Audio Only (with the Old Testament Scripture Reading)
He Dropped the Mic… and Left
If you have ever read a book or watched a movie that slowly builds suspense to the last culminating scene—then you have an idea of what we’re looking at in this morning’s passage. This is the last, final scene of Jesus’s conversation with the Jews at this feast of tabernacles—and folks, it’s meant to be seen as an intense moment. We’ve seen Jesus interact with these same Jews at this same for two entire chapters, here in John 7 and 8—and the suspense has only been growing. As we have neared the end of chapter 8, as we saw last week, Jesus isn’t simply claiming to be God’s fulfillment to this Jewish feast. He’s condemning his Jewish audience. He has called these Jews slaves to sin, and children of the devil, and he’s said that he himself is their only hope to be freed from sin and the devil. “If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed”, verse 36. He’s claiming to be the only answer to their slavery to sin and to the devil. So, they hate Jesus for it. “You can’t bear to hear my words”, Jesus says in verse 43. They can’t stand to even hear him speak. They’re at a point to do anything necessary to shut him up.
Have you ever been there when someone is speaking a hard truth? It’s hard to hear you’re wrong. It’s embarrassing. It makes you squirm, it makes you want to sink into your chair and disappear—or, at the worst, lash out and shut the person’s mouth to restrain the embarrassment. Although again, Jesus isn’t just exposing a little, diddly, embarrassing fact. He’s telling them they are in sin, in cahoots with the devil, and under God’s judgment. So, this is self-preservation, here—it’s not simply saving face from a little embarrassment. If someone exposes something about you that would literally destroy your life—you’d lose your family, your job, your house, everything—you’re not worried about your momentary reputation at that point. In that situation, we’re talking about self- protection, self-preservation. “You’re children of the devil.” The drama and suspense is building.
So, what does Jesus do next? What does he do in our passage, at this tipping point of the story? He gives us two “truly, truly” statements back-to-back—and, they’re both jaw-dropping. Verse 51, “ 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Let that one sink in. “Believe and keep my words, and you’ll never die”—that’s a bold statement. Then, verse 58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Any Jew would have very clearly understood his claim to be God, there in that statement.
This is his mic-drop moment, folks. He holds out the microphone, drops it, and he leaves the temple as we see in verse 59. He declares that he’s the great I AM, and then he leaves the temple. So, all the suspense is resolved with a stunning statement, and an unexplainable departure. End of story. He gets the last word, and he departs from the temple on his own terms. Have you ever known someone to escape from an angry mob? It doesn’t happen. Here, it does.
Encouragement Amidst Criticism: Jesus’s Promise, Patience, and Person
As we walk through the story, this morning, believe it or not, there’s a lot to be encouraged by. This isn’t all fierce judgment and suspense, folks. Even as he’s criticized and the tension builds, he’s offering gracious words of hope. It’s really something to ponder. So we’re going to see Jesus from three different angles, this morning. We’ll see Jesus’s promise, Jesus’s patience, and Jesus’s person—even as he’s declaring these things amidst serious criticisms and tensions.
He’s Criticized, and Promises Life (verses 48–51)
So, first, he offers promises to his critical opponents—even promises for life rather than death. Look again at verses 48–51 with me.
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.”
So, there’s his first “truly truly” statement, and he’s offering them a way out of death. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus is relentless with his promises, folks. He’s being viciously maligned. He’s being dishonored and falsely accused, and he doesn’t retaliate. He reacts with a promise. “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death”. That’s Jesus, folks.
If he dealt with each of us as we deserve, his word would be a constant, unceasing word of condemnation and judgment. We’ve all sinned, just as these Jews have. Yet here, we see that even as they are falsely accusing and misunderstanding Jesus, he holds out a promise to them. “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death”.
Before we look directly at that promise, think about the criticism Jesus is being faced with, here. Think about how patient and merciful our Lord is with his promises. They accuse him of two different accusations. First, they accuse him of being a Samaritan (in verse 48).
Criticism: He’s a Samaritan!
