Christian, it’s not your job to make others understand truth. You see how Jesus is just going around and around with these hardhearted rebels. He’s making the same points over and over, and no one’s listening. It’s a waste of time (see How to Avoid Witnessing Burnout).
Jesus replied, “If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who glorifies Me. Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and obey His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; He saw it and was glad.” (Jn. 8:54-56)
On earth, Abraham didn’t know anything about a coming Messiah, but Yahweh did promise that all nations would be blessed through him. That certainly sounded exciting, and naturally Abraham would have longed to see the fulfillment of that promise. The problem is that Abraham died without seeing much—only here Jesus says Abraham did see it. Jesus is making the wild claim that Abraham has actually seen His coming to earth, recognized its significance, and is quite pleased. Say what? In the first place, how can Jesus possibly have such intimate knowledge about the personal responses of a man who lived and died thousands of years before Jesus was even born? And, hello, Abraham’s soul has been adrift in some spiritual dimension which the Jews assumed was in the bowels of the planet. Is Jesus now going to claim that He’s been there as well?
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to Him, “and You have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (Jn. 8:57-58)
I AM is Yahweh’s Old Covenant Name—a Name which no good New Testament Jew would have spoken out loud. Why did Yahweh pick such a bizarre handle? Well, Yahweh is eternal. He has no beginning or end. Pick any moment on any timeline in any dimension and you could say, “Yep, there He is.” Or, if Yahweh Himself were speaking, He’d use first person pronouns and say “I AM.” Yahweh always is. Another good name for Him would be “HE IS.” Yahweh calls Himself I AM to remind everyone that He is never not present, active, powerful, reigning and awesome. Well, guess what? Jesus is a second God. He is equal to Yahweh in every way. So now we’ve got two Gods who always are. We could say “THEY ARE” or Jesus and Yahweh could say “WE ARE.” Or Jesus and Yahweh could Each individually say “I AM”. This I AM business is not Jesus claiming to be Yahweh, as the Trinitarians try to say. This is Jesus once again claiming absolute equality with Yahweh as a second awesome, eternal, ever-present God.
At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the Temple grounds. (Jn. 8:59)
The Trinity doctrine is a bunch of baloney. The Jews never thought for a moment that Jesus was some alter ego of Yahweh. Such an idea was preposterous. Jesus was clearly claiming to be a second God—that was the problem with Him. That was the outrageous offense, for Yahweh had always said He was the only God in existence. Now Jesus is essentially calling Yahweh a liar by claiming to be a second God. Yikes, are we comfortable with this? No, but isn’t it fantastically wild? Our Gods can always be counted on to blast us out of our theological comfort zone by suddenly revealing more details which They’ve been intentionally leaving out of the picture.
For thousands of years, Yahweh claimed to be the only God around. Now the Jews are finding out about Jesus. Today we also know about the Holy Spirit. What will our Gods spring on us next? There’s no way to even anticipate Them. Don’t even dream that you have walked Their boundaries—what we know about Them today is only a drop in the ocean of what there is to know. Jesus has just committed the ultimate act of blasphemy by saying that He qualifies for the sacred title of I AM. And what’s so ironic about this is that Yahweh declared in the Torah that anyone who even hinted about revering a deity other than Him should be immediately executed. So according to Yahweh’s own words, Jesus ought to be instantly and mercilessly stoned. Yet also according to Yahweh’s own words, Jesus ought to be revered and worshiped as a second Almighty God. Ever heard someone quote that famous line from the prophet Samuel where he says Yahweh would never lie or change His mind? Obviously Samuel had a lot to learn about who Yahweh is. We all do, and it’s a thrilling ride if you have the courage to listen to what the Holy Spirit’s telling you. The other option is to shut down and be deluded by the foolishness of the Church as she picks and chooses which Scriptures to ignore and which to acknowledge. The Church will tell you that your three glorious Gods are one mysterious blob. The Church will say God never lies or changes His mind, that He’s only in partial control, that He’s constantly getting trumped and stumped by Satan, and that Jesus is some shrinking violet in the Gospels. Jesus—the Guy who stood in the middle of the Temple declaring to be I AM. Are you going to listen to the Church or the Holy Spirit?
After scandalizing everyone in Jerusalem and no doubt making His followers extremely uncomfortable, Jesus starts touring around again, stirring up more trouble. When a Pharisee invites Jesus to dine, Jesus intentionally flaunts rude table manners just to start a fight and He ends up royally insulting His host (see Jesus: the Volatile Guest). Then it’s more parables and more miracle healings on Sabbath Days. Jesus loves healing on Sabbaths—it’s such a great way to agitate those Pharisees. After the healing of one blind man creates a ruckus, Jesus gives His famous analogy of Himself being like a good human shepherd (see Analogies of Jesus: The Good Shepherd). There is a lot more of Jesus bashing on the hardheartedness of the Jews, and more furious outbursts as Jesus keeps claiming equality with Yahweh. Then the famous resurrection of Lazarus takes place (see Jesus Wept: The Resurrection of Lazarus). The resurrection of Lazarus is a big deal, and one that makes Jewish leaders feel pressed to make a decision about Jesus. In our next lesson, we’ll find out what that decision is.
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