Description / Transcription
Our text this morning comes from John’s Gospel, chapter 8, the end of the chapter beginning at verse 48 through verse 59. John chapter 8, beginning at verse 48.
“The Jews answered Him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 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.’ 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.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?’ 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.’ 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. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”
Make no mistake, they hated Jesus. And by “they” I mean the Jewish leaders here in John’s Gospel and many in this Israelite crowd, that’s what we seen in the text. But we shouldn’t think that “they” in John 8 are the only ones who ever hate Jesus. There is plenty of “they” in the world of 2019, plenty of “they” in Charlotte, and maybe even some of “they” here.
Make no mistake, they hated Jesus. Not simply disinterested, not just apathetic… They hated him.
Most of us find it hard to believe that people would hate Jesus. Even in this country if you’re not a Christian, generally there’s a, a warm sort of feeling towards Jesus. If He existed, He seemed to have been a good person. After all, there are songs flooding the mall about Jesus during Christmastime. People run into the end zone and score a touchdown and they thank Jesus. There are coloring books with smiling faces of Jesus. There are Jesus toys for good little Christian girls and boys. I just googled yesterday “Jesus toys,” I found there’s a Jesus plush doll, there’s Jesus wind-ups that sort of go like this, there’s a Jesus feeds the 5000 tales of glory playset that you can look into. I would think about reading the Westminster Larger Catechism relative to the second commandment perhaps before you buy all of the Jesus play toys, but there are plenty of Jesus paraphernalia out there.
But if Jesus is almost universally liked in this country, it is because He has been almost universally sanitized and sentimentalized. Who is Jesus in America in 2019? He’s a nice guy, He’s a guru, a best friend, a selfless hero, a champion of the underdog, a wise teacher, a spiritual man, a good example, a revolutionary, almost whatever you want Him to be.
But I wonder if people across this city and across our country knew the real Jesus, what they would think of him. I wonder if we were here transported two millennia back to the temple in Jerusalem 2000 years ago and we were there to hear Jesus teaching, what we would have thought of him. No doubt many, most, maybe all of us, we, too, would have hated Him. And I wonder if there are all sorts of people even today, though they say they hate the church or they hate the Bible or they hate religion, in fact, what they hate is Jesus. All that He says, all that He stands for, all that He demands of us, all that He does to get in the way it seems of us and our personal fulfillment.
And so many of us, we find a way to channel our rejection in a more socially acceptable direction, because still by and large in this country to go around saying “I hate Jesus” does not win friends and influence people. Not probably good for your business in the South.
But we find ways to channel… “I’m just not into church… I’m just not into religion… I’m just not into doctrine… I’m just not into institutions.”
Perhaps. Or might it be that you’re not really into Jesus either?
You see at the end of chapter 8, no doubt they hated Him to such a degree that they were ready to kill Him. That’s why they picked up stones, to stone Him as the law commanded. Now, of course the law did not call for mob justice, but for a deliberative justice and the hearing of witnesses, but they were going to bypass all of that, they had heard enough. Pick up stones to throw, for they hate this Jesus. Why did they hate Jesus?
Two reasons. At least two reasons. We see two in our text this morning. Here’s the first. They hated Jesus because they misunderstood what He was saying. They hated Jesus because they misunderstood what He was saying. They misunderstand what He is saying to such a degree they think He must be a Samaritan.
Now, they’ve already alluded to the fact that He might be demon-possessed, we’ll get to that in a moment, but now they link it with Him being a Samaritan. This may be, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, why they say in verse 41 “we were not born of sexual immorality,” wink wink. It could be that they have some allusion here “we’re not like You, we’re not a half-breed. We don’t know where You come from. We’ve heard some stories about Mary and some supposed father, and maybe it’s the case that you’re not really a Jew like we are.” That may be what they’re thinking in calling Him a Samaritan.
No doubt they felt the sting of what He was saying to them. He has already said several times “you are not really, truly, children of Abraham.” And they took great pride in their Jewish lineage, and He admits that they are of Abraham physically, but His point is spiritually.
And so you can understand that they’re saying to Jesus, “If You don’t even consider us to be true Jews, well neither will we return the favor. You’re not better than a Samaritan, a half-breed, an idolater. You are not one of us.” That’s what they’re saying, “you’re not one of us.” And they don’t understand why He has been putting them on the outside of God’s family.