What’s the big deal of being a Samaritan? What’s wrong with that? We’ve talked about this before in the past, if you can recall back to our study of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. When Jesus spoke with that Samaritan woman, the cultural hostilities were incredibly obvious even in the way the woman interacted with Jesus, there in John 4. Jesus was on his way up to Galilee from Jerusalem, and he had to pass through Samaria to get there. It’s a long journey, so he stops at a well in Samaria to get some water. Then, he had the audacity to ask a Samaritan woman for water. “Give me a drink”, he says. Do you remember the woman’s response? “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Then John actually provides his own little commentary on that remark “for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”. Some prefer to translate that word to even say “Jews have no common utensils, no common wells, no common water vessels to drink out of—no dealings at all with Samaritans”. This is Jim Crow stuff—you use that water fountain; we use the other one, lest you contaminate us with your dirtiness and sub-humanness. Samaritans, in the eyes of the Jews, were lesser humans. If you dig into Israel’s history and culture at the time, you’d discover that the Jews considered Samaritans to be Jewish half breeds, with bad blood as they married off into the other pagan nations. They were also heretics, with their own version of the Jewish Scriptures. They were unclean, traitors of Israel and of God.
So, what did God do? He sent his Jewish Messiah, to be born in Bethlehem of Judea according to prophesy, and then established his upbringing and hometown to be in Nazareth of Galilee, only a stone’s throw away from Samaria. God is so powerful that he can even use a Galilean peasant to save the world.
Now, to be clear, Jesus was not a Samaritan. He was a Galilean—although, he might as well have been a Samaritan, so far as these Jews cared. Rumors circulated concerning his mother having Jesus out of wedlock, since they would not have believed in the incarnation. “If Joseph wan’t his father, then he’s a bastard child, a product of sin—and a Galilean of all things!” He might as well had been a Samaratin, a half-breed, a product of sin, unclean, unholy, a heretic. So, disregard him. Don’t even listen to his words—he’s that kind of person.
Think about this, culturally. If they’re right (whicih they aren’t), then a Samaritan is telling Jews that they are slaves to sin and children of the devil. They’re children of sin. It’s rich, folks. It’s a simple, fast way to completely undermine and discredit Jesus’s words before they even come out of his mouth.
At the risk of getting too political, I think a close cultural equivalent today would be when a white, wealthy man from the suburbs scolds a black woman from the projects and tells her “how it is”. Our woke culture today cannot bear to see a victim, or an underprivileged person, be scolded or dishonored, or told their in sin, by a person of privilege.
Cultures have always given privilege to certain classes, folks—and, they have always discredited other classes. Here, the Jews were discrediting Jesus simply because—as the charge goes—he was a Samaritan. Not only was that altogether untrue, it’s also completely beside the point. It’s a cultural smokescreen. It’s a way to easily discredit and dishonor and defame someone without even considering the validity of their claims.
The reality is, folks, truth is impartial. Truth condemns everyone. Truth exposes everyone as a slave to sin, under God’s wrath—and it’s just as true regardless who speaks it, whether it’s a Samaritan, a white man, a black woman, an orange blue or green donkey. Truth, folks, is truth. The cultural prejudices of these Jews blinded them to see it. From their cultural perspective, (1) they were holy Jews of Jerusalem, so they couldn’t be in the wrong; and (2) Jesus was a Galilean, or perhaps even a Samaritan(!), so he must be discredited on the spot.
Another Criticism: He’s Possessed by a Demon!
Oh, and, he also had a demon. See that, there in verse 48? That was the second criticism. “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” That’s another easy way to discredit someone. We see this charge against Jesus to be much more commonplace throughout the gospels. They had already made the charge earlier at this feast, in chapter 7 verse 20. Later in chapter 10 verse 20, we’ll see the Jews say “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”. Hear it? “Why listen to\ him? We’ve discredited him and all his words on the premise that he has a demon. Shut your ears when he speaks.”
Folks they are proving exactly what Jesus had been saying to them at the feast up to this point. John’s gospel is full of irony, and we see that here. Last week, we had just read Jesus say in verse 43, “you can’t bear to hear my word. You are of the father the devil… the father of lies. But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me”. That’s what he had just told them. So, what do they say back to him? A mouthful of lies and smokescreens to discredit his words not on the basis of anything he’s saying, but on the basis of cultural stigmas that might strip him altogether from any influence. It’s like they’re trying to simply shove truth to the side with a quick, sweeping flick of the finger. “He’s a Samaritan and he’s possessed” (Flick!). There, I shut him up.
