Tuesday, February 16, 2016
"I Am True" Sermon: John 8:12-20
“I Am True”
February 7, 2016 Second Reformed Church
After Jesus foiled the plot of the scribes and Pharisees to condemn Him by His answer about what to do with the woman caught in adultery, He went back to teaching in the Temple.
The scribes and Pharisees had not gone far away – they were in the Temple, as well, as they were want to be.
And Jesus began to speak by saying, “I am.”
We remember that God identified Himself as “I am” when Moses asked Him for a name to give to the people of Israel when he called them out of slavery in Egypt:
“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13-14, ESV).
In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus announce Himself as “I am this and that” numerous times. We need to remember as He does this, He is self-consciously and not subtly, poking the Scriptural memory of those who heard Him – as He said, “I am,” they would instinctively hear the Name of God – that most holy and personal Name of God given by God to Moses – and hear Jesus say that He is the God of Moses. In these texts, as we hear Jesus said, “I am this and that,” we also rightly hear Jesus say, “I am God, the – this and that.” And that would have been supremely offensive to those who did not believe in Jesus savingly – it is one of the reasons that Jesus was condemned for blasphemy before His crucifixion – He claimed to be God.
There are those who say that Jesus never said He was God – that Jesus being divinity was a later invention of Christianity. The truth is that Jesus never directly used the words, “I am God,” in the Scripture, but in many and various ways, what He said can only be understood as Him saying that He is God.
So, as we hear Jesus make these proclamations, let us hear them with the ears of the first century Jews. Let us come to attention when He says words which can only be rightly interpreted as Jesus saying that He is God, the One God of Israel.
Here, we see Jesus says that He is God, the Light of the world.
First, Jesus is the Light of the world.
“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.’”
Here, it is not merely the use of the “I am” name that would have drawn the attention of His listeners, but His saying that He is the Light of the world, because the Word of God says that God is the Light of the world:
“For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness” (Psalm 18:28, ESV).
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, ESV).
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, ESV).
And we remember from the beginning of our look at the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 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” (John 1:1-5, ESV).
God is the Light.
Jesus is the Light.
The Light overcomes the darkness.
God and Jesus are the same God Who overcomes the darkness.
If we turn on a light, the darkness flees.
If we turn on a light, the words on a page can be read.
Jesus, God the Son, illumines our spiritual lives and shows us the Way to be made right with God. In fact, the Light causes our blind eyes to see the Light, because He is God, our Creator.
What else does Jesus tell us in these opening words?
If Jesus is the Light of the world, then the world is in darkness without Him. The world is sin-bound and blind to its need without Jesus, which is why no one seeks salvation in Jesus on his own – without being enlightened and illumined by God. If you are blind and in darkness and that is all you have ever known, and it seems right, and that is how everyone else is – as far as you know, then you would have no reason to think that there is a light or that it would be possible to see.
And so Jesus told them that it is only by following Him with a true heart belief in Him being God the Savior that they will leave the darkness of the world, be illumined and able to see – and this is not a temporary thing or something that can be lost. If anyone has believed savingly in Jesus, that person sees and will always see – having the Light within Him forever.
Jesus began with the testimony that He is God the Light. All the world without Him is blind and in darkness. All those who savingly follow Him have their sight restored and can see and have the Light dwelling in them forever, since it is a work of God and not a work of man.
Jesus is the Light of the world.
Second, Jesus and the Father testify to His being the Light.
“So the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.’”
The Pharisees challenged what Jesus was saying – arguing from the Law that they were under no obligation to believe the testimony of one person. If there is only one person testifying, the assumption was that it was a lie and not the truth.
We remember we have seen in the Law: “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15, ESV).
Technically, the Pharisees were right. But they were not interested in the truth, they were interested in stopping Jesus by any means necessary, so they dismissed what He was saying out of hand based on the Law which said that the truth of a matter is established by two or three witnesses – not one.
Then Jesus gave them three reasons why, even though the Law is true, they were wrong:
First, Jesus told them that they were wrong not to believe Him because He knew where He came from and where He is going, but they did not know where He came from or where He was going.
What did Jesus mean?
Jesus meant that, being God, He knew that He had existed from all of eternity past – beyond the existence of time – that He had always been in perfect communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit – that before anything existed, God chose to create and to save a people for Himself out of His creation by the Son taking on a real human person, living a perfect life under God’s Law, dying for the sins of all those who would ever believe, physically rising from the dead, and ascending back to His throne at the Right Hand of the Father where He reigns, sovereignly bringing all of history to the end of judgment and restoration, just as He had always planned.
