21.  Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come.”

The Lord reveals to these Pharisees that He is going away.  They will seek Him in the future, He reveals.  This, of course, refers to their seeking their Messiah to save them from the tragedy that was soon to come upon them because of the wrath of the Romans.  They would seek their Messiah to save them at that point, but they would never acknowledge that the Lord Jesus was their Messiah.  Thus, He reveals that they will die in their sin.  This sin specifically is the sin of rejecting Him.  Because they refused to accept Him, they are doomed to die in their sin.  And the Lord reveals to us here what He well knew from seeing these men’s hearts: that they never would turn from their stubborn rejection of Him to be saved.

The Lord finishes His statement by telling them that where He was going they could not come.  He refers to His return to Heaven, but they do not realize it.  They did not imagine that anyone could travel to Heaven at will!

22.  So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?”

The Jews (remember, in John this refers to the rich class and the religious leaders) cannot imagine that He could go anywhere that they could not follow.  They firmly believe that anywhere He can travel they could travel.  Thus, they wonder whether He might be planning on killing Himself, since that is the only place they could think of that He could go and they could not follow.

23.  And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.

The Lord reveals to them why they could not follow Him where He was going.  He could return to Heaven because He was from above.  They could not go there because they were from beneath.  They were part of that world, that system or order upon earth, but He was not a part of it.  He was far above the little world they had created in Israel.

The words “from above” here are not the Greek word, anothen, but rather are the Greek phrase ek ton ano or “from the above.”  He is referring to the place above, in other words, to Heaven.

24.  “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

He explained to them in the previous verse why He said they could not follow Him.  Now in this verse He explains why He said they will die in their sins.  The reason is that they refuse to believe that He is the “I Am.”  There is no word for “He” in the Greek here.  What the Lord was referring to was the great name for God in the Old Testament, “I Am That I Am.”  They needed to believe that He was the I Am, or that He was God.  If they refused to do this in spite of all the evidence they had received of Who and What He was, they were doomed to die in their sins.  There was just no other way they could have the faith necessary to be saved if they persisted in rejecting Him.  The same is true of us today.  If we hear the true message of Jesus Christ and understand Who He is and what He did for us and yet we still refuse to accept Him, there is no other way that we can be saved from our sins.  Rejecting Christ simply leaves us with no other option!

25.  Then they said to Him, “Who are You?”  And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.

They fail to make the connection from His statement to the fact that He is the “I Am” to the fact that He is claiming to be God.  They take His statement “If you do not believe that I am” as being an ellipsis, and try to figure out what word He meant them to supply.  What was He trying to say that He was?  But the Lord meant no ellipsis.  He was referring instead to the great name of God from the Old Testament, and the fact that He is God Himself.

The Lord replies that He is what He has been telling Him that He is from the beginning.  He means from the beginning of this discourse.  If we refer back to the beginning of this section, we will find in verse 12 that He referred to Himself as the “light of the world.”  Thus, this is what He means here.  That is what He is saying that He is: the light of the world.

26.  “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He Who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”

This proves that in verse 15 He did not mean that He will never judge anyone, but only that He was not judging anyone now.  He still has many things to judge concerning these men, and He will do so in the Day of Judgment in the future.  Then He reveals why He is not saying those things and judging those things now.  It is because He Who sent Him is true.  No matter how much the actions of the Pharisees and the Jews may have called for immediate judgment, the One Who sent Him was true to His plan.  He would not bring their judgment about until the day He had planned for it.  Then the Lord reveals to them that the things He is speaking to that world, that orderly system of leaders in Israel that He was then addressing, were the things He had heard from the One Who sent Him.  Thus, since the One Who sent Him is true, we can be certain that the words He gave the Lord to speak are true as well.

27.  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.

They still had not grasped the fact that He was referring to God the Father when He spoke of the One Who sent Him.  Thus, these statements must have been most puzzling indeed to them.

28.  Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.

The Lord speaks of His coming death, predicting His crucifixion and “lifting up” on a cross.  He reveals that it would come about when this was completed that they would know that He is the I Am.  They will also come to realize that the things He did were not things He decided to do Himself, but things that the Father taught Him to do and speak.  This is indeed what happened soon after He spoke these words.  No one but the disciples had any idea before His crucifixion that He was not just a Man, but was also God Himself.  Yet after His resurrection and as a result of the preaching of the apostles, many in Israel came to realize that this Man Who had walked among them was the I Am Himself.  They also came to realize that what He had done had revealed God in every aspect.  Not all of those who heard Him accepted this knowledge, but all would come to know it eventually, whether they believed it or not.

