Sermon title:  WHO IS JESUS?

John 8:44-59   Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, November 25, 2018

 

Before Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day

we were talking about

our Lord Jesus’ encounter

with crowds of people at the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

They were gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles

and were milling around informally in the Temple courtyards,

and Jesus began teaching them.

 

We can learn from this passage because Jesus reveals who he is.

 

The people in the crowd were divided,

and people today are divided,

with many different ideas about Jesus.

 

Some in the crowds at the Temple

were starting to put faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah.

 

Others—especially the religious leaders,

the chief priests and Pharisees—were hostile,

and were looking for some charge to pin on Jesus,

to accuse him of a crime and put him to death.

 

It was an informal setting,

and so people in the crowd

were shouting hostile questions and accusations

while Jesus was teaching.

 

‘You didn’t study at the rabbinical schools—

so, where did you get these ideas you’re teaching?’

 

‘You’re demon-possessed!  You’re crazy.’

 

‘The Christ will come from Bethlehem, but you’re from Galilee.

You couldn’t possibly be the Christ.’

 

Jesus let them talk like that

and patiently preached to the crowds

despite all the hostility.

 

He explained why he healed, even on the Sabbath,

and why merciful healing

did NOT break the law against working on the Sabbath.

 

He invited his listeners to come to him.

“If anyone is thirsty,

let him come to me and drink.”  (John 7:37)

 

Some individuals in the crowd

recognized that Jesus’ teachings rang true.

 

They saw his miracles of healing

and recognized that he MUST be the promised Messiah.

 

The religious leaders sent Temple police officers to arrest Jesus,

but the policemen were so impressed

by the Lord’s preaching

that they returned without arresting him.

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We take up the account again in John Chapter 8,

where Jesus resumes speaking

to the same mixed crowds.

 

Beginning in John 8, Verse 12,

 

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,

"I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me

will never walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life."

 

Jesus is the light of the world.

 

We may have lived in darkness up until now,

but if we follow Jesus,

we step into the light,

and we walk in darkness no more.

 

13 The Pharisees challenged him,

"Here you are, appearing as your own witness;

your testimony is not valid."

 

Just as when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness,

the Pharisees quote Scripture,

or allude to Scripture—

the requirement in the Law of Moses

that there be two witnesses

for anyone to be charged with a capital offense.

Like Satan,

they are trying to trip Jesus up

using the written Word of God.

 

14 Jesus answered,

"Even if I testify on my own behalf,

my testimony is valid,

for I know where I came from and where I am going.

 

But you have no idea where I come from

or where I am going.

 

15 You judge by human standards;

I pass judgment on no one.

 

16 But if I do judge, my decisions are right,

because I am not alone.

I stand with the Father, who sent me.

 

17 In your own Law it is written

that the testimony of two men is valid.

18 I am one who testifies for myself;

my other witness is the Father, who sent me."

 

He didn’t come at that time to judge mankind.

 

Judgment Day is still in the future.

 

Because of who he is—

the divine Son of God

who came from the Father and is returning to the Father—

Jesus’ testimony alone would be sufficient.

 

But, even if he were held to the standards of the Law of Moses

and had to produce two witnesses,

Jesus could still satisfy that requirement.

 

He is one witness, and his Father is another witness—

so there were two witnesses.

 

But the Pharisees still objected,

and shouted out another objection:

 

19 Then they asked him, "Where is your father?"

 

20 "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 area

near the place where the offerings were put.

Yet no one seized him,

because his time had not yet come.

 

The chief priests and the Pharisees

were eager to arrest Jesus and have him put to death.

 

They had even sent officers to do that, already,

but they came back without arresting him.

 

But his time had not yet come.

 

Jesus had more of his ministry to accomplish:

--more messages to preach

--more miracles to perform

--and more prophecies to fulfill.

 

It was not yet time for Jesus to go to the cross.

 

21 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."

 

Jesus knew that the Pharisees

would never put faith in him,

and so they would die in their sin—

without repentance, and without salvation.

 

He would go to the cross,

and then to the grave,

but would rise again

and reclaim his place on the throne in heaven.

 

They would remain behind and would die in their sins.

 

22 This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself?

Is that why he says,

'Where I go, you cannot come'?"