They, on the other hand, could not explain Jesus and where He came from, nor did they know His mission and where it would lead Him.
Jesus has the Mind of God; they were sin-blinded humans.
Second, Jesus told them that they were wrong not to believe in Him because He did not come to judge, but they judge, and they judged according to the flesh – which is fallible.
As we saw earlier in the book of John: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, ESV).
Jesus did not come in His First Advent to judge the world for its sin, but to make the Way for salvation for all those who would believe savingly in Him. (When Jesus returns, then He will judge the world, as He has promised.)
The judgement of the Pharisees, even when it was based on the Law, was wrong at times; they made mistakes and sinned against the Law themselves.
Also, if Jesus did judge during His First Advent, His judgement would be true, because His judgement is not His judgement alone, but the judgment of God the Father, as well.
As we saw earlier in John:
Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30, ESV).
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38, ESV).
Although Jesus did not come to judge in His First Advent, if He did judge, His judgement would be true because it would be the judgment of God the Father.
And third, Jesus said they were wrong not to believe Him because God the Father testified to Him.
We saw this at Jesus’ baptism:
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).
And even more explicitly, every word of Scripture – every word of the Word of God points to Jesus, as we are told Jesus explained:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).
The very Word of God that the Pharisees we expert handlers of speaks to Jesus truly being God the Son and Savior, and God, Himself, verbally declared that Jesus is His Son.
Finally, we see that no one can know the Father until and unless he knows the Son.
“They said to him therefore, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”
The Pharisees knew that Jesus’ earthly father was Joseph of Nazareth, the carpenter, and they asked Him, in response to what He said, “Oh, your father testifies for you. Yeah, that will hold up in court. Where is your father? Let’s see what he has to say about you.”
They didn’t get it because they were still blind in their sin. They had not been illumined by God. They did not recognize Jesus as the Light. They did not believe that He is God the Son and Savior.
And Jesus put it to them plainly: “If you don’t know Me, you can’t know my Father. If you knew Me, you would know my Father.”
Jesus said, “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:37-40, ESV).
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6, ESV).
“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9, ESV).
Jesus and the Father are the same One God. If you don’t believe that Jesus is God, you do not know God at all – what you call “god” is not the real God.
This very truth is being debated across Christian academic lines right now: a professor at Wheaton College – a “Christian” college – stated in class that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. This caused an uproar that has spread throughout academia and into popular Christian debate: do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? For that matter, do Jews and Christians worship the same God?
Jews and Christians both claim to believe the Old Testament. Muslims and Christians both claim to believe the Old Testament and the New Testament. Christianity “grew out” of Judaism, and Islam “grew out” of Christianity and Judaism – at least in some sense. Do we not all worship the same God?
Judaism denies that Jesus is God the Son.
Islam denies that Jesus is God the Son.
If a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim get together, it is not possible for them to pray together to the same God, because they don’t believe in the same God, because Jesus is God, and Jesus said if you don’t believe that He is God, you don’t believe in God the Father, either.
There a “good” Jews and “good” Christians and “good” Muslims, and we can work together in many ways for the good of each other and our world, but do not be deceived – we do not worship the same God.
Only Christians who truly, savingly believe in Jesus as God the Son and Savior believe in the One, True, Almighty, and Living God. Everyone else is blinded by sin, they haven’t seen the Light, they are still in need of hearing the Gospel proclaimed to them clearly, and they are still worshipping a false god.
Our hearts should break and ache for all those who engage in worship and do not understand that they are worshipping an idol – a false god. We ought to love those people and do all we can to tell them about Jesus and Who He is and what He did to make the Way of salvation for all those who will believe. We ought to be praying for those people – that God would have mercy upon them – and that when they hear the Gospel preached, their blind eyes would open, and they would see the Light, and they would come to believe in Jesus as God the Son and Savior.
Will you and I pray for Jews and Muslims?
Will we tell our Jewish and Muslim friends the Gospel?
Do we believe that Jesus is the Light of the world who opens the eyes of the blind?
Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You for sending Him for us and our salvation. We thank You that You are both the same One God, as is God the Holy Spirit, Who lives in each one of us who believes. Give us confidence and boldness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in Your Power to bring people to salvation. Use us and what we say to be the means that many will come to faith in Your Son and the salvation He has accomplished. And may those who think they are one with us who are not come to understand the Truth about God and Who You are, for it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.