29.  “And He Who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”

He speaks here of the fact that the Father was a constant companion to Him.  He did not leave Him alone in anything that He did.  That is because He always does those things that please God.  What man besides the Lord can say such a thing?  Most of us can claim that we “sometimes” do those things that please Him, and a few might be so bold as to claim that they “usually” do those things that please Him.  But who can honestly say that they “always” do those things that please God?  No one, except our Lord Jesus Christ!  This again is proof of His Divinity, for who but God Himself could ever make such a claim?

30.  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

These words would seem to be encouraging, and to indicate that all these people who believed in Him were saved.  Yet if this was true, then we would expect to hear good things of them immediately after this.  Yet this is not the case!  Instead, in verse 33, they refuse to believe His words.  In verse 44, we read the Lord calls them “of your father the devil.”  In verse 48 they accuse Him of being illegitimate and of having a demon.  And in verse 59 we read that they tried to kill Him.  How could these things be true of people who were saved?  Surely these were not people whom we would call “true believers.”  Rather, these people were as lost as you could be.  Why, then, does John say that they believed in Him here?

I think that in order to find an answer to this, we need to understand a little bit more about faith.  Faith (that results in salvation) is more than just believing something.  Faith is also our response to what we believe.  Some people realize that something is true, which can be called technically “believing” it, but then they decide to reject that truth, or to respond as if it wasn’t true.  This might be “belief,” but it is not “believing” or “having faith.”  You might realize the truth of something, and yet still reject what that truth implies and refuse to live your life according to that truth.  That is what these people did here.  When the Lord spoke these words, they realized that He was indeed the Messiah.  However, they had not yet decided how they would respond to what they now believed was true.  Would they then dedicate their lives to Him and serve Him?  Or would they refuse to follow Him, deciding that the Messiah wasn’t Someone they were willing to follow and obey?

The answer for these people, sadly, was the latter.  They rejected Him in spite of the fact that they realized Who He truly was.  Their failure in faith was not that they did not realize Who He was, but that they rejected that knowledge and refused to continue in it and to respond properly to it.  They received the right knowledge, but they did not choose the right response.  Thus, they failed in faith, and, as the Lord said, they will die in their sins.  That is what this passage is telling us.  They believed in that they realized that He was the Messiah.  Yet they failed to believe in that they did not respond to that knowledge by choosing to serve Him.  That was the fate of these people, and it could be our fate as well.  How will we respond to the knowledge of Who and What the Lord Jesus is?  Will we respond by dedicating our lives to Him and choosing to serve Him?  Or will we respond by hating and rejecting Him, and by stubbornly keeping our lives for ourselves and refusing to give Him a place in them?  This is the question that the example of these people should raise in our minds, and this is the truth that we can learn from this passage.

31.  Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

The Lord indicates here the step that these people needed to take next.  They had now believed that He was truly the Messiah.  Now, they needed to go a step farther and decide how to respond to that knowledge.  What they needed to do with it was to respond as the Lord told them to here…by abiding in His word.  Then they would have become His disciples.  Sadly, though, that was not how they responded to this knowledge.  Instead, they rejected Him, and refused His words.  Thus, although they believed the right thing, they did not respond in the right way, and so their belief did them no good.

32.  “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

This is the promise He gives them as to what they result will be if they abide in His word.  Through His word they will come to know the truth, and through the truth they will be made free.  Free of what?  Free of the condemnation of sin and death.  These men had so much to gain by giving heed to the Lord’s words.  How sad that they did not do so!  And how sad that so many do not give heed to them either in our day!  But thank God that, for those of us who have abided in His words, we have come to know the truth, and that truth has set us free.  And now, in the Son, we are free indeed.  Praise God!

33.  They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”

This was rather a foolish statement, as historically this wasn’t true at all.  Not only had Abraham’s descendants often been enslaved by one nation or another, but also they were even then under bondage to Rome!  To claim descent from Abraham as being proof that they were already free, then, was most foolish, and shows that they were already beginning to reject His words.