Verse 38: “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have seen from your father.” So you don’t have God as your father.
Verse 42: “Jesus said, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and I am here.'”
Verse 44: “You are of your father the devil.”
Verse 47: “Whoever is of God hears the word of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
He has clearly put them outside of His own family, and they say “well, if that’s what You think of us, You’re nothing but a Samaritan.” They can’t understand, they can’t receive the rebuke that He’s giving them.
And then they say, “You have a demon.” All growing up reading verse 48, I sort of heard it as a humorous statement; it probably wasn’t humorous, but it’s just hard to not make you scratch your head, “Are we not right, Jesus? You have a demon, right?” If ever there were a wrong answer on a test, that would be it. True or false, You have a demon? They say “true,” [sound effect]. False, He does not in fact have a demon, but of course they’re not making a humorous statement, they’re at a point of exasperation. It’s their first century way of saying “You are crazy, You’re nuts, You’re not in Your right mind, are you?”
You can understand. I had to do a clinical pastoral education in my seminary training. I mean I had to do a unit of hospital visitation and calling on people and it was actually some of the hardest ministry I had to do, just cold calling people in a hospital in Boston, and for a time they put you on the psych ward and you meet extremely religious people on the psych ward. It’s really a very important ministry that people do there, but I met all sorts of people that thought they had Jesus’ baby, or Jesus was their baby, or they were Jesus, or they had been inhabited by a devil. Hyper-religiosity I found there on the psych ward. And you would meet them and you would think something isn’t quite right and you need to get some help.
That’s what they’re saying here about Jesus. The way that He is speaking in these over-the-top, extravagant, religious claims, He, He can’t possibly be in His right mind.
Incidentally, have you ever thought that about Jesus? I bet if you’re honest, you have. Have you ever thought that about what God tells you in His Word? Ever read something and you say “That’s crazy! Submit to my husband? That’s crazy! Don’t get angry with my children? That’s crazy!”
You want to know someone who has worse children than you? God. Okay? You thought I was going to say me. No, not me. [laughter] God. My kids were just up here, they were all little angels. [laughter]
You ever read the Bible and how you’re supposed to lay down your life for your wife? How you’re supposed to lead spiritually in your home? Washing with the Word? You’re supposed to be spiritual leaders? Not just great at fishing and hunting and knowing football penalties, but leading in the home? You ever find things in the Bible about marriage or sexuality or about heaven or hell and you say “God, this is nuts”? I’m sure we all do if we’re honest.
Well, they’re hearing Jesus and they’re saying “You have a demon.”
Jesus was putting Himself not only at the center of Israel’s story, but at the center of everyone’s eternal destiny. He says “if someone keeps My Word,” that is, “if you believe My Word, you follow My Word, you live by My Word, you stick with My Word, you will not see death.” That’s a crazy thing to say.
A parent might say “if you follow my word, if you obey mom and dad, things will go better for you.” You might have a coach say “if you do things my way, this is going to be much less pain for you.” You might have a teacher say “here’s the rules, you follow the rules, we’re going to have a really fun semester. If you don’t, it’s going to be difficult.”
But who would dare to say “listen to Me, do what I say, follow My words, and you won’t die”?
Jesus is thinking ultimately of spiritual death, that final death. He Himself will die. His friend Lazarus will die. He’s speaking about the ultimate death from which there is no longer any hope. He says “if you abide in My words, you will not die.”
There’s, there is in the midst of such a difficult section here in chapter 7 and 8, I think something just a little glimmer of hope. Verse 52 comes on the heels of verse 51: “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death.’ The Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know you have a demon! Abraham died… Yet you say ‘If anyone keeps My Word, he will never taste death.'” I think Jesus is holding that “if” out to them, even in that moment of their rebellion.
There are some, and it’s not, you know, a heretical interpretation, but it’s just a different interpretation, who have said that the Jews here are a mass of perdition, there are those, the leaders here in this case, are in such a state that they are reprobate, never to turn again.
I think that Christ is holding out here with this “if” the hope that even for you, even for you, you could, if you would abide in My words, if only, you, too, could live forever.
