Jesus: The Light of the World, the Great I AM, and the Promised Son

John 8: 12-59
Preached by Mark Steeds on March 11, 2007.

The setting is still the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths. (Leviticus 23:42-43) This festival was to remind them of the time their ancestors were in the wilderness. The presence of God in their midst during the wilderness wanderings is shown in Exodus 13:21-22. A significant event during this festival was a remembrance of the light of God that led the Israelites during the dark nights in the wilderness.
It is with this backdrop that Jesus steps onto the stage…
John 8:12
Jesus is using the festival as a ceremony to present himself to the people — a coronation ceremony complete with Olympic Games style lighting ceremonies. But what does Jesus mean when he says he is the light of the world? How does John use the word light in what we have studied so far in the book of John and in his letter 1 John? (John 1:4,5,9 John 3:19-21, 1 John 1:5-7, 1 John 2:8-10) What these verses show us is that Jesus illuminates our lives. Through his light we see where we are in sin and where we are walking in righteousness. Those who love God will be drawn closer to the light and be transformed. Those who do not love God will reject the light and flee from its presence. For the believer, this light will transform our relationships with one another. Not only will we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but we will have a relationship marked by love with all those who know God through Jesus.
John 8:13
The Pharisees had already rejected Jesus. Amidst the pageantry of another Old Testament story that points to its true fulfillment in Jesus, the Pharisees are like lawyers looking for the technicality that will kill Jesus’ case. In a previous discussion about who bears witness to Jesus, Jesus had shown them in John 5 that John the Baptist bore witness, the good works that Jesus had done before them bore witness, God the Father bore witness, and all the Old Testament scriptures bore witness. Jesus will here only point to one of these witnesses, the only one that matters.
John 8:14
Jesus is saying that because he comes from God the Father and is going back to God the Father (along the way going to the cross), he can bear witness about himself. You don’t accept my testimony because you don’t realize or know who I am.
John 8:15-18
Jesus is telling them that their judgment is based upon human standards. We can’t believe you because you don’t have another witness. That’s how a human judge works. Jesus tells them that he doesn’t judge that way. Jesus can’t possibly mean that he doesn’t judge because he spends the rest of this chapter judging them. What he is saying is that when he judges he judges from a heavenly standard — from the viewpoint of God the Father himself. This heavenly judgment just so happens to fulfill the earthly judgment they were seeking as well. If only they had the eyes to see it.
John 8:19-20
Ironically, the Pharisees continue their human judgment of Jesus by asking Jesus to produce his earthly father. There may be a veiled attack at the questions of Jesus’ paternity here (was he a bastard?). Jesus tells them that they don’t know who he really is or who God is. Jesus claim here is one of divinity. They don’t completely understand this claim. Even if they had understood it they would reject it and seek to arrest and kill him for blasphemy. It wasn’t God’s timing for this to occur. The ‘hour’ of Jesus in the book of John refers to his death on the cross. But Jesus will continue to press the issue…
John 8:21-22
Jesus is telling them that he will not remain with them forever. Jesus is the Messiah that the people read about in the scriptures. If they reject Jesus, they will keep looking for this Messiah, but will die in their sin of not believing that Jesus is the promised Messiah because no other Messiah will come. It is interesting that the people ‘solve’ this riddle by assuming that Jesus will commit a sin that in their minds would keep him from glory (heaven) but they would still be in glory (heaven). Jesus doesn’t kill himself but he does lay down his life to be killed by others for our sake so that we may have eternal life.
John 8:23-24
What is Jesus saying? I am from heaven, you are from earth. Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins. If you have an NIV translation you will notice that it says ‘unless you believe that I am the one I claim to be’ with a note on the bottom of the page that reads ‘or he’. I believe that ‘I am he’ is a better translation because it points us back to the book of Isaiah. Those who heard Jesus may have been confused by what Jesus said as we will see in a moment but Jesus was being very clear. He is claiming to be divine. (Isaiah 41:4, 43:10, 43:13, 43:25, 46:4, 48:12)
John 8:25-27
Jesus is telling them that in his ministry he has been consistent in pointing to himself as coming from the Father. This isn’t something new that Jesus has thought up as his ministry and following has grown. He is not having delusions of grandeur. He has much to say about them and much to judge. Everything he tells them is true because it comes to them from the Father through Jesus. They simply do not understand his relationship to the Father.
John 8:28-30
When Jesus uses the phrase ‘lifted up the Son of Man’ or a corollary phrase ‘the Son of Man ascending to where he was before’ (John 6:62), he is not just referring to the cross (in the case of lifted up) or his ascension (ascending). He is talking about the whole process of going back to the Father. His betrayal, arrest, trial, beating, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension back to sit at the Father’s right hand. These are the things that show that he pleases the Father. His resurrection will show that God is with him. These will show that he fulfills the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, even those that these people and even now we do not fully grasp. Many did believe and many will reject. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)
Our lives are determined by what we believe about Jesus’ work on the cross. For these many who ‘believed’ in him in verse 30, their lives will now hinge on the first question of whether they believe in what Jesus says about them and ultimately what they believe about him.
John 8:31-33
The Jews believed that because they were descendants of Abraham, they were spiritually free. They were looking to Jesus to free them politically but they could not fathom their own spiritual slavery. Jesus tells them that they will need to know the truth about their spiritual condition, a truth that is found in Jesus. They and we need to rest on his every word. To abide in something means to accept and continue in it. We need to listen to Jesus and understand what his word says about us if we are to have any freedom in him.
John 8:34-38
Jesus tells them that they are in spiritual bondage or slavery because of sin. Jesus uses an analogy from a household in his day to relate to the kingdom of God. In a household, there are sons of the father and there are slaves or servants. They are both in the house but only the sons have the inheritance and true relationship with the father of the house. Jesus is telling them that through his position as son, he can free them to become sons of the father. But this is only through his position as son not on anything to do with their position. Their position as offspring of Abraham still leaves them as slaves of sin and seeking to kill the true son. But, if they are not sons of God, who are they sons of? Who is their true father? Up to this point in John, John has been focusing on the witnesses to Jesus and the claims of Jesus about himself. Many rejected these claims. If Jesus is truly the Son of God and sent from the Father, what does this say about those who reject Jesus?
John 8:39-41
There are two aspects of what Abraham did that I would like us to focus: one I will cover now and one toward the end of this text. The first comes from Genesis 15:1-6.
Abraham believed God about a promised son and he was declared righteous. Now if we know anything about Abraham, we know that this belief and his obedience weren’t perfect. But he believed God about a promised son. That is what Jesus is asking the Jews to believe. That he was the promised son of God! (Just as Isaac was the promised son of Abraham and Sarah.) But the Jews did not believe about God’s promised son and it raises the question again about who their true father was. They are in line with the one who wants Jesus dead, who wants his work to be thwarted.