 

23 But he continued, "You are from below;

I am from above.

You are of this world;

I am not of this world.

 

24 I told you that you would die in your sins;

if you do not believe

that I am the one I claim to be,

you will indeed die in your sins."

 

And now that crucial question is thrown out into the open:

 

25 "Who are you?" they asked.

 

"Who are you?"

 

Who is Jesus?

 

That is the question at the center of mankind’s quest for God.

 

"I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me,”

Jesus said at John 14:6

 

There is no other way to God.   So, who is Jesus?

 

There are many false religions

that name the name of Jesus

and that preach about Jesus,

but that lead people to a dead end,

They all have an answer

to the question of “Who is Jesus?”

but they all offer a wrong answer.

 

The Unitarian-Universalists say Jesus was just a good man.

 

The Mormons say Jesus was one of many millions of ‘gods.’

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus was the first angel God created.

 

The Muslims say Jesus was one of the prophets.

 

And all of those wrong answers

allow them to substitute someone else

to follow as Lord,

instead of looking to Jesus as your Lord.

 

And all of those wrong answers

allow them to substitute someone or something else

to look to for salvation

instead of trusting Jesus as your Savior.

 

The hostile crowds at the Temple asked Jesus,

"Who are you?"

and he is about to give them the answer,

despite their hostility.

 

But he is going to lead into the answer gradually.

 

25 "Who are you?" they asked.

 

26 "Just what I have been claiming all along,"

Jesus replied.

 

"I have much to say in judgment of you.

 

But he who sent me is reliable,

and what I have heard from him I tell the world."

 

27 They did not understand

that he was telling them about his Father.

 

28 So Jesus said,

"When you have lifted up the Son of Man,

then you will know

that I am the one I claim to be

and that I do nothing on my own

but speak just what the Father has taught me.

 

29 The one who sent me is with me;

he has not left me alone,

for I always do what pleases him."

 

30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

 

We weren’t there to hear Jesus speak,

but we, too, can put our faith in him,

because we can read the words Jesus spoke

here in the Gospels.

 

And, as we prayerfully read the words Jesus spoke,

we, too, can put our faith in him,

just as many did in that crowd at the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,

 

"If you hold to my teaching,

you are really my disciples.

 

32 Then you will know the truth,

and the truth will set you free."

 

Yes, Jesus said, “you will know the truth,

and the truth will set you free."

 

Yes, Jesus himself is “the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

 

Knowing the truth means knowing Jesus.

 

And he sets us free from our sins.

---------------------------------------------

 

But many in the crowds at the Temple were still hostile to Jesus.

 

33 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?"

 

34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth,

everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

 

35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.

 

36 So if the Son sets you free,

you will be free indeed.

 

37 I know you are Abraham's descendants.

Yet you are ready to kill me,

because you have no room for my word.

 

38 I am telling you

what I have seen in the Father's presence,

and you do

what you have heard from your father. "

 

Remember, the crowds had mixed reactions

to Jesus, and to the things he said.

 

Some put faith in him,

but others raised objections,

like these who are speaking now.

 

And soon Jesus will make clear

that those who reject him

reject the Father who sent him.

 

Instead, they follow Satan the devil as their father.

 

39 "Abraham is our father," they answered.

 

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus,

"then you would do the things Abraham did.

 

As it is, you are determined to kill me,

a man who has told you

the truth that I heard from God.

Abraham did not do such things.

 

41 You are doing the things your own father does."

 

Jesus is leading up to telling them

that their father is the devil.

 

But the hostile crowds first claim Abraham as their father

and then they claim God as their father.

 

"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

 

42 Jesus said to them,

"If God were your Father, you would love me,

for I came from God and now am here.

I have not come on my own; but he sent me.

 

43 Why is my language not clear to you?

Because you are unable to hear what I say.

 

44 You belong to your father, the devil,

and you want to carry out your father's desire.

 

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.

 

So, there it is.

Jesus has labeled them as followers of the devil,

despite their claims to worship God.

 

The devil was the first liar.

 

The lies he told to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

were the very first lies ever told.

 

So that makes Satan “a liar and the father of lies.”

 

Because the Pharisees belong to their father the devil,

they don’t want to hear the truth from Jesus.