One commentator says: “We cannot say therefore that Jesus is speaking here only to those how have already been won by Him and that the Jews here and elsewhere in the Gospel merely represent that mass of perdition who die in their sins and from whom no one can any longer be won for Jesus.”
In other words, that little “if” may be a little hinge to open up the door, “if even you who think I have a devil, if only you would come, if you would listen, if you would abide by My words.”
But they misunderstand Him. They think He’s a Samaritan, they think he’s, has a demon. They misunderstand all that He’s saying about Abraham. Once again, the conversation comes back to Abraham, because Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham, and I am one of them! And Jesus, you don’t think that I am.
Once again, Jesus turns the appeal to Abraham on its head. You see verse 53: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?” There is a thick irony here. “Are you greater than Abraham?” to which the answer is “Yes, I am.” “And the prophets who died?” “Yes, I am.”
It’s reminiscent of the woman at the well, the Samaritan, asking in John 4:12: “You are not greater than Jacob, are You? This is his well. You’re not greater than him.”
Throughout John’s Gospel there’s these little hints here of people saying more than they know. Jesus greater than Jacob, Jesus greater than Abraham, Jesus greater than the prophets… And each time, with each voice, they were true though they themselves did not believe it.
Jesus says, “Listen, if I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. But My Father glorifies Me,” and He goes back to Abraham and He says, verse 56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad.”
“So far from thinking that I am disparaging great father Abraham, I tell you that Abraham looked forward to Me.”
Again, you have to put yourself, this is so mind-boggling crazy talk. It’s like your history teacher giving a lecture on US history, talking about great presidents and George Washington and all that he did at the founding of our country and then begins to speak as if he’s better than George Washington.
Now, we have a lot of politicians who make some pretty bold claims. That’s probably not the best way to run your campaign: “Better than George Washington.”
And then, if you went one step further and said, “If you vote for me, I’ll be better than George Washington. In fact, George Washington’s whole life, it was about me. He rejoiced, he thought about me, he was looking forward to me. Take everybody on Mount Rushmore; they’d vote for me!” [laughter] Say, “Really?”
Well, that’s what they’re hearing Jesus say, and Jesus doubles down. He says, “Yeah, Abraham, he did look forward to My day and he rejoiced when he saw it.” The scholars debate “well, what exactly does Jesus have in mind? Is He speaking of Abraham in paradise at that moment looking down on Jesus? That would be speculative. Is it when he saw that there was a ram in the thicket and that was to provide the sacrifice for Isaac and he understood that that was a type of the Messiah to come?
I think the best explanation, though we don’t know for sure, is that perhaps Genesis 21, verse 6, when they laugh at Isaac’s birth. Remember when they first heard that they were going to have a baby in old age they laughed and there it sure seemed to be a sort of a scornful laugh, “ha ha ha, right, you know, I’m going to have a baby almost 100 years old, 90 years old,” but then when the baby comes, again Isaac, “yis haq,” His name means “laughter,” they laugh this time with rejoicing. God, in fact, had done it.
So probably what Jesus has in mind is there at that moment, at the birth of Isaac, when there was rejoicing, when there was glad-hearted laughter at the birth of their son, Abraham understood that the promise that he would be a father of many nations, this was just the beginning, and it had to happen through this one son and through him there would be many, many more sons, and there would be as many descendants as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore, and so at that moment rejoicing in his newborn son in his old age, Abraham yet was thinking of the greater Son who was to come, a Deliverer, a Messiah.
Now he certainly didn’t have all of this theology down pat to understand the Trinity and understand who the Messiah would be, but he was looking forward to a Deliverer. And with that, Jesus says “Abraham saw My day,” because the point of Isaac was not ultimately Isaac, or Jacob, or the 12 patriarchs, but all of that was merely to prepare the way that Abraham’s greatest son, David’s greater son, would come. And you’re looking at Him. It’s an audacious statement.
See, the Jews did not have a problem to think that Abraham was looking forward to the Messiah. Certainly good Abraham was looking forward to a greater fulfillment to this Abrahamic promise. Abraham was looking forward to the day of the Lord, just like every good Israelite was. But now Jesus says “You know the day of the Lord you’ve been looking forward to? The day of the Lord? It’s actually the day of Jesus. It’s the day of Me.” Well, that is a bridge too far. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah so that the day of the Lord was now His day.
