Several years ago, I was called by the court of the city of Erie, PA to testify of a robbery that I witnessed in a Church where I worked. I was called to the witness stand and asked to give a personal testimony of what, when, and where I witnessed a robbery. I was asked questions by both the prosecutor and the defense attorney about the events of that day.
A man and a woman had been working together and devised a scheme where one went to the church office to speak a pastor(s) and tell them a sob story about a fictional daughter who was sick in a hospital in Pittsburgh. He requested that the church or the pastors give him some money for gas and her medication. This was something they had done a few times.
One day the man came to my office one day and told me his story. I was immediately suspicious because a month earlier a woman called me and told me almost the exact same story. As he was talking (complete with tears) his accomplice was walking around the church stealing valuables that were left unattended. With teary eyes the man asked if he could go upstairs to our sanctuary and pray, I said it would be fine for him to do so. Several minutes later I went to check on him in the sanctuary and he was no where to be found. Eventually we noticed things missing from the church… some items from the maintenance room and a purse from a visiting missionary. Immediately realized we had been scammed. People in the building started telling us there was a woman walking around the church and we could not find either one. We called the police and figured there was no way we would get these items back.
There are TV shows that are based on stupid criminals and this couple would be a great fit one of these shows, because the next day this couple shows up at the same church and gave the same exact story to another pastor. The pastors knew what had happened so a couple of the staff followed them to Wal-Mart, then called the police and they caught them red handed with many of the items stolen in the trunk including the purse… surprisingly the cash was gone.
This was far from a high-profile case, but from this experience I know what it feels like to be a witness in a court of law. The jury and court didn’t depend on just my testimony; they called several individuals who had been affected by these thieves or witnessed the strange behavior of the couple. They did this to gather enough evidence and cross check it to convict the couple of the crime. They were on trial, and the prosecutor depended on our testimonies to prove that the guilty parties were convicted of their crime. Nevertheless, they were convicted of their crimes and the those affected got their items back or were compensated appropriately.
I tell you this story as an introduction to today’s text. Jesus, once again, is questioned about his authority and his claims. He is on trial with the Jewish leaders. They try and use his own words against him to prove he is not who he claims that he is a fraud but Jesus has witnesses to back up his claims.
John 8:12 - 29
Background: It is commonly agreed that the events of this passage would have taken place during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Mishnah Sukkah 5 (The laws that deal with the Festival of Tabernacles) states, ―At the close of the first festival day they went down to the Court of the Women, and made great preparations there. There were golden candlesticks there with four golden bowls on the top of them. The candlesticks were fifty cubits high. Four ladders led up to each candlestick, and four youths from the priestly stock went up holding in their hands jars of oil, of twenty-four logs' capacity, which they poured into the bowls. They made wicks out of worn-out garments of the priests, and with them they set the candlesticks alight, and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light. ―Men of piety and good deeds used to dance before them with burning torches in their hands, singing songs and praises. And countless Levites played on harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and other instruments of music, on the fifteen steps leading from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women. Two Priests stood at the Upper Gate, which leads down from the Court of the Israelites to the Court of the Women, with two trumpets in their hands. This was believed to happen every night during the Feast.
Verse 12: The “I am” statement Jesus makes in 8:12 is the second of seven “I am” claims in the Gospel of John. If the Mishnah Sukkah is correct, then we can see why Jesus makes this bold claim in the temple. The claim of being the light of the world is significant because during the nights of celebration the light that was carried represented the “light of God”. So, when Jesus makes the claim, “I am the light of the world…” He is claiming to be the light of God. Light is significant in the Scriptures because it exposes or consumes darkness, reveals what is hidden, gives life, guidance, and is a path. In the OT God led the Israelites by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. In the Gospel of John light is synonymous to life, revelation of the truth and salvation.
Jesus says, “If you follow me you won’t have to walk in darkness because you have the light that leads to life.” Followers or Jesus Christ are called to walk in the light because we have the light of life who is Jesus (John 1:4). In him was the life and the life was the light of the world. This means in Jesus we have salvation, eternal life, guidance, and abundant life here on earth. We no longer walk according to the ways of darkness (the world) because darkness has been exposed for what it is… evil; and we now have our paths in life illuminated by Jesus with the Holy Spirit as our guide.