The response of the people is to go on the attack. They vigorously defend their position as children of God (We are not bastards!) and possibly insinuate that it is Jesus in fact that is the bastard.
John 8:42-43
What is the word that they could not accept? That Jesus came from God to them to release them from the bondage of their sin. They could not accept that they were in sin, that they had a spiritual problem. Who else in scripture cannot accept that what God says is true and seeks to distort that word wherever he can?
John 8:44-47
The answer to the paternity question of the crowd rejecting Jesus is the devil. Their attitudes and actions of what they want to do to the Son of God are in line with those of the devil. Those who reject Jesus are of the devil. Those who accept and hear Jesus are of God. For those of us who believe in God’s son and his work for us on the cross the response is not one of boasting or pride. The difference in us and those who reject Christ is God’s work in our hearts. Otherwise we would be sons of the devil as well. Think about the conversion of Saul (Paul) in Acts 9:1-6. Think about Peter in Mark 8:31-33 giving advice to Jesus.
Certainly our past is no better than these men. We are all sons of the devil apart from the work of God in our lives. We cannot boast in ourselves, only in the cross of Jesus. When we encounter those who reject Jesus we need to lift up Jesus before them and pray that God will transform their hearts as he has done ours.

There is another sobering thing that comes out of this passage. There are not three kinds of people. Those that know Jesus, those that are good moral people following a different way to God, and the bad people like Hitler who are sons of the devil. There are only two kinds: those whose father is God and those whose father is the devil. The difference is what they do with the person of Jesus Christ and his work on the cross.

John 8:48
The Jews natural enemies in religious matters were the Samaritans. The story of Jesus and the woman at the well highlighted parts of this conflict. If Jesus was rejecting their spiritual claims and they could not see their own sin, the natural insult would be to claim he was a Samaritan and truly possessed by a demon. “Aren’t you on their side?”
John 8:49-50
Jesus is telling them that the most important thing in this argument is that the Father seeks to glorify this Jesus who they are rejecting. Judgment will come on those who reject the son.

We are not quite done. The Jews in this crowd understand that Jesus is claiming to be from God the Father and that he claims they are of the devil. They understand that he is claiming to be a true Son of God. Now he will clarify his claim to divinity so that there will be no misunderstanding.
John 8:51-53
If they didn’t quite understand Jesus’ claims to divinity before they are starting to come around. Jesus is claiming to hold the keys to life itself. Not even Abraham or the prophets could make this claim.
John 8:54-56
Jesus tells them that the issue before them is not that he is claiming to be someone more important than Abraham or the prophets. They were offended by the claim. The issue is that Jesus truly IS greater than Abraham and the prophets. For Jesus not to claim this would be a lie. It would go against his mission on earth. Not only is he greater than Abraham. Abraham accepted Jesus words and work on Abraham’s behalf. Abraham believed in Jesus! I said earlier that there were two aspects to what Abraham did. The first was that he believed in God for a promised son. The second was that he trusted in the sacrifice of God’s promised son in place of his promised son. Genesis 22:1-14
Why does God send Abraham to the land of Moriah? Moriah is where Jerusalem will be.
Why does God call Isaac ‘your son, your only son, whom you love’ when Abraham also has a son named Ishmael?
“Isn’t it interesting that Isaac carries his own wood up the mountain and willingly offers his body to be sacrificed?
If the ram was the true substitute for Isaac, why does Abraham call the place, ‘The LORD will provide’ which points to the future rather than ‘The LORD provided’ which is past tense?

Abraham believed in God’s promise for a son. He also believed in God’s promise for a sacrifice that would provide for both him and his son and bless all the nations of the earth. Abraham believed and accepted Jesus’ work on the cross.
John 8:57-59

The crowd now understands Jesus claim to divinity. Jesus is saying that he eternally pre-existed Abraham. Not just before Abraham was, I was, but before Abraham was, I am. Jesus is claiming to be equal with the God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. God told Moses to tell the people that ‘I AM has sent me to you (Exodus 3:14) and that this is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:15).

What is our response? We are not to be like those who in the face of God seek to kill him! Like Abraham, we are to believe God about the promised son: the promised son whose sacrifice on the cross for our sins gives us eternal life. Also, we should not resist letting God write the life and story of Jesus into our own lives. Abraham is not alone in the Old Testament as one who points to Christ. All the ‘heroes’ of the Old Testament point to Jesus.

May Jesus be to us the light of the world, the great I AM, and the promised and sacrificed son that gives us true freedom to live because of him.


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