"The Children of Abraham"
In today's study, the Children of Abraham, there is a lively exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees.
Some of the people who were rejecting Jesus were attempting to stand on their rights to Heaven simply because they were descendents of Abraham.
Jesus told them that if they were truly Children of Abraham they would respect Him and reverence Him; because He was the Son of God whom God had sent. Jesus told them their refusal to accept Him revealed that their father was in fact the devil.
Scripture (John 8:31-59)
VERSE 31-32: "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Jesus was telling the one's who did believe in Him that they should now go on and accept all His teachings. Some had probably reached the place where they had faith in Him but had not yet reached the point of being full believers, or as Jesus said "really my disciples." Others who had originally believed were by the end of today's study (verse 59,) were ready to kill Him.
In verse 32 Jesus said "you shall know the truth." The Old testament word translated "truth" had more to do with integrity or faithfulness to one's word or character while the Greek translation emphasized reality. The Jewish thought characterized God as the Truth, so the Jewish hearers should have realized he was referring specifically to God's truth in the Jewish sense.
VERSE 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?"
When you think about it their statement to the effect of never being slaves of anyone doesn't make any sense because they were slaves at the time.
In fact, the Jewish nation as a whole had been under bondage to least four kingdoms: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.
It's a struggle to grasp their line of thinking, but from the point of view of the Jewish teachers in that day Israel was ruled by God alone, and these other nations were considered to be servants of God simply carrying out His will, and since it was God's will nothing had changed in that they believed God would ultimately break the yokes of the other nations. This belief is said to be behind the revolt of (A.D. 66-70.)
VERSE 34: "Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin."
The Jewish teachers believed that since Israel had the law, they could not be enslaved by what they referred to as the evil impulses of the Gentiles.
VERSE 35: "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever."
Although the Jewish slaves could interact with the family they belonged to, they did not have a permanent place in the family. The law mandated that Jewish slaves be freed in certain years, and under the Gentile laws, they could also be sold to other households, or even freed.
VERSE 36: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
True freedom can only come through Christ.
VERSE 37: "I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word."
Jesus knows these people are the Children of Abraham, or (of the bloodline of Abraham), and, considering their own claim to be Abraham's children, points out how strange it is that they would want to kill the one who spoke the word of God; because that certainly is not what Abraham would do.
That they have no room for His word points to the fact that their minds were closed to anything He had to say. They didn't understand, or perhaps believe the covenant was changing and the only way they could reach heaven would be through Jesus, the Messiah. Their belief was that, except for the most wicked, being a descendant of Abraham virtually guaranteed salvation.
VERSE 38: "I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father."
Metaphorically a father was someone whose ways one imitated, often a teacher, or spiritual leader.
Jesus' actions, and in fact His entire earthly life, was a result of what He had seen while in the presence of His Father, God. The Pharisees were doing what they had heard from the one Jesus refers to later (in verse 41) as their father the devil.
VERSE 39-40: "Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. 40As 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."
Abraham was used as the ultimate model for Jewish piety and hospitality. The Pharisees could not get away from the importance of calling Abraham their father, and continued their claim to rights derived from their ancestry. But true line of Abraham descent was on moral grounds, not on racial descent.
The true Children of Abraham must act in harmony with what Abraham did, which would not include the desire to kill Jesus.
VERSE 41: "You are doing the things your own father does." "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."
To suggest that someone had one father by laws but another father by nature was to suggest that one"s mother was guilty of adultery. Speaking of satan, this is still another reference Jesus makes to "your own father." It is possible their remark concerning "illegitimate children" may have been an indirect reference to slanders about the birth of Jesus.
When Jesus questioned their ancestry they began to say that God was their father. They considered their descent: "children of Abraham" to be equivalent in Jewish literature to "children of god" because God had adopted Abraham's descendants. (EX 4:22)
The Children of the Devil
VERSE 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."
True children of God would also love Jesus, because He came from and was actually sent by God.
VERSE 43: "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say."
He repeated this over and over, but their minds were so against anything He had to say that it went unheard, they just didn't get it!
VERSE 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."
The devil was the original murderer and denier of truth. I have heard it said that "whenever someone lies they are honoring Satan." Jewish tradition taught that Satan's lie had led to Adam's death. The implication here is that Satan wanted to kill Jesus and the Pharisees were attempting to carry out his plans.
Jesus said that Satan is a murderer, liar, and in fact the father of lies. According to translators the statement "the father of lies" might possibly be more accurately interpreted as the "the father of liars," which would have been a more personal attack on the Pharisees.
Satan's most noticeable feature, pointed out here by Jesus, is his hatred of the truth. And don't we know that is true? It's so prevalent in the world that we find it unusual when we find someone who is truthful. Although that is the way the world is, we are told not to be like the world, it shouldn't be that way among Christians. God hates lies even more than Satan hates the truth, it is even one of the "Ten Commandments."