Verse 13: The Pharisee’s try to use Jesus’ words against him. According to Jewish law one needs to have two or more witnesses for a testimony to be valid. The Jews said Jesus’ claims were invalid because he is testifying of himself and no one else.
Verses 14 – 18: Jesus tells them his testimony is true because of his firsthand knowledge of heaven. He knows who his Father is, He knows his place of origin, which the Jews did not. They only knew of his human origins, and they were wrong about that as well. They thought he was from Galilee and in fact he was from Judah. They were judging him based on human standards. Jesus says, “You judge me according to human standards, but I do not judge anyone.” This translation could and probably should read, “You judge according to human standards, but I do not judge according to human standards.” The religious leaders judged unto condemnation, but Jesus judged unto salvation. Jesus’ judgment is true because when he judges he does it in accordance with the Father.
He then takes on the witness question. It is true two witnesses are needed, and Jesus says, “I bear witness and the Father bears witness” of who I am. The witness of God trumps any human witnesses.
Verse 19: The leaders are still thinking Jesus is speaking in human terms, so they ask who his father is. Jesus tells them if they can’t accept who he is then they certainly don’t know the Father.
Knowing the Father = having Spiritual insight of who Jesus is. If they truly believed, followed, and understood the scriptures then they would know Jesus is the Messiah. If they knew the Father in a loving way, then they would know Jesus is the Son.
Verse 20: This verse is a parenthetical from the author. John tells us his location and why he wasn’t arrested since this was the reason, they sought him. He was speaking in the treasury of the temple which is near the offering box. This is the place by the court of the women where boxes were set up and free will offerings received. There were 13 Shofar’s (ram’s horns), or receptacles set up and people would put their donations in to help the needy. The treasury was where all the collections went.
His time (hour) had not come. They did not nor could not arrest him. because it wasn’t his appointed time that God had set for Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
Verse 21: Jesus now speaks of his impending death. He will be crucified, buried, and will rise again. When he rises from the dead he will go to the father, and no one can go with him. Yet those who do not turn (repent) and follow (believe) will die in their sins.
Verse 22 - 24: The religious leaders do not understand what Jesus is talking about, so they say among themselves, “Is he planning on committing suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?”
Jesus explains that they cannot understand what he is talking about because they are persistent in thinking he is speaking in human terminology. He is not speaking in these terms; He is speaking in spiritual terms, and they cannot understand what He is saying because they do not have any spiritual inclinations.
Verses 25 - 27: They ask who Jesus is. They are blinded to the Spirit of God and are clueless to what Jesus is talking about. He tells them he is who he has been saying he is from the beginning. Nothing has changed, he is still the Son of God; but they can’t understand this because they do not know the Father.
Verses 28 – 30: One wonders, will these Jewish authorities ever understand that Jesus is the Son of God? The answer is yes. When He is lifted up on the cross of Calvary and glorified through the Father. They will realize then all the words he spoke and the actions he did were from God the Father. Jesus spoke with such authority that many heard what he said and believed in faith.
Concluding question, “How does Jesus fit into your life?” Or better yet, “how does your life fit into Jesus?” In the first eight chapters of John, Jesus has made substantial claims to being the Son of God, the bread or the source of life, and the light of the world. Jesus explains that he exposes darkness and reveals the light of the Father.
Has Jesus made a difference in your life? Does Jesus have full lordship over your life, or have you only carved out a spot or niche in your life and placed him there and you call on him when you need him? Can you genuinely say in faith and honesty, “your will be done in my life.”
Some of you may say, “Well of course I believe in Jesus, but I am not some religious nut who always talks about him. Nor do I even go around tell people I am a believer. My faith is a private. My faith is nobody’s business it’s between God and me.” Yes, your relationship with God is between Him and you, BUT it is not a private matter. We are called to live out our faith or more specifically let people see the light (Jesus) that is in us, who we worship, and love through our words, action, and allegiance to Him. I implore you today. Let Jesus be the light of your life, let him be your guide or leader in your life. May his light shine through you, so others may see the true source of life that is in you and that may you share it with others.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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