September 19, 2015.
Daily Reading: John 7-8.
Background: John 5-6.
Concepts and Connections.
Jesus at the feast of booths: After Jesus gives some pretty hard teachings in the last chapter, we pick up here as He avoids going to Judea because He perceived that they were seeking to kill Him. The feast of booths, a Jewish festival that was given in the Law (see Leviticus 23:33-44), was about to start and we find Jesus’ bothers, apparently in a condescending tone, insisting that He go down to Judea and perform miracles there, if He was who He said He was. Their logic was, if He could do everything He said He could, then He should show it openly and should have no problem proving Himself. Imagine what it would be like to not even have your own family believe in you. The problem, however, was not that Jesus couldn’t do the great works in Judea, but rather that they were seeking to kill Him, and His hour had not come. Thus Jesus did not go down to the feast publicly, but rather privately. Note here that Jesus still keeps the Law in attending the feast, but He does not make a show about it, even though people were looking for Him and assuming He wasn’t there when they didn’t see Him. Our righteousness does not need to be approved of by men, but rather it is God who judges our intent and righteousness. Note that this does not mean we can do whatever we want to do, but simply that it is before God that we stand or fall. At the feast, there is a divided opinion of Him, as different people were saying different things about Him, good and bad, but no one spoke openly about Him.
However, in the middle of the feast, probably when He knew that He was safe from being taken by the Jews who wanted to kill Him (for He was now in the open public), He breaks His privacy and stands up and begins to teach in the temple. The Jews are taken aback, for Jesus had never had any formal training to be a Rabbi or a teacher of the Law, yet He taught with great wisdom and insight. He did this because His teaching was from above, for He had been sent from the Father, and He sought to do the will of His Father. Then He goes on the offensive, calling out those who wanted to kill Him and asserting that though they have the law, they do not keep it (see Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:9-18). They denied their plans, of course, but Jesus cuts to the problem: He had healed a man on the Sabbath (see John 5:1-17) and then made statements that set Him up as equal with God. It was for this reason that they sought to kill Him, but He drew their attention to the intent of the Law, giving the example that the Sabbath is broken when a child needs to be circumcised on the Sabbath to keep the law (see Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3). In trying to keep the law to the strictest jot and tittle, they had missed the whole purpose of the law. More importantly, they had missed the One whom the law pointed to- they had missed the Christ.
But not everyone there simply ignored the signs of the Christ. There was a division among the people. They saw that the religious leaders, who were seeking to kill Jesus, were standing before Him openly and they could say nothing to Him. Some were confused, thinking that when the Christ came, no one would know where He came from. Others knew that the law said that the Christ would come from Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2), but they thought He came from Galilee. Still, many believed on Him because of the signs which He did. Jesus makes many statements in this chapter that seem to have somewhat hidden meanings, and there is much confusion as to what He is saying. He speaks of the Spirit, citing Proverbs 18:4, who was to come, given to those who follow Him (see Isaiah 44:3, Joel 2:28, Acts 2:16-18, 37-41, I Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:10-14). The chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest Him, but they returned empty handed because they said “No one ever spoke like this man!” Note the rhetoric the Pharisees use here to dismiss outright anyone who has something to say that opposes what they thought. They ask the officers if they had been deceived, they call on their own knowledge and authority, saying that none of them had believed Jesus (implying that truth lied in their opinion), and they insult Nicodemus’ intelligence and dismiss his question about a fair trial outright, assuming that they know the full story of Jesus (note that no one seems to know where He was actually born, see Matthew 1, John 1:43-51). Their stubbornness and pride had blinded them to the On who they had been looking for since the fall of man (see Genesis 3:14-15).