So, two criticism: he’s a Samaritan and he’s possessed by a demon. How does Jesus respond? Verse 49,
“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.
That’s his initial response, and I want you to notice something, here. Remember, he’s about to state a promise to them. That’s what these first few verses are building up to—verse 51: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” That’s amazing. Although, how on earth does Jesus have the self-control and patience and freedom to say that to people who are hating and criticizing him so malignantly? How can a just God say such a thing to people malign him like that? Think about it. I mean, this is Jesus putting into action the radical things he taught to the masses—“love your enemies”, and “pray for those who persecute you”. Bless them. That’s what Jesus is doing here. He’s blessing his persecutors not with a swift blow of justice, but with a way out. He’s blessing them with a way out of death—is there a greater blessing? He’s blessing his enemies, folks.
How did he have it in him to say that, to offer such a promise? I mean, really—have you ever had to bless your enemy—and, I mean, someone who hates you. Someone who wants to destroy your career, your family, your life? That’s what Jesus is doing, here. Why is he free to do that? He tells us in verse 49. That’s what verses 49–50 are telling us. Jesus says “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory…”. Do you hear that? “I honor
my father… I do not seek my own glory.” He’s not concerned about his reputation. He’s not concerned about taking vengeance and justice into his own hands when he’s dishonored. He’s not there to honor himself and preserve his own honor. He has a heavenly father who will do that. So, fire away! Dishonor him all you want! Verse 50—“There is One who seeks it”, that is, “there is one who seeks [my honor], and he is the judge”. In other words, Jesus knows justice will be served—and, it’s not his job to serve it. His job is to dish out promises. His job is to save his people, who were once his enemies.
There’s a lesson for us here, folks. In Jesus, you are free to bless your enemies like Jesus did. He entrusted all matters of justice to his father, so that he might be free to not take justice into his own hands. When Peter talks about this same thing in 1 Peter 1:21, he commends us to follow after Jesus’s example. Bless your enemies, tell them about how to escape judgment and hell. Tell them about Jesus—and when they falsely accuse you, entrust all matters of injustice to the Father and keep telling them about God’s free offer of salvation in Jesus. God, in the end, will ensure all matters of justice are settled either at the cross, or for all eternity in hell. So, direct people to the cross and leave the rest to God. You’re free to bless your enemies that way, even as Jesus was, because justice will be served.
So Jesus says to his malignant Jewish audience, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” He’s free to offer them a way out of death because the Father was committed to honoring the Son.
Folks, don’t miss this. The Father’s commitment to honor and glorify the Son is the foundation for Jesus’s love and patience and promises and salvation to us. God is committed to the glory of God—The Father is committed to the Son, the Son to the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit. If it weren’t so, we’d have no hope—no reason—to believe God would patiently and gloriously save us from our sin and misery. Although, as it stands, God glorifies God through our salvation. Not often, but there are times when I hear the question raised by unbelievers—“Why would God so mercifully and patiently offer life to his enemies, to us sinners?”
I can remember being around a bonfire in middle school with a bunch of people who did not go to church. The topic of Jesus and religion came up, and I’ll never forget what one girl said. “I just don’t believe a God would die for me. I think that’s crazy. If I really have sinned against him, and if he’s really just and holy as Christians say, there’s no way he’d actually become a human and die for me”. Now, that was a pretty sophisticated thing to say for a middle school girl, but I think she’s on to something. What does a holy God get out of saving us, his enemies?
In the greatest, supreme sense of our faith, God sent Jesus to die not to honor you, but to honor and glorify Jesus—and, Jesus came to honor and glorify his Father. We find grace at work, folks, when we get caught in the middle of all that. We find grace at work when the Father is seeking to honor the Son by uniting us to the blessings and honor and life of the Son—and we’re so moved to praise him for it. We find grace at work when the Son is seeking to honor the Father by patiently and obediently dying for our sins, and raising from the dead for our life. We get caught in the middle of God’s desire—his plan—to glorify himself—and so, we have hope that while we were sinners, enemies of God, Christ might die for our sins and save us out of an unfathomable love.
“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. Truly, truly, I say to you, if
anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
So, Jesus is free to not retaliate against these prideful, malicious Jews. Instead, he’s free to offer them a promise, an offer to his life and blessings, as he’s pursuing to honor and obey his Father, and as the Father is pursuing his honor.
