The Son Belongs to the Father

May 1, 2022

Gospel of John 8:31-59

31 Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” NET

First, the name Judeans. The Greek is Ioudaios which properly refers to the residents of the old Southern Kingdom centered on Jerusalem. But most English translations render it Jews. What is the difference?

Judea was the tribe that took the land around what became Jerusalem, and the people of the tribe were called Judeans. The later OT writings began to use the term, men of Judea (properly Yehuda). Second Kings 16:6 reads, At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this dayNIV But Dr. Orit Avnery of the Shalom Hartman Institute renders the underlined portion as, and drove the Jews from Eilat. This was the first Biblical use of what we would call a nickname. Over the centuries, the names, Judean and Jew, came to be interchangeable.

Just for the record, The Jewish Study Bible uses Judites, John Goldingay’s translation has Yehudahites, and Robert Alter’s translation reads, Judahites. I’m not sure what to make of all this.

The phrase, the truth will set you free, is widely quoted outside the Biblical setting, as well as in churches. But what is the Truth? The answer is, If you continue to follow my teaching. When the truth statement is used outside the church, it is nearly always misused. It has nothing to do with the Constitution, politics, economics, social norms, or anything else outside of Christianity.

The truth, that is, Truth, can only come from Jesus/God. To walk in the Truth is to watch Jesus’ every step and place our feet in his imprints. To trust my skills, talents, and knowledge is to play the fool. Of course, I use my skills, talents, and knowledge, but only after checking on what Jesus did with his. (I wish I did it every time.)

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” ESV

Notice how the listeners skipped right to the free statement. They are claiming they are free because Abraham is their father. We Hebrews are free, so why do we need to follow you?

We know the Jews were under Roman rule and had returned from bondage in Babylon a few centuries before, to say nothing of the centuries spent in Egypt. But they were not actual slaves in the first century. They had to pay taxes to Rome, but they did not work for Rome. Leviticus 25:39-42 clarifies that no Jew could place another Jew into slavery. With the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, tens of thousands of Jews did become Roman slaves, and most died without leaving descendants.

34 Jesus returned, “Believe me when I tell you that every man who commits sin is a slave. 35 For a slave is no permanent part of a household, but a son is. 36 If the Son, then, sets you free, you are really free! 37 I know that you are descended from Abraham, but some of you are looking for a way to kill me because you can’t bear my words. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the presence of my Father, and you are doing what you have seen in the presence of your father.” Phillips

Jesus turns his answer into a parable by explaining that everyone is a slave to sin, but the owner of the slaves can give them freedom. God is the owner of all who have sinned in that context, and God can release them from that bondage. The Greek philosophers had been teaching the dangers of sin for centuries. Socrates said, “How can you call a man free when his pleasures rule over him?

The first century manual that every church followed, called the Didache, left no room for sin. Here is part of chapter three. My child, flee from every king of evil and from everything that looks evil. 1. Do not get angry because anger leads to murder. 2. Do not be jealous, argumentative, or hot-tempered because all these things breed murders. 3. Do not be lustful because that leads to being sexually promiscuous. 4. Do not be foul-mouthed and do not let your eyes wander because these breed adultery. There are twelve commands for this list.

Often when Americans are accused of doing something wrong, or even illegal, they will say, ‘I am free to do what I want. You can’t force me to fill-in-the-blank.’ That argument has been common in the Covid-19 struggles. The users do not seem to realize that they are saying, ‘I am free to infect you if I want to.’

We all understand that alcoholics and drug addicts have difficulty giving up the addiction, but we are often unaware of our habits. Everyone knows murder is both illegal and not nice. But making comments about someone that tears that person down—a fellow worker or the US President—is equal to murder (Matthew 5:21-26). Flirting with a non-spouse can become a habit that can end in divorce. Wishing for new clothing, a bigger house, a new car, anything, can lead to envy and even theft. And so it goes. Did I mention gossip?

Jesus says again that his listeners hated his words because they accused them of violating God’s Word.

Verse 37 could be called rude, but Jesus needed to build both his message and a case against him; otherwise, he would not be sent to die, the most important reason for him to come to earth.

Jesus let his opponents know that he was on to them. Most who heard the statement would have wondered if he was crazy, imagining people were out to get him. Many people today find the words of Jesus too hard to accept, but at least they hear or read the words, unlike those who ignore Jesus.

