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Oct 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 14, 2012 – John 8:23-24

Why Did Jesus Say That?

And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” John 8:23

INTRO: Chapter 8 begins with a story almost everyone loves
Jesus is sitting in the temple teaching, when a woman is dragged in
– she committed adultery and had been “caught in the act”
• they asked Jesus to render a verdict against her
– at first he ignored them – then he wrote (or drew) on the ground
• finally he sat up, and spoke the famous line, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7)
– after they filed out, he asked the woman,

“Where are they? Did no one condemn you” and she had answered, “No one, Lord,” He said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

This story is connected with the rest of the chapter in several ways:

  1. It ties a ribbon around the chapter (inclusio) – the theme of stoning, here and in v. 59
  2. It introduces the theme of sin (important here and in chapter 9)
  3. Jesus is pressured into assuming the role of being a judge — then he is judged, but quickly turns the tables and becomes the judge
  4. Less obvious is the up and down theme in this chapter (above/below) when Jesus “stooped down” and “straightened up”
    – when down, he ignored them – sitting up, he answered them
    – Jesus does not belong to what is down or below and his answers come from above (v. 26)

After this incident, Jesus resumed his teaching
– it is a mixed audience – some are disciples and others are critics
• so we find them asking questions and raising objections

What is happening in this dialogue?

It began with Jesus’ announcement, “I am the Light of the world”
– from then on, they try to get him to tell them plainly who he is
– as with John the Baptist (1:19-21), “not the Christ”
• “Elijah?” No, “the Prophet?” No – “Who are you?”

They argued, “You are testifying about Yourself–that’s not good enough”
– implied, “That is, unless You’re someone really special. So who are You?”
• he knows who he is–they don’t–because he knows where he came from and where he is going (v. 14)
• a person’s identity is memory + destiny (or history + destiny)
• for most of us, it’s our destiny that we don’t know and prevents us from knowing who we are
– the person who knows himself can testify of himself
– but he also has the testimony of his Father

“Where is your Father?” – knowing a person’s father said something about the person (Simon son of Jonas, James and John the sons of Zebedee, etc.)
– and so this is how the conversation goes
• v. 25, “Who are You?”
• v. 48, “You’re a Samaritan and have a demon”
• v. 53, “whom do You make Yourself out to be?”

Jesus answered who he was, but at first it is so subtle that they missed it
– 24, “die in your sins unless your believe that I am
– 28, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know I am
• it sounds like he is simply answering their questions or making statements

But at the end of the dialogue, he is not so subtle

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 born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple (vv. 57-59)
– there was no missing or misunderstanding him this time (see Ex. 3:13-15)

Some of these people believed in Jesus
– they were moving toward him and trying to become disciples
• what was the problem?
• what made it so difficult for them to work things out with Jesus?
– the answer is in verse 23,

You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.

Why did Jesus say that?

We’re not looking for the right answer or logical answer
– but trying to understand what Jesus felt, desired, and intended

I think he said this because

  1. Jesus wanted them to know him
    – it wasn’t a condemnation or one-upmanship, but an explanation of why they couldn’t know him
    • they were going about it the wrong way
    7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance . . .”
    7:28, “You both know Me and know where I am from . . .”
    • this is confusing, but there are two truths to Jesus: “flesh” and divine
    8:15, “You judge according to the flesh” – physical, typically human
    • to know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth is not the truth about him that reveals God
    – I love the way Jo Daxon put it one Sunday night
    • she said, “It’s like we’re playing on one game board and God is playing on another”
    • the game board are not side by side, but in two different dimensions
    • that’s why, God sometimes makes a move and we cry, “Why’d You do that?!”
    – if we knew God’s game board, we’d always be at peace
  2. Jesus wanted them to be true disciples (v. 31-32)
    – why did Jesus sometimes discourage people from joining him?
    • they were making a commitment to the wrong thing — to what they thought Jesus was about
    – people do this all the time, they commit to a set of beliefs, political cause, a few adjustments in their lifestyle
    – but the test of the true disciple is, “continue in My word”
    • were they able to do that?
    v. 37,My word has no place in you”
    v. 43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word
    v. 47, “you do not hear [the words of God] because your are not of God”
  3. Jesus longed to see them free – that was his whole desire!
    – what is freedom? It’s an important question
    • what we think is freedom may be the illusion of freedom
    • for example, “We have never been anyone’s slaves” (v. 33)
    – there is an inner freedom and an inner slavery
    • to be tortured by repetitive thoughts is not freedom – anxiety, etc.
    • to be controlled by ego needs, greed, prejudice is not freedom
    • any self-destructive or unwanted habit is not freedom
    Jesus wants to heal us from the messed up stuff inside
    – he wants to make us whole – not just spiritually, but also psychologically
    • so we don’t act out of our old wounds, old programming, or deficits
  4. Jesus had something for them that no other human could offer
    – others could provide them with a simple knowledge of God, but Jesus had more than that – the experience of God
    Jn. 7:28-29, “. . . I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me”
    – this was his source of confidence, his constant inner-peace
    • this is the “truth” he wanted to pass on to them
    • the truth that liberates
    if they could get beyond their literalism, their material mind-set, they could know Jesus and in Jesus come to know the Father

What would it cost them if he failed to convince them?

“You will die in your sins”
– we’ve been told repeatedly that sin means “to miss the mark”
– you will die having missed the mark for your life

CONC: Imagine that we are those people arguing with Jesus

He draws a picture of a seed and asks, “What do you see?”
– we say, “A seed” and he says, “No, it is not a seed. Look again”
• we look again, “It’s a seed!” we insist
• he says, “No, it is not. You’re only seeing the surface. Look deeper”
• we look for awhile, then a light turns on and we say, “It’s a life waiting to germinate”
• “Yes!” Jesus says, “It’s the life within My words, which are like seeds”

Here’s our difficulty:
– the world around us is always pressing in on us
• it fills our minds with thoughts about:

the way we look or dress
the opinions of other people
worry that we’ve made the wrong choices
and on and on

– once we let the world in, it takes over and blinds us to anything beyond itself
• we get stuck in it – stuck in the literal, the image, the material, the “flesh”

What did Jesus say about the true disciples?
– they “continue in My word” – a favorite term of John’s, “abide,” “remain,” “continue”
– to stay in Jesus’ word is to:

  • keep taking the next step in it as it unfolds
  • do it
  • hold it in our minds and hearts until it enlightens us

It is to sit with his word in silence as if hearing Jesus himself saying it to us
– letting it soak through our minds, then our hearts, and then down into our spirits

It is to stay with it
– until it brings us back to the experience of God in this present moment
– until it frees us from the world long enough to catch our breath
and get a vision of heaven
a vision of God’s game board
a vision of the beautiful life with Jesus that he wants us to live

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