Folks, our faith is 100% Trinitarian—it’s rooted in the persons of the Trinity seeking to honor and glorify one another through us. Is that not shocking? It means that you who deserve death—that is, God’s wrath—you’ll never see death. Your body will die, but your soul—you—will live forever to be with Jesus, and to be reunited with a new body at the culmination of the ages to the glory of Jesus.
So, Jesus gives his critical opponents a promise, an offer of life, if they would trust him and keep his words. This is a powerful promise, rooted in the Trinity, which Jesus is offering to his enemies.
He’s Criticized, and Preaches Patiently (verse 52–56)
Now, look at verse 52, where the story continues. We’ve seen Jesus’s promises given despite malicious accusations. And, we’ve even seen in there an initial show of Jesus’s patience. Now, in verse 52, what do you think we’ll keep seeing, as the Jews keep pressing against him?
Jesus had just said “I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death”, and now, verse 52—
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
It would seem like a stalemate, wouldn’t it? They are only getting more aggravated—and, reasonably so. Jesus just claimed the right to give life as only God gives life. He just claimed the right and power to life over death. If he’s not God, he’s clearly demonic. This is crazy talk. So, they push him on it. “Abraham and all the prophets died! None of them could grant the right to never die! Who do you make yourself out to be?” I think this was a leading question. I think they were catching onto Jesus’s claims, here—that he’s greater than Abraham. He’s greater than Moses, and all the prophets. He’s equal, in some way or another, with the author and giver of life. So, they lead him on. “Tell us, who are you?”
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.’
Do you see how significant that statement is, right there? Throughout this whole feast, he’s been referring to his father in a sort of cryptic way. He would say earlier, “the father who sent me bears witness about me”, and they’d respond in confusion, “where is your father?”. Jesus tells them very clearly here. He’s being more clear, so the tension is rising. Jesus is speaking about God, verse 55—
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.
Folks, this is heavy stuff. “You have not known him.” Not only is Jesus saying the Jews disobey God, and lie as children of the devil—but Jesus is saying that they don’t even know God. They dont know him. That’s terrifying, folks, that a nation like Israel who has had countless prophets of the true God; who was redeemed from Egypt with a mighty show of power—they still don’t know God. In fact, these Jews have God standing right before them, and they’re calling him a Samaritan devil! He’s been doing miracles and teaching God’s word in their midst, and they don’t recognize it! They get it so confused that they attribute him to the devil rather than God! They’re God’s chosen nation—chosen to receive the promises, the glory, the privileges, the word, and they don’t even know him.
What does it take to know God, folks? What’s it take to truly, actually, know him? It’s the most important question you’ll ever ask yourself today. These Jews had all those privileges, all those revelations from God, and Jesus is saying they still don’t know him. What’s it take to know God? The answer, thankfully, is quite simple—and, it always has been. Jesus tips his hat to the answer in the next verse. Verse 56—
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
He rejoiced to see Jesus’s day, and he was glad. There is all kinds of speculation about that verse—“is there an storyof Abraham in Genesis, where we might suspect God gave him a revelation of Jesus?”. People have suspected different things. I think it’s more simple than that. Abraham, by faith, and by “abiding in God’s word”, knew God. He knew the power of God, the grace of God, the promises of God for a coming savior. He had faith to believe, to abide in, and to receive God’s word. So, Jesus goes so far to say that with that faith, Abraham saw the coming day of Jesus—the coming day of salvation—and he rejoiced. How much more should we rejoice in knowing God, folks, now that Jesus has been revealed to us? I’ll tell you—a lot more, and the only way we’ll do it is by faith. It’s always been by faith, folks. God could show up to you in a pillar of fire like he did for the Israelites, but if you have not faith, it’ll mean nothing. If you have faith, it’ll mean joy and gladness, it’ll mean you’ll never taste death, as you behold Jesus by faith.
So, the Jews keep criticizing Jesus. They keep pressing him. Jesus keeps being patient as he’s seeking his Father’s honor rather than his own. The patience of Jesus, here, should be deeply encouraging. He’s God, folks—they’re calling him a demon-possessed Samaritan. It’s a marvel that he’s actually offering them a way out of death, he’s directing them to the joy and faith of Abraham. “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad”. Do you want that joy, you malignant, lying, prideful Jewish people? Jesus’s patience is on full display, here.
