Last week we learned why the “where” of Jesus’ origin and destination was so important to establishing His identity.
• If fact, it was so essential that Jesus told the Pharisees that if they simply knew the “where” they would know Him.
Today, Jesus presses His point further by discussing the implications of not knowing His identity – I am He.
• He bluntly states that to die in this condition is to die in your sins.
• We will explore Jesus’ words and His conversation with the Jews about this type of death.
John 8:21–30 (ESV) — 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “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, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
1) BELIEVE IN ME OR DIE IN YOUR SINS
John 8:21–23 (ESV) — 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
“Seek me” but “you will die in your sin”:
This doesn’t make sense unless we take into account a couple of things.
• (1) Father’s Jesus vs. World’s Jesus
• (2) What Jesus means by “seek me”
We have seen in numerous lessons that most of the Jews did not see Jesus as the Father saw Him but as something altogether different – fraud, charlatan, demon-possessed, miracle worker, political king, etc. (World’s Jesus).
• As a result they rejected any claims He made as to His identity and His relationship with the Father.
• However, this meant that they would still be left searching for the Messiah.
• Jesus understands that they will continue to “seek” the Messiah in a general sense.
• So, “What is meant…is that they will go on looking for the Messiah” – D.A. Carson.
• But of course their search will be fruitless because they have rejected the true Messiah.
Jesus then addresses the result of rejecting Him and seeking their false Messiah.
• They will die in their sins.
• In fact, Jesus goes on to teach that to “die in your sin” means they will be unable to go where Jesus is going.
• When they die in their sin they lose all hope of fellowship with the Messiah they rejected!
• And it is telling that the revelation of such a profound truth is mocked – “will he kill himself”.
BTW – Jesus’ pronouncement has a double meaning (cross & Father) which is made clear when we look at John 13.
• John 13:33 & 36 (ESV) — 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
• Jesus responds to their mocking by heaping it on them even more.
• He describes just how great the divide is between believers and unbelievers.
• He explains and thereby implies that one lives within one of two possible realms.
• “The realm of God himself” OR “the realm of his fallen and rebellious creation” – John MacArthur.
• So, “The contrast is not between a spiritual world and a material world, but between the realm of God himself and the realm of his fallen and rebellious creation” – D.A. Carson.
John MacArthur sums up the fallen realm this way:
• “Those engulfed in the world “[love] the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds [are] evil” (John 3:19). As a result, they are utterly blind to spiritual truth (2 Cor. 4:4; cf. Matt. 13:11; John 12:39–40; Rom. 8:5; 1 Cor. 2:14)—having filled themselves with hatred toward Jesus (and His followers; John 15:18–19; 17:14; 1 John 3:13) for confronting their sin (John 7:7; 15:18)” – John MacArthur.
• Those in this realm actually rejoice at the death of Jesus.
But with respect to the realm of God, Jesus gives this encouragement and caution to the believer:
• John 15:19 (ESV) — 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
• We are not of this world because Christ has laid claim to us (not doubt at the Fathers direction)!
2) WHO ARE YOU?
John 8:24–27 (ESV) — 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.
Jesus repeats the unbeliever’s condition underscoring how desperate it is.
• And then tells the Jews that the only remedy for dying in sin is to “believe that I am he”.
• What does Jesus mean “believe that I am he”?
• Would its meaning be as plain to the Jews as it is to us?
The answers to these questions will be found in the OT – where Jesus is alluding to.
• Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV) — 39 “ ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
• Isaiah 41:4 (ESV) — 4 Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
• Isaiah 43:10 (ESV) — 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.
• Isaiah 48:12 (ESV) — 12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.
The Greek phrases from the Septuagint and Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John, egō eimi, are identical.
• Jesus’ use of this phrase is two things:
• (1) “A claim to diety” – D.A. Carson.
• (2) Blasphemy and an “invitation to face the wrath of God” – D.A. Carson.
o Unless His claim is true
So the answer to our two questions:
• “The Jews of Jesus’ day understood perfectly that He was claiming to be God. In fact, they were so shocked by His use of that name, in reference to Himself (cf. vv. 28, 58), that they attempted to stone Him for blasphemy (v. 59)” – MacArthur.
What this tells us is that their response, “Who are you?”, is further evidence that they are “from below” and are “of this world” .
• Inhabitants of these realms have clear limitations on their ability (a moral inability/depravity) to know and believe in the Father’s Jesus.