I am telling you what I have seen in the presence of my Father. ‘In case you think I am crazy, God tells me and shows me what He wants you all to know about Him. I have come from Heaven to relay that message to you. On the other hand, you have learned the wrong way from your earthly fathers. You need to understand your True Father and the way He expects you to live.’ The only way we can do that is to listen to preachers and teachers, read the Bible, and study good Christians in action.

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way 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 works of your own father.” NIV

Some in the crowd, possibly those who plotted against Jesus, tried to force him to accept Abraham as the substitute for God.

Jesus refuses to bite. ‘If.’ Jesus makes clear he is saying they are not following Abraham; if they were, they would not be trying to kill him. Abraham knew God and would never kill the Son of God. ‘If you knew God, you would not be doing this.’

One of the problems we humans have is that we are sheep; we follow people who are called influencers. They are people in positions of power—political, economic, social, even entertainment. Today in America, many influencers post blogs telling us things we would like to think is true. We believe what they say without checking the facts or squaring it with what others say. Most importantly, we fail to check it against the Word of God.

Rev. Jim Jones, at one point, had a congregation of over 3,000 in San Francisco. He convinced about a thousand of them to follow him to Guyana, where, in 1978, he convinced more than 900 of them to drink Flavor Aid laced with cyanide.

From Influencer MarketingHub. Over the last decade, we have seen social media grow rapidly in importance. According to the January 2019 We Are Social report, 3.484 billion people actively use social media – that’s 45% of the world’s population. Inevitably these people look up to influencers in social media to guide them with their decision making. Influencers in social media are people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views.

Sports and entertainment stars top many lists of influencers. They rarely lead us to God. And what do they know about politics, the economy, etc.?

You can find lists of the top influencers in each category online.

Jesus should be our only influencer.

41 “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” NIV

This is just another claim to be children of Abraham, therefore, to be children of God. They assume that they are of Abraham; therefore, they need nothing else. By implication, they are suggesting that Jesus is not of Abraham.

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. ESV

The bottom line: it is not possible to be a child of God without loving the Son of Man. Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to earth as a human, as the Son of Man.

God the Father and God the Son sat in the shade of a tree (I imagine) and planed the universe where we could live. The whole purpose was to create a universe with a world for us. It took over 900 billion years to get to the creation of our solar system. Another billion years or so, and earth became safe enough for primitive life to survive. Three billion years later, God the Father and Son created humans in their image.

In that enormous and human-mind-boggling plan, God said to his Son, ‘Herod, to be called the Great, is the time I want you to be born a human so you can show people what we intended for them. You will lead them out of the darkness of sin and into the light of life with Us. Most will stay in the darkness, but you will bring enough into the light to begin the slow revolution of Faith.’

Amazingly, God’s patience with us goes beyond human understanding.

Jesus was frustrated to be talking to children of Abraham, chosen by God to bring the Light to the world, yet they rejected the Word of God. They decided to wander off, following their ideas and rejecting what they had learned of the Father. They believed the animal sacrifices removed their sins, so they did live ‘perfect’ lives. Too many ‘Christians’ make the same mistake by assuming church attendance or ten dollars in the plate is all that is needed to save them.

Jesus was not trying to win friends and influence people. He had a message from our Father in Heaven. He was here to give us God’s Truth, which is sometimes painful for us to hear.

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” ESV

In this section, Jesus lays it all out. It is not possible to believe a little of this and a little of that. Either we believe Jesus, or we believe the devil.

Jesus is not name-calling here. He knows the Father of Lies is at work in these people. I may think that someone is evil, but generally, I have no evidence to support the notion. I do not even know if he kicks his dog; I just do not like him. Jesus is different; he knows everything about the person.

Once I start believing lies, I slide away from God and into evil. The devil is sneaky, he leads us to believe a small, innocuous lie and then leads us to bigger and bigger ones until we can no longer tell the difference.

But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. What a terrible thing for Jesus to have to say to a crowd of Jews. ‘You believe the evil one, but you do not believe God. Prove that I am wrong.’

