Introductory Comments: I want to start off by saying how glad I am to be here. It has been a long few weeks! Even before the vote happened we felt like God was leading us to help rebuild this church and turn it into a church that is impacting the area here. We felt that confirmed through the vote but also just in the quick connection we made with many of you. So it was hard being away. All we had to do was sell our house and get here, but nothing is ever easy, and it was an eventful week leading up to closing on the house. We went from two states and two houses into one house and one state, and couldn’t be more thrilled and full of faith for being here.
Intro Series: We are beginning to celebrate Christmas and as we do this we are taking a few weeks to look at texts where Jesus specifically says why he came. This is so we see from his own words why he came into the world. This will remind what we have to celebrate during the christmas season.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
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'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father." 39 They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father--even God." 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. 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 has nothing to do with 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." 48 The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" 49 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." 52 The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.' 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?" 54 Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." 57 So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" 58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
This may seem an unusual passage to study for Christmas. This text would not have been my first choice to teach at Christmas, but after deciding to do a series on the statements of Jesus saying why he came, it had to be included. It is a basic statement of his purpose and it is stated in a stark situation.
We often think of Christmas as a time of looking at a baby in a manger, angels singing, and gifts being poured out. But this is a passage of Jesus rebuking people who seeking to kill him. There is intensity and animosity, even hatred. In this something very clear about Jesus is revealed. It’s taught other places but here it’s clear Jesus did not come for his own comfort. Rather he came to save people, draw them out of the clutches of evil. It’s not a task that any of us would choose or want to do. And in this we see a distinctive about Jesus, he did not come to do his own will, but the will of the father. The greatness of who he is and what he did is highlighted in comparison to what others are doing. This should lead to adoring and emulating him. Let’s look at the contrast:
Jesus is always gracious and welcoming to those who receive him, but to those that reject him he is harsh. He sternly opposes them and their false ideas and compromising profession of faith.
These Jew’s had believed in Jesus but his word did not take root in their hearts. They are reminiscent of those in the parable of the sower who were seed that fell along the rocky soil and had no root. When the sun came up it withered. Jesus tells these that true disciples hear their master’s words and keep it. They abide in it. They dwell in it and do not go elsewhere.
Their rejection stems from the assertion that are not free. They are emphatic in their denial of slavery and this issue ignited the debate. They say of slavery that, “To no one, ever...” This is highly ironic because they have been enslaved to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and finally, Rome. Unbelief is always irrational. It causes you to deny some of the most plain truths. It’s like me saying I have never lived in Georgia… except that time from birth to highschool. It is surprising that people can be so excited at the hope the Christian faith brings and yet so resolved in their opposition to believe the problem that necessitates a Savior.
Notice also their actions and the way they come at Jesus. They seek to kill (8:40), verbal attack "not born of sexual immorality (8:41), they call him a Samaritan and say he has a demon (8:48), they then attempt to stone him (8:59).
Jesus confronts them on two major points. 1) their religious perspective on slavery and 2) their reliance on descent from Abraham. 8:34–40. This gets at the core of their problem and the problem with us today, and sets the contrast for why Jesus came.
First, their slavery is not to a national power but to an internal power. It is their own sin.
Jesus tells them the truth will set them free. This is a famous verse quoted on the buildings of some of the greatest universities. The truth will set you free and you will be free indeed. The truth here is not to some kind of academic or philosophical knowledge, but a relationship to a person. V34 Jesus speaks of committing sin. He is not concerned with political power but freeing people from the internal power of sin. We are not freed by education but by a personal relationship with God. People are bound by sin and that is what they need to overcome. Jesus shows those who live in sin are bound and enslaved by it. these profess to know God and yet they are about to kill a man. They don’t even show evidence of the most basic rudiments of believing (john 8:45). They are slaves to disobedience.
He also shows they have no connection with Abraham. The people boast of their descent from this patriarch. But though they share a physical descent they are not walking in his ways. They are ready to stone a man by mob violence! They don’t look anything like this hero of faith. They are not following what Abraham did. When Abraham was confronted with the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah he prayed, he interceded that God not destroy it. Here they are on the offensive. There is no intercession. They look more like Satan who has been brings death. It’s not unlike many today who profess to follow Jesus and yet their lifestyle looks nothing like his.
App: Appealing to a family line or verbal admonitions are not what God requires. We are to have a relationship with him. We are to abide in him and by his word. These have rejected such relationship and are looking for lesser things to take place of greater things. There is no evidence of God’s rule in their life.
