John 8:21 – 30

21 Jesus also told them, “I am going away, and you will look for me. But you cannot go where I am going, and you will die with your sins unforgiven.”

22 The Jewish leaders asked, “Does he intend to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying we cannot go where he is going?” 23 Jesus answered, “You are from below, but I am from above. You belong to this world, but I don’t. 24 That is why I said you will die with your sins unforgiven. If you don’t have faith in me for who I am, you will die, and your sins will not be forgiven.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked Jesus. Jesus answered, “I am exactly who I told you at the beginning. 26 There is a lot more I could say to condemn you. But the one who sent me is truthful, and I tell the people of this world only what I have heard from him.” 27 No one understood that Jesus was talking to them about the Father.

28 Jesus went on to say, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know who I am. You will also know that I don’t do anything on my own. I say only what my Father taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. I always do what pleases him, and he will never leave me.” 30 After Jesus said this, many of the people put their faith in him.

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In our study of the Gospel of John, we have seen many times that people were having trouble understanding what exactly Jesus meant by some of His teachings.  Certainly the religious leaders had no idea who Jesus really was, for if they had, then they would have gladly welcomed Him as their long awaited Messiah, the One who would bring salvation to the Jewish people.

But the people who lived at the same time that Jesus lived among men could not fathom these truths either.  So when Jesus talked about His Father, the people wondered about Joseph and Mary and the rest of His family.  When He talked about going where they could not follow Him, the Pharisees thought He was going to teach Jews in some other countries.  And the people in this passage thought maybe He was going to kill Himself.

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And so Jesus tried His best in this passage to help clear up this misunderstanding among the people.  He tried to reveal to them His true origin and His true identity.  Although still in veiled speech, Jesus made a powerful statement in verse 23.  To get the full impact of this verse, allow me to give you the literal translation of the Greek of this verse into English.  It would go like this:

“You, of the things below you are; I, of the things above I am.
You, of this world you are; I, not I am of this world.”

Although written in Greek, much of the New Testament clearly shows us how much the Semitic Hebrew language and way of thinking affected the way their expressed themselves in their Greek writing.  What we have here from Jesus is an excellent example of Semitic Old Testament style of writing called parallelism.  Parallelism usually has two lines of thought that closely parallel each other.

In verse 23, there are four distinct parts which we will label 1a and 1b, 2a and 2b.  The second line elements usually expand or explain the meaning of the first line.  Or, the second line will be a sharp contrast to the meaning of line one.  Look closely what we have here.  We clearly have an expansion of 1a in 2a: “You are of the things below / You are of this world.”  So we are surprised when 2b is not also an expansion of 1b, “I am of the things above / I, not I am of this world.

In terms of Semitic thinking, Jesus is making a HUGE statement here.  In a literary way, He does this by switching from expansion (2a) to sharp contrast (2b).  And notice how in 2b that Jesus moves the verb from final position to a more fronted position to really give His sentence emphasis, “I, not I am of this world.”   Jesus is part of the Divine Trinity and His place of origin is Heaven.  And the Greek work order and Semitic parallelism are blasting out this message to the people.

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Finally then, Jesus speaks out clearly in verse 24 regarding who He is, and how important it is to believe in who He is.  Understanding now that verse 23 is speaking of Jesus’ divine nature, it makes it easier to accept it when He says, “You will die with your sins unforgiven.”  The clear reason is then given, “If you don’t have faith in me for who I am, you will die, and your sins will not be forgiven.

But we can flip this coin over and say with confidence, “Any person who DOES have faith in Jesus for who He really is, that person will not die and his/her sins will be forgiven.”  There is more we need to say about this, especially with regards to the Greek phrases “I am” which will come up again in verse 58.  Suffice it to say, it is still very important today that we must put our faith in Jesus if we want our sins forgiven, and if we hope to live with God in Heaven forever.

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