He’s Criticized, and Proclaims His Person (verses 57–59)
But of course, the tension and suspense keeps growing. We’ve seen him reveal his promises and patience. Now, let’s consider how he finally discloses his person.
In verse 57, we see how the Jews respond to Jesus’s statement about Abraham. “Abraham rejoiced to see my day” (and you should too, by the way), verse 57—
57 the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
They’ve discredited him by being a Samaritan and possessed by a demon. Now, they discredit his claim about Abraham by referencing his age. Certainly, Abraham has never seen Jesus’s day—he lived over a thousand years prior to Jesus! What is Jesus saying?! Verse 58,
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.
He dropped the mic, and went out of the temple unhindered. Folks, I’m always amazed when I hear people claim that Jesus never assumed to be God. This is it, folks. It’s so clear. These Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus, and kill him on the spot, because he just claimed to be the great I AM.
He is revealing his person, folks, at the height of all this tension and suspense. He doesn’t seek to ease the tension. He seeks to reveal his person—his divine, merciful, powerful, eternal, infinite, unchangeable person. He’s God, come in the flesh, to save man from our corrupt flesh and our sin.
“Before Abraham was, I am”. He’s saying that in the temple. He’s saying that in the midst of God’s people, in the midst of the temple. God, the great I AM, is in the flesh, in the temple, revealing himself as the great “I AM”—and, these Jews pick up stones to throw at him. They completely rejected him. Verse 59, “Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple”. He departed. The glory of Israel hid himself and departed from the temple. Do you see what’s going on here? It’s Jesus showing us that he’s in complete control. He reveals himself as he wills, and he departs as he will. He gets the last word, and he leaves the angry, blood-thirsty mob unscathed. Have you ever seen a single person escape a blood-thirsty mob? many think this is an allusion to a miracle, that somehow he walked through the people, or he somehow disappeared. It’s hard to say—but, it’s also hard to explain how he’d escape them. You don’t escape that situation, unless you’re sovereign God, in control. All the tension and suspense of this moment is resolved with a sweeping show of his person (“I AM”), and his sovereignty (he leaves the temple).
But, it’s also resolved with a show of his judgment, is it not? The great I AM was in the temple—the glory of the Lord was in the temple, and it departed from the temple. We could do a deep search through the Bible, and see a number of times when the glory of the Lord “departed” from the temple. Needless to say, it was always a show of judgment, and at massive turning points in the Bible.
Yes, Jesus is patient. Yes, his promises are shocking. Yes, he’s God. Although, his patience will run out. He won’t stand and wait forever. The glory will leave the temple—and, it most certainly did for these Jews.
What hope do we have, folks? Even these most privileged Jews, after God extended so much patience and so much of his person toward them, they rejected him. It’s so telling of our condition, our sin and pride, folks. Our only hope, folks, is Jesus. Our hope is that Jesus himself—crucified and risen, through his Spirit—would personally intervene and soften our stubborn and sinful hearts.
Have the accusations against Jesus stopped? Folks, the same accusations to discredit Jesus and malign his name exist across the nations. We must discredit him somehow, if we would refuse his sovereignty over us. “He was a good person, but not God—I don’t’ believe in God. Period.”, or “The historical evidence simply doesn’t add up.”—doesn’t it? Whatever the case, we’ll always have reasons to discredit his words, just as these Jews did.
Remember, Jesus got to the heart of this matter in last week’s passage, earlier at this feast. In one statement, he says we’re all slaves to sin. We’re all slaves to lies and the devil, ever bound to discredit his words and authority with cultural lies and smokescreens. But, verse 36, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. It’s that simple. “If the Son sets you free”—he must do it. He must you free from despising his words, from despising truth, from despising his sovereignty and salvation.
We’re at his mercy, folks, lest he walk out on us as he did these Jews in the temple. He’s our glory. He’s our hope. He’s our joy.
As he’s offering his promises; as he’s insufferably patient, and as he’s revealing his person to us as the great “I AM” in the flesh—may he truly set us free to receive and never taste death. Abraham rejoiced to see this day. May we likewise, by faith, see Jesus in all of his words—in all of Scripture—and marvel as his mercy to save us from our sins and free us from God’s wrath, unto all eternity.