The problem of sin is not just when we want to murder people. We saw the problem in Adam when he ate of the tree. We saw it in Moses when he got angry, we saw it in David when he counted his men, we saw it in the disciples when they failed to trust Jesus, we saw it in Peter when he refused to associate with Greek people. John Newton, the great Christian Hymn writer was a slave trader without a conscience. When Jesus errupted into his life he would have a dramatic change and the words “I once was blind but now I see, was lost but now I am found.”
I knew this bondage so well. I was bound by what others thought of me. Enslaved by fear of other people. It hemmed me in, haunted me. Kept me from doing things I wanted to do. Made me do things I didn’t want to do… People enslaved to sin because there is nothing that can set them free, nothing more powerful than sin, nothing that can overcome it.
These people show no concern for God, they reject his word, and are about to kill a man, not just any man though but the Savior of the world. They look more like Satan than people of faith.
This brings us to take a closer look at...
Jesus stands out like a full moon on a dark night (better metaphor?). They are lying and conniving and yet he is confident and committed. He says why he came, and it is the reason for the difference in his actions and their actions. He came not to do his own thing but in obedience to the Father’s Will. οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀπ᾽ ἐμαυτοῦ ἐλήλυθα, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν. He is emphatic that it is not of his own will. The source of his coming is the Father sending.
He is sent from God. His coming was not his own act but was a mission from God. There is an assertion here of the oneness of nature and will with the Father and yet the distinction of persons is maintained. He is come from God, but he proceeded from the divine essence. He proceeded forth and yet he was sent.
He did not come of his own will. His coming was and is the result of what his father asked him to do. The Jews in this passage showed absolutely no concern for the Father’s will. Everything Jesus did was in accordance with the Father’s will. He says why he came and they attack him. That is a great contrast!
Consider this. These people are resisting him and trying to destroy him. Trying to destroy the Savior of the world. How foolish is that. How do you think that will end. Like me picking a fight with JJ Watt, Mike Tyson, The Rock. Who would you bet on?!
Jesus is the one through whom all things came and he is the one who with a word could destroy these people, and yet he is arguing with them, seeking to persuade them, seeking to change them and draw them back! If I were God I would not do this. Even in his harsh rebuke the love of God is seen. Its seems an attempt to draw them to himself. God is patient and kind. And good thing. I would assume many of you were at a place of opposing God when he drew you to himself. There is amazing grace here!
Jesus stands in contrast to these Jews. In fact he stand in contrast to all other humans ever born. They were consumed with getting their own way and showed no regard for doing God’s will. Jesus is different. This difference is why he had to come.
People were in bondage to sin. They were under judgment for their evil. Led away from following God. If this was their state then how could they rescue another or be rescued. A prisoner can’t rescue another prisoner-they need someone from the outside. A guilty man (One under judgment) can remove judgment from another condemned man- the verdict must come from above. A person in error cannot reveal the truth. A slave can’t set free another slave-- it must come from one with freedom. People could not save themselves, for they all shared the same problem. If they were to be set free it would take one who is human but altogether different. Jesus was that person. We see it here. We see it at Christmas in his birth. He was born of a virgin--fully God and fully man. Only in this way could he give God the obedience required and set people free. He was obedient, he was free, he was the truth, he was innocent, he was and is all the things that we are not. His commitment to the FAther is the reason he can set us free. He was obedient and blameless, therefore he is able to die for sinners. He can set them free, he can lead them in truth, he can advocate for them before the Father.
It is so good to see his commitment to come and do the Father’s will. Every time we are hurt by another or see the failings of others or even ourselves it is a reminded of why we need Jesus.
He obeys the Father’s will. He shows a knowledge of the Father that no one else had. He shows a commitment to the Father’s will. Jesus was a righteous man. Isaiah 53:9 foretold this, “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” He is committed to the Father’s glory, and resolved that his glory is connected to glorifying the Father. “Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.” (Joh 8:50 ESV).
Even in the midst of pressure Jesus does the Father’s will. The night before his betrayal he prays in Garden not my will but your will be done. He prayed so intensely blood vessels in his face burst causing his sweat to be like drops of blood. He had his own will and preferences but ultimately submitted to the Father. Hebrews 12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Heb 12:4 ESV)
I was particularly reminded of this over the election. The political ads were a constant reminder of how feeble, frail, and fraudulent people, even our best people are. Seeing ads would make you wonder if there is anything good in the world, if there is anything pure and right, anything worth living for. Jesus gives an emphatic yes to that. 8:46 Jesus challenges the crowd, “Who of you convicts me of sin?” He knows his record and challenges them to convict him. They couldn’t do it. This crowd would have to lie to arrest him. What this means is that with Jesus there are no deleted emails, no hidden audio tapes, and no false promises. He is the perfect man, and that is why he had to come. He was committed to doing the Father’s will, something no human has ever been able to do. He is the Father’s Son!