One commentator puts it: “Jesus identifies the ultimate fulfillment of all of Abraham’s hopes and joys with His own person and work.”
So they misunderstand Him. Misunderstand what He says about Abraham. They misunderstand the Samaritan. They misunderstand and think He has a demon. Over and over in John’s Gospel people are hearing only on an earthly level. They’re thinking physical bread, they’re thinking water, they’re thinking physically lifted up, and Jesus is speaking on a level that they can’t comprehend. It’s the Christ from above He wants to reveal to them and all they can think of is a Christ from below.
So they hate Him for the things that He says. They misunderstand Him.
But here’s the second reason they hate Him. Yes, they hated Jesus because they misunderstood what He was saying, but note very well, number two, they also hate Jesus, and in fact they hate Jesus even more, because they do understand what He is saying. They misunderstand a lot, but they do not fail to grasp the implications of His audacious claims: “You think you’re greater than Abraham, you think you’re greater than the prophets. You think you were there. Hey, you’re,” they’re just picking a number, you know, just a good round number to give plenty of, of breathing room, 50 years old, we know He was in His early 30s, but “hey, you’re not 50 and you think you saw Abraham? You certainly cannot be equal with God.”
But He makes this statement which many of us are familiar with in verse 58: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was , I am.”
You notice He doesn’t say “before Abraham was, I was.” That would have been an astounding statement in itself, because Abraham was 2000 years ago. If He had said “hey, look, you don’t think I knew Abraham before, I come before Abraham.” They would say “How do you come before Abraham? You some sort of angel? What do you think? Before Abraham was, I was.” But He doesn’t say that, He says “before Abraham was, I am.”
I am. And so knowing what the law required in Leviticus 24:16, the punishment for blasphemy is stoning, they pick up stones to kill Him.
Some commentators try to get around what Jesus is saying. Maybe He was, He was just making a, a claim to be a prophet. Maybe He was just make a claim to be the Messiah. But make no mistake—they understand full well what He’s claiming to be. They don’t pick up stones because they think He’s a prophet, they don’t pick up stones because He’s claiming to be a swell guy or some revolutionary. They pick up stones because He just said that He is to be identified with Yahweh, the One who appeared to Moses in the bush when Moses said “who shall I tell my people sent me to them?” and the voice from the bush says “tell them I am.” That statement of absolute self-existence, God’s very identity, essence, His name, and now Jesus puts it on His own lips.
You probably know, if you’ve studied John’s Gospel before, there are seven signs in John’s Gospel. Water into wine, healing of the official’s son, culminating with Lazarus… Seven signs. And they’re marked out. There’s hundreds signs they could have chosen, but seven, a number of biblical perfection, fulfillment, completion, seven signs.
You may also know, if you’ve studied John’s Gospel, that there are seven “I am” statements: I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world. I am the gate for the sheep, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth, and the life, I am the true vine. That is seven times we have “ego eimi,” I am, with a predicate that is followed by a thing or a phrase or a description, I am something, I am the way, I am the Good Shepherd. Seven times we have “I am” followed by a predicate, you may know that.
What you may not know is that seven times in John’s Gospel we have “I am” without a predicate. Now we’ve seen some of them already, and they get translated different ways. You can go back and look at chapter 4, verse 26: “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.'” There’s another one, ego eimi, I am.
Go to chapter 6, verse 20: “But Jesus said to them,” this is walking on the water, “it is I, do not be afraid.” There again, “it is I” is I am.
And then we saw a few weeks ago in chapter 8, verse 24: “I told you you would die in your sins for unless you believe that ego eimi.” There it’s translated “I am He you will die in your sins.”
We have it again in verse 28, the I am without a predicate. There it’s translated “I am He,” and then here in verse 58. And we have another one in chapter 13 and then a final time in chapter 18.
So seven signs, seven “I am” statements with a predicate, seven “I am” statements without a predicate.
So John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew what he was doing in putting these things together, to show to his first century audience.
Now, is it, is it Bible code? No, it’s not Bible code. But you can imagine somebody teaching this and helping to say “you want to understand who Jesus is? Here’s seven signs. Here’s seven times He said I am. Here’s seven times He said I am absolutely.” All of them point to His unique identity, especially so this statement in verse 58: “Abraham had a beginning, but there never was when I was not.” It is this bold claim to deity that they hated. That’s why they wanted to kill Him.