34.  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

What is here translated “most assuredly” is in Greek, “Truly, truly.”  What these men had just told Christ was most certainly not the truth, as it was contrary to the most obvious facts.  What the Lord was about to tell them, however, was the truth, and was a truth they needed to listen to.  The bondage they were under that He was talking about was bondage to sin.  All of these Jews had committed sin, and well they knew it.  Now the Lord reveals to them that those who commit sin are slaves to it.  This is the slavery that He said He would free them from in verse 32: the slavery of sin.

35.  “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.

As slaves, they could not continue in God’s house forever.  They were in God’s house at that time just by the fact that they were part of the nation of Israel.  As long as they were slaves to sin, however, their stay there would be cut short.  Yet the One Who was speaking to them was the Son Himself, and He would abide forever.

“Forever” here is the Greek “into the eon.”  Remember, in Greek, “eon” is something that flows or is outflowing.  To abide into the outflow had to do with abiding in perpetuity.  A slave could be cast out, and would not abide in God’s house perpetually.  Yet the Son does abide perpetually, and so His position is far better than theirs was.  They were only in the house for a short time, but He was there for good.

Although the New King James translates this as “a son,” John never uses huios as referring to anyone but Christ.  Therefore, I agree with the old King James rendering, “the Son.”  The exact same phrase is translated as “the Son” in verse 36.  This is not talking about any generic son, but is specifically talking about Jesus Christ.  He is the One Who abides in God’s house in perpetuity.

36.  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Since the Son remains in the house forever, any decision He makes is likewise binding forever.  Therefore, if He makes you free, nothing can happen that will reverse what He has done.  One who is set free by the Son is set free for good.  Thank the Lord for His wonderful gift!

37.  “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.

The Lord acknowledges the truth that they are Abraham’s descendants.  He knows this, and does not deny it.  Yet He sees through their outward façade and sees what was truly going on in their hearts.  The truth was that these Jews wanted to silence Him.  They rejected His words, and they didn’t want Him to be able to speak them to anyone else.  Once they rejected His words, they became at enmity with them.  Thus, they desired to kill Him and bring His words to an end.

38.  “I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”

Now the Lord contrasts Himself with them.  He was doing what He had seen His Father do.  What could be more natural than that!  I think all of us at one time or another have caught ourselves doing things and have thought to ourselves, “this is something that my parents would do!”  Children are great imitators, and pick up a multitude of things from their parents.  Even when we are adults, many of these habits and ways of doing things from our childhood remain and testify as to what we learned from our parents.  Yet how different the example of some parents is from the example of others!  The ultimate contrast is between the actions of the Lord and these Jews.  They were both doing the things they had seen their fathers do, yet how different the actions of those fathers were!

39.  They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”  Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.

These Jews respond to His words by claiming to be Abraham’s children.  This is what every Israelite would probably have done in these circumstances.  Yet our Lord denies what they say, witnessing to the fact that they do not do the works of Abraham.  If they were truly Abraham’s children, then they would act like Abraham did.  Yet they did not act like he did.  And our Lord knew Abraham, so He knew well what He was talking about!  Their actions showed they were not truly Abraham’s children.  No, they had a different father from Abraham.

40.  “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man Who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this.

The Lord does not just let His claim that they did not do the works of Abraham stand for itself.  Here He shows them what it is that they are doing that shows that they are not Abraham’s children.  He is a Man Who has told them the truth He heard from God.  Thus, He is comparable to men like Melchizedek whom Abraham knew.  Yet these Jews were seeking to kill Him for speaking God’s truth!  This is something that Abraham never would have done, needless to say.  An examination of his life (Genesis 12-25) is enough to show that he was a man who always listened to the words of God.  Thus, these men were certainly not his children.

41.  “You do the deeds of your father.”  Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

The fact that they did not act like Abraham is explained by the fact that he was not truly their father.  Who was their father then?

The Jews are indignant at these words.  They are not bastards, they claim!  Since He scoffs at their claim to be Abraham’s children, they go one step farther, and claim to have one Father, God Himself.  This claim was as arrogant as it was inaccurate.  These men did not even act worthily of being called children of Abraham, so they certainly could not claim to be children of God!  Yet they did so, and they no doubt, in their own pride, believed it to be true.

42.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.