 

45 Yet because I tell the truth,

you do not believe me!

 

46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?

If I am telling the truth,

why don't you believe me?

 

47 He who belongs to God

hears what God says.

The reason you do not hear

is that you do not belong to God."

 

Now the Jewish religious leaders

repeat the same accusation they hurled at Jesus earlier:

 

48 The Jews answered him,

"Aren't we right in saying

that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"

 

49 "I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus,

"but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.

 

50 I am not seeking glory for myself;

but there is one who seeks it,

and he is the judge.

 

51 I tell you the truth,

if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."

 

It almost seems as if Jesus is baiting his enemies.

 

He is preaching wonderful truths

that give hope to those who put faith in him.

 

Jesus alone can give us everlasting life.

 

But the message the Lord is preaching here

is also calculated to provoke his enemies.

 

He wants them to show themselves for what they really are—

to reveal the evil that is in their hearts.

 

52 At this the Jews exclaimed,

"Now we know that you are demon-possessed!

Abraham died and so did the prophets,

yet you say that if anyone keeps your word,

he will never taste death.

 

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham?

He died, and so did the prophets.

Who do you think you are?"

 

That’s not a sincere question they’re asking Jesus.

 

They’re not trying to discover who Jesus is.

 

It’s a hostile challenge and a rebuke:

Who do you think you are?"

 

And, again, it’s that crucial question:  “Who is Jesus?”

 

How we answer it makes all the difference in the world.

 

54 Jesus replied,

"If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing.

My Father, whom you claim as your God,

is the one who glorifies me.

 

55 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 keep his word.

 

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced

at the thought of seeing my day;

he saw it and was glad."

 

Hebrews 11:13 tells us that Abraham

saw” the things God promised

“and welcomed them from a distance.”

 

Genesis 18 tells us that God visited Abraham

in the person of three men.

 

Abraham had such a close, personal relationship with God,

that God called him “my friend” at Isaiah 41:8.

 

And so James 2:23 calls Abraham “God’s friend.”

 

But, Abraham lived more than 1500 years earlier—

1500 years before this encounter between Jesus

and the crowds at the Jerusalem Temple.

 

So, after Jesus says,  

“Your father Abraham rejoiced

at the thought of seeing my day;

he saw it and was glad."

 

we read,

 

57 "You are not yet fifty years old,"

the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"

 

58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered,

"before Abraham was born, I am!"

 

The language Jesus used here is very specific.

 

Notice, he didn’t say, “before Abraham was born, I was there,”

“I was living.”

 

No, he said, "before Abraham was born, I am!”

 

That was the same language found in the Old Testament

at Exodus 3:13-14 when God revealed himself to Moses.

 

Exodus 3:13-14  is printed in our bulletin insert.

 

“Moses said to God,

‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,

“The God of your fathers has sent me to you,”

and they ask me, “What is his name?”

Then what shall I tell them?’ 

 

God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.

 

This is what you are to say to the Israelites:

“I AM has sent me to you.”’”

 

In the Old Testament God calls himself “I AM”

and Jesus calls himself the same thing, “I AM.”

 

That means Jesus is God.

 

The Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be God,

and they considered that blasphemy.

 

So, John 8:59 tells us,

 

59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him,

but Jesus hid himself,

slipping away from the temple grounds.

 

They wanted to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy,

for saying, "before Abraham was born, I am!”

 

But it’s not blasphemy

to claim to be God, when you really are God.

 

Jesus had every right to say,

"before Abraham was born, I am!”

because he is the great “I AM.”

 

He was standing there as God in the flesh.

 

As the opening words of the Gospel of John tell us at John 1:1,

“In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.”

 

That’s why Jesus could say,

"before Abraham was born, I am!”

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Who is Jesus? 

 

That is the question of the century,

or rather the question  of eternity. 

 

Our eternal life depends on how we answer that question. 

 

Not that we need to be theologians,

to understand heavenly things beyond our mental grasp,

but that we can answer

that Jesus is our Lord and our Savior.

 

Just as he did with Abraham,

he calls us into a close and personal relationship with him.

 

At Matthew Chapter 11, beginning at Verse 28, Jesus invites us,

28 "Come to me,

all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.

 

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

 

30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."