48 “How right we are,” retorted the Jews, “in calling you a Samaritan, and mad at that!” 49 “No,” replied Jesus, “I am not mad. I am honouring my Father and you are trying to dishonour me. 50 But I am not concerned with my own glory: there is one whose concern it is, and he is the true judge. 51 Believe me when I tell you that if anybody accepts my words, he will never see death at all.” Phillips

Jesus could have put a stop to this give and take at any time, but he needed to draw out the reality of the hatred toward him. He wanted people to understand why they believed what they did, just as he wants us to recognize our sins and repent of them. Making a confession of faith and being baptized is only the beginning; we must be on guard all day, every day, and be willing to admit when we are wrong in the eyes of God.

The example of Jesus is to refuse to be glorified by anyone but God the Father. We should expect not to seek any glory in our work for God. It is not that we must hide what we do, only that we downplay our role and glorify God for His work.

Many people deserve our help, but too often, we are more concerned that someone will take advantage of our generosity than we are about helping the needy. When a person ‘works the system,’ we are free to move on. Forget about helping those who do not need it. Assume they need it and give it freely. Let God sort it out.

52 “Now we know that you’re mad,” replied the Jews. “Why, Abraham died and the prophets, too, and yet you say, ‘If a man accepts my words, he will never experience death!’ 53 Are you greater than our father, Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets—who are you making yourself out to be?” 54 “If I were trying to glorify myself,” returned Jesus, “such glory would be worthless. But it is my Father who glorifies me, the very one whom you say is your God—55 though you have never known him. But I know him, and if I said I did not know him, I should be as much a liar as you are! But I do know him and I am faithful to what he says. 56 As for your father, Abraham, his great joy was that he would see my coming. Now he has seen it and he is overjoyed.” 57 “Look,” said the Jews to him, “you are not fifty yet, and has Abraham seen you?” 58 “I tell you in solemn truth,” returned Jesus, “before there was an Abraham, I AM!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to hurl at him, but Jesus disappeared and made his way out of the Temple. Phillips

Most of this is a rehash of earlier points.

We see Abraham rejoicing in Heaven that the Messiah has come to earth.

The response is that Abraham has been dead thousands of years; how could he see you?

Jesus pulls out the conversation stopper. I AM.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

The Light of the World

April 24, 2022

Gospel of John 7:53-8:30

53 So they broke up their meeting and went home, while Jesus went off to the Mount of Olives. 2-5 Early next morning he returned to the Temple and the entire crowd came to him. So he sat down and began to teach them. But the scribes and Pharisees brought in to him a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in front, and then said to him, “Now, master, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. According to the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women to death. Now, what do you say about her?” Phillips

Many modern English translations either skip 7:53-8:11 or put it in some type of footnote. As more ancient manuscripts are discovered, they show us many of the earlier ones do not include the passage. Some of the older manuscripts place the account after John 7:36, John 21:25, or even Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53. Today, most scholars believe someone added the story a century or more after John’s Gospel. That is why so many push it aside today.

Jerome, writing about 400 CE, gave us his thoughts. In the Gospel, according to John, there is found in many of both the Greek and as well as the Latin copies, the story of the adulteress who was accused before the LordACCS

Augustine, about the same time, wrote this. Some men of slight faith, or, rather, some hostile to true faith, fearing, as I believe, that liberty to sin with impunity is granted their wives, remove from their scriptural texts the account of our Lord’s pardon of the adulteress, as though he who said, “From now on, sin no more,” granted permission to sin, or as though the woman should not have been cured by the divine physician by the remission of that sin in order not to offend others who are equally unclearACCS

You can see from these two quotes that people questioned the story sixteen hundred years ago, but both men favored including it. We should know the problems connected to including and those for excluding it.

Jesus teaches us the same lesson about forgiveness throughout the Gospels, so taking it out would not change his message.

6-9a They said this to test him, so that they might have some good grounds for an accusation. But Jesus stooped down and began to write with his finger in the dust on the ground. But as they persisted in their questioning, he straightened himself up and said to them, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing with his finger on the ground. And when they heard what he said, they were convicted by their own consciences and went out, one by one, beginning with the eldest until they had all gone. Phillips

In The Daily Study Bible, William Barclay described several ideas about why Jesus wrote in the dust. We do not know if any of them are true, but I like this one. Caution: I am not supporting it as ‘gospel.’ By far the most interesting suggestion emerges from certain of the later manuscripts. The Armenian translation of the New Testament translates this passage this way: “He Himself, bowing His head, was writing with His finger on the earth to declare their sins; and they were seeing their several sins on the stones.”