The Lord again shows them why their claim is not true.  They do not act like God anymore than they act like Abraham.  The Lord Jesus proceeded forth and came from God.  Thus, if they were truly God’s children, they would love Him as God loves Him.  Notice that He is most emphatic.  He did not just come of Himself to claim these things, but God sent (apostello) Him to claim them.  They, on the other hand, were just talking under their own authority in claiming to be children of God.  Their claims, unlike His, were not true.

43.  “Why do you not understand My speech?  Because you are not able to listen to My word.

Why did these people continually misunderstand what the Lord was trying to say?  Our Lord was speaking the words of God Himself, and if God wants to communicate, then certainly He can do so and see to it that those who hear understand!  Why then did they not understand?  Because they were not able to listen to what He was saying.  “Listen” here is a Hebrew figure of speech meaning that they were not able to accept or believe what He was saying.  It was because they were not able to believe that they were not able to understand.  If they had been true believers in His word, then they would have understood what He was saying.  But, even though they had believed that He was truly the Messiah (verse 30,) they still did not have faith, as they were not willing to act as they should have acted towards their Messiah by submitting themselves to Him.  Thus, although they believed the truth about Him, they were not willing to act upon that truth, and so His words were not able to affect them as they should have.

44.  “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

The Lord ceases to mince words, and tells them straight out whose children they are.  They are of their father the devil!  It is the things that he desires that they desire as well.  Many have a view of the devil that has him being morally corrupt and into every sort of perversion one could think of.  From this passage, however, we learn that he might be far different from what we might think or expect.  These people whom Christ was speaking to were not the morally corrupt or outwardly wicked.  Rather, these people were men who were highly religious and outwardly moral.  What their true problem was was that they thought that they were justified in God’s sight by their own righteous deeds.  They had made up a plethora of rules and regulations that they followed in order to attempt to please God, and yet they did not care for faith or to actually submit themselves to God’s Word.  Thus, we might learn of the devil, that he is far more interested in creating religions and getting men to try to save themselves through some moral code of works than he is in trying to get men to visit bars or whorehouses or to indulge in other forms of immorality.  The children of their father the devil are far more likely to be found among the ultra-religious than they are among the atheists or the amoral.

The Lord tells us a little more about the devil.  He was a murderer (or a manslayer) from the beginning.  We think of Cain in Genesis 4.  How like the devil he was!  He thought that he could create his own religious act to please God, and that his way could be just as good as God’s way.  When his sacrifice was rejected, however, and Abel’s was accepted, he blamed Abel for following  God’s command and being accepted rather than admitting that the problem was his own failure to follow God’s command!  Therefore, he killed his brother, showing the true spirit of his father, the devil.  Perhaps this is what the Lord is referring to, and we learn here that the devil himself was partially behind Cain’s attitude.  However, we can go even further back than this, as it was the devil who convinced Eve that she could improve herself by disobeying God’s command, and thus was the cause of Eve’s ultimate death, as well as the death of all mankind.  He truly was a manslayer from the beginning!

Now these men were acting just like their father the devil.  They were seeking to kill the Lord Jesus because he told them God’s truth, and warned them that their own invented religious acts were not accepted in God’s sight.  They were just like their father, indeed!

Then the Lord speaks of where the devil takes his stand.  He does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Every time we find him speaking in the Bible we find him speaking a lie.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of lying.  Indeed, his lie to Eve is the first lie we read of in the Word of God, and no doubt was the first lie ever told in creation.  That is why he is the father of lying.  The Lord, however, was standing in the truth, and was speaking the truth to these men.  They, on the other hand, were not willing to hear the truth, and thus were like their father in this regard as well.

45.  “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

These men would believe a lie, but God’s truth spoken by God’s Son was something that they would not believe.  It was actually because He told them the truth that they rejected what He said!  Like Cain, they wanted to believe that their way was good enough, and so God’s way was undesirable to them.

46.  “Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?

The Lord asks these Jews two questions, neither of which they could answer.  The first was “Which of you convicts Me of sin?”  He wanted to know if there was any point in His life, any deed that He had done, any word that He had spoken which they could call into question and make to be a sin.  Of course, the answer is that there was not.  Our Lord, being God Himself and therefore sinless, had nothing in His life which anyone could point to and claim to be a sin.  Yet there are those in our day who are eager to invent sins for our Lord to have committed, such as having had an affair with Mary Magdalene and her having given birth to His illegitimate child!  All such claims have no basis in fact, and have to do with men after our Lord’s time trying to go back and concoct sins for Him to have committed to prove that He wasn’t God.  All such ideas as the “black Madonna,” however, are mere fabrications, for our Lord had nothing in His life that anyone could point to as a sin.