Among the many popular platitudes our day, one that I hear often is that Jesus was killed for being so nice, or so inclusive, or He was crucified for welcoming the outcast, He was murdered for hanging out with prostitutes and sinners, He was killed for so courageously loving His enemies they couldn’t take it anymore. And listen, there is much true in all of those statements.
In Luke 15, as the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Him, the Pharisees and Scribes grumbled that Jesus would receive them.
In Luke 19:7 when Jesus is going to Zacchaeus’ house, the Jewish leaders grumble because He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner. Jesus was not an ascetic like John the Baptist and so they said “you’re a glutton and a drunkard,” so for sure they had all sorts of reasons they were upset with Him. They were upset by the way that He showed grace and mercy to sinners. They were upset by the way He handled the Sabbath. They were upset by the ways that He didn’t fit their description of a prophet as they thought He should be.
So all of that is true, and yet, and yet, why did they hate Him to the very point of death?
Matthew 26, verse 63: “And the high priest said to Jesus, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so, but I tell you from now on, you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven,’ then the high priest tore his robes and said “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard His blasphemy. What is your judgment?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.'”
That’s why they hated Him. That’s why they wanted Him to die. Sure, the people grumbled because He was a friend of sinners, but they killed Him for claiming to be the Son of God and the King of Israel. Yes, He upset their scruples about the Torah, but it was His identification that He Himself was the Torah that drove them to murder.
John 5:18: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath but even He was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
Here in verse 58 and 59 they pick up stones to throw at Him.
So before you hear somebody get on TV and say, “Well, Jesus was hated because He was just such a super nice guy,” we should recall what is said explicitly in John 10:33: “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone You, but for blasphemy, because You being a man make Yourself God.”
“We’re not killing You, Jesus, because You did good works. We’re killing You because you blaspheme.”
And incidentally, let that be something of a sober warning to each of us. Yes, Scripture calls us to adorn the gospel. Yes, we want to be good neighbors and citizens. Yes, we want to show love for all people as we have opportunity. But do not think, do not think that someday, whether officially from our government or more informally from the pressure of tweeters or corporate America or your neighbors or your own family, don’t think that any amount of good works are going to get you out of that Jesus jam.
Who had more good works than Jesus? Who had more miracles than Jesus? Who was more of a friend of the outcast than Jesus? Who did more to help the sick? And yet when he came to it, they said “No, no, no. okay, I don’t care how many soup kitchens you run, Jesus. I don’t care how many trees you’ve planted. I don’t care how much you recycle. I don’t care how many good things you’ve done in our community. If you blaspheme against our cultural absolutes, we hate You.”
And then the opportunity to is to love our enemies, and not revile when reviled. Jesus was hated. Did He upset their scruples? Absolutely. Did He anger their hard hearts? Yes. Did He frustrate the gatekeepers by offering forgiveness for outcasts? Indeed, He did. But what infuriated the establishment most were the claims to lordship, the posture of authority, the exalted titles, the exercise of His messianic prerogatives, the presumed right to forgive, the way in which Jesus put Himself at the center of Israel’s story and dared to put Himself at the center of everyone’s story.
It was delusions of grandeur. He accepted worship. He had the audacity to refer to Himself as the Son of Man.
So Jesus did not die because the Jerusalem leaders just couldn’t stand a really souped-up incarnation of Sesame Street. He died because He acted like an incarnate Son of God, He spoke like the incarnate Son of God, He did not deny the accusation when they claimed that He was equal to God.
And so they hated Him, and would have nothing to do with Him because Jesus will not allow us to hesitate between two opinions. You cannot truly, at the end of the day, at the end of your life, merely like Jesus.
There was a fascinating article over 10 years ago in First Things, which is a conservative Catholic mainly religious journal, and there was an article written by a Jewish rabbi. It was called “No Friend in Jesus.” It was really interesting because this rabbi was writing about another Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner, one of the most renowned Jewish scholars, and he had a book called A Rabbi Talks with Jesus. And in this book this Jewish scholar was writing about why he disagreed with Jesus, why he didn’t fully embrace that Jesus was the Messiah or God, but yet he said often he had the profoundest respect for Jesus, and he would in no way want to call into question the greatness of Jesus, and Pope Benedict, the pope at the time, write a glowing blurb about this book, this Jew who spoke so warmly about Jesus though he did not finally, in the end, believe in him. But he says “I honor Jesus and I wish him well.” So that’s the background.