Can you see the accusers’ faces if they could read their sins? It is not what John recorded, but it packs a serious message. How can I accuse someone of sin when my sins are as severe? That is the reason for this story. We must place ourselves in the woman’s position, but also the accuser’s place. I must admit to my sins first.

9b-10 Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing where they had put her. So he stood up and said to her, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?” 11 And she said, “No one, sir.” “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus to her. “Go home and do not sin again.” Phillips

Looking at every passage where Jesus deals with specific sins, he takes much the same attitude. He certainly did so with the Samaritan woman at the well. And notice that he always adds, ‘do not sin again.’ He is not saying, ‘never, ever sin again,’ but do your best to keep your sins to a minimum. Matthew 5: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He knew that men found women attractive even then, it is not a new problem. What he tells us is what women today say, keep it to yourself, look away and move on, treat me like an equal.

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ESV

We are nearly back to chapter one. John 1: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. How do we avoid the darkness? How does a man avoid the sin of lust? (Or women?) As quickly as the thought of sexual attraction pops into the brain, think of her/his equality and worth as a child of God. God made us to be attracted to each other, but he did not intend for us to abuse that attraction.

Before 1950 in the USA, people married for better or for worse, and when it got worse, they figured out how to get through it. Today, everyone expects the marriage to be fun and games, and they can bail out if it is not. Marriage is about equality. Both partners must work to carry half of the load and responsibility. One advantage in the first century was that men and women knew what society expected them to do, Even if they did not always do it.

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” NIV

If you read verses 12-13 together, you might wonder if the Pharisees even heard what Jesus said. Yes, he sounded as though he might be claiming to be God, but he could be bringing people to the light.

They did not bother to debate with him but launched an attack. Their statement comes from the solid Jewish legal position that no conviction could be made on account of only one witness. Neither could a defense be based on one witness. On the surface, the Pharisees seemed to be correct.

14-18 Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.” MSG

Eugene Peterson’s Message is a paraphrase, but here I think it gets at the meaning better than most.

As in other conflicts with the Pharisees—in all the Gospels—the Pharisees make a judgment from a distorted viewpoint. If I have decided that Jesus is just another crazy, then whatever he says is nonsense. If I am a modern atheist, then I see Jesus, at best, as a deluded man who deserved what he got.

But if I see or hear about what Jesus has done, especially if I witness some of it as did the Pharisees, I must make a choice. Is Jesus who he says he is or not? It is as simple as that. Thousands of people watched the signs recorded by John and listened to the words of Jesus, but only a small number of them believed him. How much harder is it for us today who can but read about it all? Do not forget that most first century people had help making their decisions to follow Jesus; today, we have people who have accepted the faith and have lived faithfully as a witness to Jesus. We see their lives as they walk in the light, and often, we can see Jesus in them—if we want to. It is still my decision to make.

Talking about judgments, Jesus said, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. MSG We mainly work from our narrowness. I grew up in a small farming community, but when I started my college education in history, I learned about the multitudes of people who were not like me. I also learned not to judge them for that difference. They acted out of their narrowness.

Jesus challenges us to act out of the largeness of the One who sent me. In fairness, the literal Greek reads: I do not judge no one, even if judge. But I, judgment My true is, because alone not I am, but I and He sending Me, Father. So, yes, Peterson takes some liberties.

16Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent meESV Peterson reads the Father as the largeness.

Jesus then says that he can witness to himself, and God can be his second witness. The problem with this is that the Pharisees do not listen to God. They are too busy counting the ways of their perfection instead of counting the perfections of God. But Jesus knows that. His statement is a jab at their weakness.

19 “And where is this father of yours?” they replied. “You do not know my Father,” returned Jesus, “any more than you know me: if you had known me, you would have known him.” Phillips

They know his father was Joseph, now dead, so ‘what father have you created?’ Jesus, as always, knows what they are thinking and answers their asked question correctly, ‘you do not seem to know my real Father.’ He goes on to tell them they do not know God. That should have stirred them up, but they did not understand the put-down. They likely thought he was, in his crazed mind, making up a father on earth.