1. The woman caught in adultery: Here we find the rather famous story of the woman caught in adultery who was brought before Jesus in effort catch Him in a tight situation. The scribes and the Pharisees bring her before Jesus, tell Him that she had been caught in the act of adultery, remind Him that the law said that she should be stoned (see Deuteronomy 22:22-24) and then ask Him what He says. The indication is that Jesus did not have an easy answer: if He said she should be stoned, He would likely lose some of His following because of the perceived lack of compassion; however, if He said she should not be stoned, then they would accuse Him of not following the law, which would discredit His ministry. Note that Jesus answers them first with silence, seemingly ignoring them by writing on the ground. When they pressed Him, however, He says “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” and then goes back to writing on the ground. He calls their attention to their hypocrisy, as none of them were without sin (see Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:9-18), and they all start to file out, starting with the oldest even to the youngest, for He had answered them well. Some speculate about what Jesus was writing one the ground, supposing that He might have been writing out the sins of the woman’s accusers, which would make His statement to them even more potent. Regardless of whether this is what He wrote or not, the scribes and the Pharisees got the lesson, and left the woman standing before Him. As the woman is standing before Jesus, He asks where her accusers went and if no on condemned her. When she said no, He says “Neither do I condemn you…” This is not where the story ends, however, as the last part of Jesus’ statement is often left off in popular culture. He then says “Go and sin no more.” It is important to note that the love and compassion of Jesus was not a free pass to sin. Jesus shows the woman great mercy here, because the law indeed said that she should be stoned for her iniquity, and Jesus was the only person on earth who could righteously condemn her, for He had no sin. But He doesn’t, yet sends her on her way, giving her a chance to make better choices in the future. God’s grace and mercy should never be used as an excuse to sin (see Romans 6:1-4).
2. Hard words of the I AM: In the latter potion of this chapter, we find Jesus once again teaching things to the people that are particularly hard for them to swallow, especially the religious leaders. First, He makes the second “I AM” statement given in John, “I am the light of the world.” He was the one who was to come into the world and lead the people out of darkness, He was their salvation. The Pharisees seem to have picked up on what He was implying, for they tell Him that His testimony is not true since He was bearing witness of Himself. Jesus had already dealt with this accusation a couple of chapters prior to this one (see John 5:30-47), but here He faces it again. He tells them that even if He was bearing witness of Himself, though He had other’s bear witness of Him as well, that His testimony was true, for He came from the Father. Truth is truth, no matter what other people have to say about it. He references the law that says to confirm testimony on the basis of two to three witnesses (see Numbers 35:30), and notes that He and the Father bear witness of Him, thus having two witnesses present. Note that the ‘Father’ is references by Jesus many times here, though the people don’t always understand that He is talking about God. He goes on to say that where He was going, they could not come, because He was not of this world. They did not believe in Him, and thus they could not follow Him to the world that was to come (see Mark 16:16, John 5:24). He then makes a prediction of His death (see also John 12:32) and many believed in Him because of His words.
As Jesus continued His ministry, He did not shy away from strong teachings and difficult sayings. We see Him here speak of truth, the truth that will set man free, if one abides in His word. The word of God is the source of truth, for God is truth. The Jews to whom He spoked didn’t quite understand what He meant by setting them free, because they considered themselves free already as sons of Abraham. But they were not free from sin, for His blood had not been shed yet (see Matthew 26:27-29, Romans 3:21-26, Hebrews 10:1-18). Freedom from sin, the power to overcome sin, was coming, and it would come to those who embraced the truth. It would set them free. He continues with His discussion of the Father, and who’s father that they were who would not receive His teaching. They asserted that they were sons of Abraham, but Jesus tells them that if they were indeed sons of Abraham, they would be doing what Abraham did, believing God. If they were indeed sons of God, they would love Jesus, as He was sent from God as the Son of God. Then He makes a very strong statement, telling them that they are actually sons of the devil, for they believed the lie from the father of lies, and would be turned into murders by the murderer from the beginning by putting Him to death, though they could convict Him of no sin. He makes the bold statement that they were not of God.
Even stronger of a statement, however, is the one that He would make at the end of this chapter. He continues His discussion with the Jews, and says that anyone who keeps his words will not see death. The Jews were only thinking in physical terms, and they could not understand what He would mean. Even their father Abraham lived and died. Was this man claiming to be better than Abraham? Was He greater than the prophets? Who does He think He is? Jesus says that Abraham rejoiced to see His day (see Matthew 13:17 and Hebrews 11:13), and the Jews question how a man who was not even 50 years old could claim to have seen Abraham. Then Jesus makes the bold statement that would make them pick up stones to stone Him: “…before Abraham was, I am.” Though this reference may be some what lost to many today, the Jews standing there knew exactly what He was saying. Jesus had just said that He was God. It is a reference to God’s revelation of His name to Moses at the burning bush (see Exodus 3), where He told Moses to say to His people who were enslaved in Egypt when they asked who sent him to them, “I AM has sent you.” Jesus was claiming to be God by calling Himself by the name of God. This was a bold statement indeed, for if it were not true, it would have been blatant blasphemy. But it was true. He was the Son of God. He was God. And He was here to bring salvation to the world. May we not miss the Christ as His own people did here.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Titus 1-3.
Believe the I AM.