• This, “is the fundamental reason why Jesus’ opponents can neither recognize who he is nor understand his teaching. Nothing will suffice to remove such blindness but being ‘taught by God’ (6:45), being born again (3:3, 5), finding the one who is himself the way, the truth and the life (14:6)” – D.A. Carson.
3) YOU WILL KNOW
John 8:28–30 (ESV) — 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
But wait, is Jesus now contradicting Himself.
• Will those “of this world” know Jesus when they see Him on the cross?
• Jesus seems to be saying that all his listeners (not just a select few) will “know that I am he” when He is crucified.
To answer this question, we have to consider a couple of things.
• 1) Last week’s lesson on the “where” – the significance of the Cross to Jesus’ identity.
• 2) What He means by “know”.
(1) Identity and the Cross (from last week):
So in John’s Gospel, “the exaltation of the Servant of which this verse speaks [Isaiah 52:13] is the whole sequence of humiliation, suffering, death and vindication beyond death which [Isaiah] 53 describes” – Richard Bauckham.
• The “where” is not just the exalted right hand of God, but also the cross.
• It is amazing to think that even the cross was (and will be) a “where” where Jesus demonstrated His divinity and His relationship with the Father.
• Profoundly, “the witness, the humiliation, the death and the exaltation of the Servant of the Lord is the way in which God reveals his glory and demonstrates his deity to the world” – Richard Bauchkham.
• The Place of God is both:
o 1) Exalted and on the Throne – Ruler and Creator
o 2) Lifted up and on the Cross – Servant and Savior
Understanding the significance of being “lifted up” we need to look at the 2nd consideration.
2) What does Jesus mean by “know”:
Maybe Jesus doesn’t really mean “know”.
• Ginosko – “to grasp the significance or meaning of someth., understand, comprehend” – BDAG.
• It is a perception of things as they really are, “not an opinion about them” – TDNT.
• And in John’s Gospel, this knowledge is, “specifically about the relationship between the Father and the Son” – TDNT.
• In other words, “a knowledge of his unity with the Father (10:38), of his obedience and love as the one whom God has sent (14:31 etc.)” – TDNT.
So in our text Jesus’ words are not metaphorical or cryptic.
• He means exactly what it looks like He means – all will know His identity because of the Cross.
• Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If as a result of the Cross all will know, yet we see in Acts that most still did not know when confronted with the Cross, what is going on here?
• When will all know as Jesus and Paul tell us?
• How is it even possible for them to know Jesus?
• Can you actually have knowledge of Jesus’ identity on this level and not be saved?
The only answer that makes sense is that this must be a reference to coming to this knowledge after they die in their sins.
• “By this John is not saying that all of Jesus’ opponents will be converted in the wake of the cross. But if they do come to know who Jesus is, they will know it most surely because of the cross. And even those who do not believe stand at the last day condemned by him whom they ‘lifted up’ on the cross, blinded to the glory that shone around them, yet one day forced to kneel and confess that Jesus is Lord (cf. Phil. 2:10–11)” – D.A. Carson.
• So all mankind will come to this knowledge, but it will be a knowledge that comes from judgment and not from belief.
In other words, and especially in light of vs. 26, Jesus seems to be declaring that knowledge of Him for those who die in their sins is a form of judgment.
• “There is great irony in the fact that the Jews, by having Jesus crucified, are actually “lifting” Jesus up (Bultmann 1971: 350, followed by Witherington 1995: 176)…so “at the very moment when they think they are passing judgment on him, he becomes their judge” (Bultmann 1971: 350)” – Kostenberger.
All who reject Christ, who are “of this world”, will be confronted with the truth of Jesus’ testimony concerning Himself, His identity, via the Cross of Calvary.
• It is striking to me that the nature of Jesus’ identity will not be made known to them through His supernatural power – His healing powers, His miraculous signs, His virgin birth, His wisdom, etc.
• Condemnation comes because the God of the Cross was rejected.
• What a shock this will be!
• We often hear the unbeliever say that at judgment God will know something good in them, but in fact they will know something of Jesus.
• For the first time they will know Jesus as God because of the Cross…but it will be too late.
Lesson for Us:
• I pray that all of us have come to knowledge of Christ’s identity through belief and are “not of this world”.
• To know Jesus through judgment would have to be one of the worst things that a person could ever experience.