That last statement—if you had known me, you would have known him—is Gospel 101. Jesus is God as a human; to see Jesus is to see God. As the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of smoke by day was the witness to God; as Moses carried the tablets from the mountain as a witness to God; we could make a longer list, but you get the point. If you want to see God, look at Jesus.

20 (Jesus spoke these words near the offering box while he was teaching in the temple courts. No one seized him because his time had not yet come.) NET

There were thirteen offering ‘trumpets,’ as the boxes were called, and they were in the Court of the Women. John was there during this exchange, and this is another indication to help us realize that John knows what he is talking about.

21 Later, Jesus spoke to them again and said, “I am going away and you will try to find me, but you will die in your sins. You cannot come where I am going.” Phillips

‘Later’ probably refers to the incident near the trumpets, indicating that some amount of time elapsed. I think the Message clears up the meaning of the rest of the sentence. “I’m leaving and you are going to look for me, but you’re missing God in this and are headed for a dead end. There is no way you can come with me.” MSG If we cannot see God in Jesus, we cannot follow Jesus. If I walk in darkness, I cannot see Jesus, so I make wrong turns. I must stay in the light to follow the Son of God.

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” NIV

They could think of no other place Jesus could go that they could not find him. We should understand that John used the noun, ‘Jews,’ to describe numerous combinations of people. Here, Jesus is speaking of the Pharisees and Temple leaders. Other times he is speaking of a crowd at a specific incident. Only occasionally does he mean all of Judea and Galilee.

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?” ESV

‘I am not of this world’ can create confusion in our minds. Does Jesus mean that he is not at all human, that he is really like a hologram? By the time John wrote, many Christians had decided that Jesus was not human. They had several ideas about how that happened. They did accept that God was real and that He could create such an illusion.

John could have left that line out, but he wants a clear record of Jesus, the one and only perfect human. We still have some trouble wrapping our minds around the God/human concept, so we should appreciate the efforts of the early Christians to understand the reality that is Jesus.

For verse 25, I think the Message nails it again. I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives.” MSG

The underlying message is that those who believe Jesus is the Son of God will die but not in sin. Living in the Son of God gives us the free pass we do not deserve. While we live in this world, we will sin and be subject to the consequences of sin—earthquakes, wars, famines, killing diseases, fighting, hurtful comments, even deadly asteroid strikes. Once we leave this world, after death, we will live in the perfect universe that God created for us. Nothing terrible will happen to us. We will always feel joy. We will understand everyone, even animals. There will be no fear or concern.

The ‘Jews’ ask, ‘who are you?’ They did not understand what Jesus said. They thought they were dealing with the son of Joseph, so all the talk about being from above and leaving them in sin was confusing. Their question is the same one his disciples asked from time to time and the same one we consider. The human Jesus did not come to live on earth due to two people using their DNA to create a new human. God made the human Jesus in Heaven with a perfect DNA sequence that earthly sin could not hack. God placed that perfect embryo in the womb of Mary, where he grew as we humans do until he experienced the birth that we all experience. He then lived as a perfect human for thirty-plus years until sin finally killed him.

What’s not to understand?

25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” NIV

If we read every encounter with the religious leaders in all four Gospels, we will see that Jesus never lied to them. But, as here, he avoided the most direct statements; ‘I am God,’ ‘I am the Messiah.’ Once we believe him to be the Promised One, we can see what he is saying—he is the Son of God, God’s long-promised Messiah.

Yes, while living among us, part of his duty was to pass judgment. He even had to criticize the Apostles occasionally. But God wants our final judge to be his Son who walked with humans and can more easily say, ‘you have followed me, we will forget your sins; enter.’

27 (They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.) 28 Then Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do those things that please him.” 30 While he was saying these things, many people believed in him. NET

The Greek word translated here as lift is hoopsoo, meaning to elevate, to exalt, to lift up. Because Jesus is still speaking to the Jewish leaders, we should take the word as a look forward to Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus says that one last touch of evil against him will be the final proof for believers of his Son of Man/Son of God presence in the world.

We can only imagine the direct link Jesus had with God. I imagine it being like one of the giant server farms for Google that hold trillions of terabytes of information downloaded to my laptop when I need to know some bit of trivia. Because Jesus had to operate with a human brain, he could not know everything God knew. As a result, Jesus listened to God and did what God asked him to do.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence