John 8:12-59 contains some of the best known lines in John but they aren’t said to a loving, accepting mob of fervent believers. They are spoken to a mostly obnoxious and rebellious group in Jerusalem. In 8:12 Jesus says he is the light of the world. One of the great “I am” statements and one of the better known verses in John. The response? The Pharisees challenge his words and question his acting as his own witness to the truth of his comments. In 8:31-32 we have the famous line, “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The response? We have never been slaves to anyone! Most of them just aren’t getting it and Jesus is about to lay into them for it.
In John 8 Jesus is finally getting testy. For instance, in John 5:31-47 Jesus answers their apparent questions regarding his authority by appealing to multiple witnesses. According to the Law there had to be 2-3 witnesses for testimony to be considered valid (See Deut 19:15). If Jesus is the only one speaking for himself it doesn’t hold up in court. In John 5 Jesus freely admits that his testimony concerning himself cannot be considered valid (5:31) but that he has more witnesses who have testified concerning who he is: John the Baptist (5:33), Jesus’ miracles (5:36), God (5:37), the scriptures (5:39), and Moses (5:36). But now in John 8 Jesus says that he has two witnesses that make his case valid: himself and God. That seems to contradict his point in John 5. It seems to me that the first time around Jesus was willing to work with them to prove his point. He was patient and willing to lay out his case. But by John 8 he is ready for them to get it. By this point his testimony and words should speak for themselves and be heard as valid. If God himself spoke to them would God need 2-3 witnesses to confirm it as true? No. And neither does Jesus (the point he is making in John 8 – sent by God, obedient to God, etc). No more time to go back to the basics and lay out his case again. They should get it by now! His message should be producing its intended effect – faith.
Jesus doesn’t hold back in John 8. He says they are “from below” and “of this world” in 8:23, that they would die in their sins if they don’t believe in Jesus (8:24), that they are children of the devil for not loving and believing in him (8:44), and that they do not belong to God (8:47). None of these were popular expressions in their day! The crowd started eyeing the stones around them to see who would get dibs on the big pointy ones. Don’t you wonder why the Romans didn’t try to do a better job of keeping the temple area free from stoning usable stones?
What is crazy to me in the whole matter is by their actions they confirm exactly what Jesus said was in their heart. Jesus said they follow their father the devil who was a murderer and deceiver. They reject the claim and then try to stone Jesus for exposing the deceit that was in their hearts! In 8:12 Jesus told us he was the light of the world and starting with the woman caught in adultery, then her accusers, and last this crowd by the temple Jesus thoroughly exposes either life and light or death and darkness in the lives of those around him.
How do we respond when the truth about our lives is fully revealed? Do we embrace it or do we kick, scream and fight against it? Most of the crowd in John 8 were determined to hold Jesus at arms length and to reject him no matter how futile their efforts to prove him wrong were. You see it in the way they jumped from one thing to another. We are children of Abraham, no…children of God. Under Rome but not slaves to anyone…yadda, yadda, yadda. They tried to discredit him rather than listen to him – Aren’t you are a Samaritan and demon possessed (8:48)? As if they expected him to say, “Why yes I am.”?
The ultimate exposure of their hearts was seen in what their hearts told their hands to do – pick up rocks to keep from having to undergo the paradigm shift of Jesus as Lord. Do you ever guard your heart so tightly that you keep God out and make it impossible for him to effect any possible change to your thinking, actions, and attitudes? Or are you willing to embrace the truth even if it dings our pride, forces us to admit we were wrong, and humbles us to the point of total surrender? Hopefully it doesn’t take Jesus getting testy with us before we finally put our faith in him but if that’s what it takes he is certainly willing to bring it.