So this article is written by a different Jewish rabbi, and he says this: “It is passages such as these that make Neusner’s book problematic. For the moment that one person in an argument claims to be God, dialogue and debate become impossible. When someone asserts divinity, his questioner has only two options: Believe, obey, and worship, or back away slowly. As such, Neusner’s friendly dialogue with Jesus amounts to a polite hedge. Faced with a man who insists he is the equivalent of the Lord, one cannot disagree with Jesus with respect and reverence. One cannot challenge the man’s claims while remaining ‘moved’ by his greatness.”
And then it is interesting, this Jewish rabbi quotes C.S. Lewis. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher, C.S. Lewis famously wrote. He would either be a lunatic or he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. But let us not come with the patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher; he has not left that open to us, he did not intend to.”
Later this rabbi writes, “The hard truth is that when it comes to the choice facing Christians and Jews, there is no way of splitting the difference. Is Jesus who he claims to be? Is he someone worthy of worship? Or is he someone with whom even friendship is not worthwhile?”
And then one final line. This rabbis says “for Jews, Neusner approaches Jesus in the wrong way, for Jesus is not someone with whom we can have a dialogue. If we deny his divinity, then we can respond with nothing short of shock and dismay when we read the words of a man who puts himself in the place of God.”
And I commend this rabbi for such clearheaded honesty and integrity of his own convictions, because he’s absolutely right. If you’re going to deny that Jesus is divine, then you cannot just respect him and like him and sort of be for him. No, no, no. There is no room for a polite hedge.
Now you may say, well, that’s very fascinating and that’s interesting to read from a Jewish perspective, but let’s not kid ourselves. Though we may not have the same theological obstacles some of us, can you honestly say that you have come to grips with the audacious claims of Christ? Have you, too, made a polite hedge? Sure, you may sign off on a better doctrine, but really, in actuality, it’s sort of “I like Him, He’s okay, that’s fine, I respect Him, He’s important, I want my kids to learn about Him.”
Most of us know the right answer. Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the One the prophets predicted. Yes, Jesus is greater than Abraham. Jesus is God. But if Jesus is God, here’s the rub: That means He’s your God. If He’s God, He’s God over you, and He’s God over me. That means if you acknowledge what Jesus has said, and you say “Jesus, I wouldn’t pick up stones. No, I love You, I worship You,” then this Jesus of Nazareth must be the very center of your life. Not your work, not your career, not football, not Netflix, not even your family, your kids or your grandkids, but this Jesus must be the very center of your life. He must have your unquestioned obedience. He must capture the overwhelming purpose and aim of your entire existence. So I imagine a lot of people in Charlotte are making a polite hedge with Jesus.
He’s an exclusive Christ and He is an elusive Christ. Surely there is some symbolism in verse 59. How does this passage end? The glory has literally left the temple. Jesus slips out and the One who is glory incarnate has left the temple, just as it did in Ezekiel’s vision to return again, now Jesus, the glory of Israel, has departed.
There’s a famous phrase from Augustin, a paraphrase here: Jesus may flee from stones, but woe to those from whom whose hearts of stone God Himself flees.
Jesus slipped out and managed somehow supernaturally to evade their stones, but far worse that He would leave those who have a heart of stone themselves.
Jesus said “I am.” So here is the question: Will you in response look Him in the eye and say “You are, you are” and then live like it?
Let’s pray. Gracious heavenly Father, it’s your kindness that You have given us to know Jesus, to have been taught of Jesus, to give us the Bible in a language we can understand, to learn about Jesus. We pray that you would remove a polite hedge that any of us are walling up. We pray for friends and family. We pray for Muslim and Jewish and secular neighbors, who may like Jesus, may have nice things to say about Jesus, but have not come to own these claims of deity, that You would bring them to bow the knee and that we would as well. Not merely with our lips, but in our hearts and in our very lives, to follow Him, for He is all we have, and all we need. In His name we pray. Amen.