VERSE 45-46: "Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?"
His opponents attitude of unbelief implied not only that he did not speak the truth but was guilty of sin.
VERSE 47: "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
It is very clear that Jesus' estimate of their holiness did not agree with their own opinions of themselves.
The Claims of Jesus About Himself
The last part of our study focuses on Jesus' claims about himself and the weakness of the opposing claims.
VERSE 48: "The Jews answered him, Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"
Jesus' association with the Samaritans did not set well with His Jerusalem audience. the Samaritans not only insulted the Jewish temple but also challenged their claim to be the exclusive Children of Abraham.
Their attempt to associate Jesus with the Samaritans was their way of saying they did not accept Him as a true Jew, and another indication of their total rejection of the truth concerning Him, and a way of expressing their hatred for Jesus just as they did the Samaritans.
And, in the same verse, by saying He had a demon they were slandering the Holy Spirit, thereby committing the "unpardonable sin" (Matt 12;31) This sin was not out of ignorance, but a continued and willful rejection of the truth concerning Jesus.
It was a sin against spiritual knowledge, for, as we had learned, Jesus had presented ample evidence that He was who He claimed to be, the Son of God, the Messiah.
Their deliberate choice to insult the spirit and reject Jesus ministry in their lives will not be forgiven.
VERSE 49: "I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me."
Jesus had been sent by the Father, and according to Jewish law, one who rejected a person's appointed agent; also insulted and rejected the one who sent that agent. Jesus of course is not possessed by a demon and reminds the people again, as He had earlier, that if they truly honored God the Father they would also honor Him as well.
VERSE 50: "I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge."
So, as it is in our day, it was not a matter of man's opinion, but God is the judge, and everything must eventually give way to His word.
VERSE 51: "I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
Of course the Pharisees made a big deal over this, and don't we know they would. Jesus was speaking of eternal life. It is the second death the Believer will never see.
Most Jewish people except the Sadducee's, would have agreed that Abraham and the prophets were spiritually alive with God.
VERSE 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."
And once again they somehow manage to misunderstand His words by taking them literally. The fact that they said our father Abraham and the prophets had died suggests that to them Jesus words were impossible. They couldn't grasp the meaning of eternal life, and thought He was talking about the physical body that would never die.
VERSE 53: "Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
Here they are clearly giving more honor to the prophets and to Abraham than to Jesus. And in answer to "who do you think you are" Jesus does not attempt to honor or glorify Himself,
and in verse 54 says:
VERSE 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."
Jesus was not interested in glorifying Himself, nor was He interested in being approved or glorified by others. The only One He earnestly sought to honor, and be honored and glorified by, was God. He was totally devoted to doing God's will and accomplishing the task He had been sent to do.
VERSE 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."
Jesus knew that although these people were the Children of Abraham, they did not have a personal relationship with God. Jesus did know God, and to deny this would make Him a liar same as them.
"He is our God" was a basic confession of the covenant in the "Old Testament." Those who truly kept God's law were said in the Old Testament to "Know" God.
VERSE 56: "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
Jesus the great "I AM" clearly knew the thoughts of Abraham so long ago and how he had looked forward to the day when Jesus the Messiah would arrive.
Jewish tradition emphasized that Abraham had been shown the future kingdoms that would oppress Israel as well as the "messianic era." And Jesus said he "saw it and was glad." Which means that Jesus knew Abraham both while on earth and later in heaven.
VERSE 57: "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
In that day fifty was the minimum age for involvement in some kinds of public service.
Was not every attempt to reach these people futile, what else can one say? Yet He didn't give up. Doesn't that give us hope for those we keep trying to reach? As a result of His persistence many of these people did accept Him.
VERSE 58: "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
By saying "was born" of course indicates there was a specific time when Abraham's life began; however Jesus speaking of Himself, said He was "I AM." indicating that He was preexisting, without beginning-the ever present One. If Jesus had only wanted to suggest that he existed before Abraham, he would have said, "Before Abraham was, I was." But "I AM" was a title for God.
This was a divine claim, that He was God, God the Son, which was finally something the Jews understood; however they took His words as blasphemy.
So, in verse 59:
VERSE 59: "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds."
Jesus claim in verse 58 that He was the "I AM" was a claim to be eternal, and a claim to be divine. In the eyes of the Jews this made Him guilty of a sin punishable by stoning. These Jews and Children of Abraham, could think of no other treatment but stoning for the claims Jesus made.
As we have seen before, Jesus slipped away, because His times were in God's Hands.
The above scripture refutes the notion of some skeptics that Jesus did not claim to be God.
Next week we can read: (John 9:1-41) (the whole chapter)
Jesus restores a man's sight, then teaches the people about true vision, and true blinders.
Gospel of John Bible Study
Children of Abraham