John 8:12-59 (AD 29)
Today’s passage is a uniquely argument-filled section. Jesus was facing down not just the religious leaders but groups of Jews who were attacking him with bad theology.
Remind yourself first that Jesus, whilst God, was also a man capable of feeling hurt and being saddened. Note also the viciousness of the exchanges.
There are four sections:
- v.12-20: the Pharisees told Jesus that his word was not enough to prove his identity
- v.21-30: Jesus testified about himself, confusing some and causing others to believe in him
- v.31-47: Jews claimed they had no need of Jesus because they had God as their Father. Jesus pointed out their father wasn’t God, but Satan
- v.48-59: Jews claimed Jesus was a demon-possessed Samaritan. Jesus pointed out that they were lying children of Satan. They responded by trying to stone him to death.
What made this passage particularly unpleasant reading for me was that by this point Jesus was all-too-familiar with attacks from the religious leadership, but their brainwashing was going well with some folks, and Jesus was here being eviscerated by ordinary Jews. As Jesus later cried over the fate of his rebellious countryfolk, this must have been a hideous time for him both for himself and as he contemplated the fate of his enemies who were also his brother Jews.
Note the second section where Jesus, as was often the case, spoke tangentially or cryptically about his identity so that those who wanted to obey God would understand, and those who were merely theology tourists or opponents wouldn’t know what he was talking about.
Conversely, many of his opponents knew EXACTLY what Jesus was claiming, as he did countless times, to be God…so they tried to kill him. The question, “Who do you think you are?” in v.53 is disingenuous nonsense. This is the same conversation as the prior conversation when Jesus and his attackers had accused each other of being from Satan. Jesus’ accusation was on the grounds of their deliberate lies and claims to be right with God on the basis of being Jewish. Their accusation for Jesus being Satanic was that they didn’t believe his claim to be God, and being Satanic is pretty much the only alternative once you’ve ignored Jesus’ claims and the evidence about him.
They knew what he was claiming, but were goading him into saying it more directly so they’d have an excuse to kill him there an then. This was a rare occasion on which he indulged their desire for a direct claim to be God (they all knew what, “before Abraham was born, I am!” meant – Jesus was equating himself with the voice of God from the burning bush). Jesus escaped death on this occasion by fleeing the scene, whilst knowing that his reprieve was temporary and that there was plenty more where that came from before the day when he was called by his Father to NOT run away, but to literally just stand there and take what was coming to him.
What does it do to you, to read, day after day, these stories of the relentless attacks on your Saviour during his ministry?
As you look over the passage again and see what he had to put up with, ask yourself how you would want to respond.
FOOTNOTE: I am omitting John 7:53-8:11 as that passage is most likely not Bibline, not being part of almost any of the earliest manuscripts.