Sometimes Christmas is a reminder why we need Jesus. Everybody’s family has some kind of issue. There are arguments, differences, working through past mistakes or working through present mistakes. Regret for things you have done or things others have done. Makes you sad your family isn’t better. We do well to remember only Jesus got everything right. We need to step back and admire him for his work.
It is this truth that sets the captives free :
The truth which Christ teaches tends to make men free, Isa. 61:1. Justification makes us free from the guilt of sin, by which we were bound over to the judgment of God, and bound under amazing fears; sanctification makes us free from the bondage of corruption, by which we were restrained from that service which is perfect freedom, and constrained to that which is perfect slavery. Gospel truth frees us from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and the more grievous burdens of the traditions of the elders. It makes us free from our spiritual enemies, free in the service of God, free to the privileges of sons, and free of the Jerusalem which is from above, which is free.
Secondly, The knowing, entertaining, and believing, of this truth does actually make us free, free from prejudices, mistakes, and false notions, than which nothing more enslaves and entangles the soul, free from the dominion of lust and passion; and restores the soul to the government of itself, by reducing it into obedience to its Creator. The mind, by admitting the truth of Christ in the light and power, is vastly enlarged, and has scope and compass given it, is greatly elevated and raised above things of sense, and never acts with so true a liberty as when it acts under a divine command, 2 Co. 3:17. The enemies of Christianity pretend to free thinking, whereas really those are the freest reasonings that are guided by faith, and those are men of free thought whose thoughts are captivated and brought into obedience to Christ.
There is also a hint here of Jesus vindication. He seeks the Father’s glory. He knows the Father is the judge and will vindicate him. He seeks the Father’s glory and trusts that the Father to judge accordingly (8:50).
Ill: Like kids playing, doing wrong, but one sees his father looking on. That kid is confident that while he may suffer, while he may be wronged, while he may not get right then what he wants, the father sees all and will reward accordingly.
Jesus will is to do the Father’s will, and he trusts the Father for his vindication, and that is exactly what happens at his death. Jesus is crucified unjustly, and yet the Father judges rightly, and raises him from the dead and brings him into his eternal glory.
How do we respond to what Christ says and does in this passage? We must believe and follow him.
So many people today want to do what they want to do. I was on a plane this past week and the girl next to me was reading a book on existentialism. It’s the philosophy that basically says “Be whatever you want to be. There is nothing that you need to conform to but your own desire.” Needless to say it is everywhere today, and it puts your own desires above anyone else’s. It’s hard to have a good, or even any, moral ethic with this philosophy. No reason to care how your actions affect others. The people in this passage only cared about what they want. They desire to kill a man and don’t care what it takes to make it happen! When people do whatever they want it is problematic for those around them. But more importantly it is a rejection of God.
Will you align yourself with your own desires and thoughts, or will you seek to honor your Father’s will?
When we align ourselves with something there is always a deeper spiritual element. The truth that Jesus brings is found in his word, and we must conform to it. We must desire it. Jesus will have none for his disciples except those who continue in his word. Excuses abound for why we don’t, but God sees our excuses for what they are, just as silly as the people’s excuse here. You have a choice today and everyday of who you are going to line yourself with, whose law are you going to follow (yours or God).
There is also a promise (v51), that those who follow Christ will never see death. When we abide in Christ we abide in what and in who is eternal. Abiding in him will never end. Our decision to trust or follow other things are often because we think another way is better or will deliver. Jesus reminds us that he is the true and only way, because only he offers what is eternal. His way never ends. Every other way and every other philosophy you may trust in will ultimately end one day. It will no longer sustain you. Jesus came to do the father’s will, and he opens up an everlasting means for us to do the same thing, to live in the Father’s presence. We are to serve him.
But this passage is not just here to show us what we should and should not do. I think it is meant to utterly destroy us so we see what we cannot do. That leads us to celebrate what only he could do. We might too quickly align ourselves with Jesus, and think we are like Jesus and everyone else like the Jew’s. We actually have more in common with the Jew’s than Jesus. And that leads us to adore him. It leads us to worship him. It leads to emulating him. And that is the reason for Christmas. Like the great song says, “Come let us adore him.” Come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant. He came to do the Father’s will, and he has done it. Now our glory is connected to his glory, and we have every reason to hope, to rejoice, to sing.