The second question was that, if He had indeed committed no sin in word or deed and if He had told them nothing but the truth, then why did they not believe Him?  They could not answer this question, for indeed there was no answer they could give that would justify their actions.  But the Lord had already answered the question in verse 44.  They did not believe Him because they were of their father the devil.  They had rejected the truth, and so they would sooner believe a lie than the truth that the Lord was speaking.

47.  “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

We realize that, in general, Israel was God’s nation and consisted of God’s people.  Yet there was still the matter of individual choice, and although the nation as a whole belonged to God, there were those within it who did not belong to Him, but had chosen a different path.  Those who were of God would hear God’s words as they were spoken by His messengers, and certainly as they were spoken by the Living Word Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet these Jews to whom He was speaking did not hear His words.  Hear, of course, has to do not just with registering the sounds in their heads, but with listening to them and responding to them properly.  They would not hear His words because they were not of God, but instead were of their father, the devil.

48.  Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

Still not being able to answer His arguments in a legitimate way, nor being able to prove that what He said was not true, these Jews resort to insult.  This is often the method of argument of choice to those who find that they do not have truth on their side.  They accuse Him first of being a Samaritan.  We need to understand what they meant by this.  They did not mean that He came from Samaria, for everyone knew He came from Nazareth in Galilee.  Yet we need to remember what Samaritans were to the Jews.  The Samaritans were the people resulting from the Assyrian captivity of the land of Israel.  When they took over the land, the Assyrians transplanted certain people to the land of Israel, as we read in II Kings 17:23-33.  These people intermarried with the descendents of Israel who remained in the land, and so they formed a people who were half-Jewish and half-Gentile.  The descendents of these people were those who lived in the region of Samaria.  The pure Israelites who lived in the regions of Galilee and Judea viewed these half-breeds as bastardized, and so despised them.  The term “Samaritan” to the Jews became synonymous with a bastard.  Thus, by calling the Lord a Samaritan, they were really claiming that He was a half-Jewish, half-Gentile bastard.  This accusation was the result of a popular story that Mary’s mysterious pregnancy was the result of an affair she had had with a Roman soldier.  By calling the Lord Jesus a Samaritan, then, these Jews were putting Him down and despising Him as a half-breed bastard.

Then they accused Him of having a demon.  We have already seen this accusation earlier in the gospel when He revealed that they were trying to kill Him.  This was something that a demon might typically say, and so they had started to accuse Him of being possessed.  The Lord did not show any other signs of being possessed, and His actions and the mighty miracles that He did by the Holy Spirit proved that this was not so.  Yet these men were rejecting Him and seeking to insult Him, and they little cared how accurate their accusations were.  He had rightfully accused them, and they wanted to get back at Him, rightfully or wrongfully, and so they threw these wrongful accusations at Him.
49.  Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.

The Lord outright denies the accusation that He has a demon.  Then He points out that the One they are truly dishonoring by claiming He is a bastard is His Father.  Men of the past seemed to have an unfair tendency to blame a bastard for the sins of his parents.  Really, the dishonor in the case of a bastard is on the parents, not on the child, although the child will have to live with the consequences of his parents’ sinful actions.  Yet by claiming that He was a bastard they were not only dishonoring Him, but were also dishonoring His Father.  The Lord would never have done so, for He always honors His Father.  Yet they, by claiming that being the Son of God made Him a bastard, were dishonoring both the Lord and His Father God Himself!

50.  “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One Who seeks and judges.

They had dishonored Him, but He assures them that He does not seek to honor Himself and glorify Himself.  Yet He warns them that there is One Who seeks His glory, and One Who judges those who do not glorify the Son.  That One, we know, is His Father.  We would do well to glorify the Son ourselves, knowing Who it is Who seeks His glory and judges all those who refuse to give glory to Him!

51.  “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

The Lord begins this statement with the words, “Truly, truly,” the figure of speech He often used to give His words the greatest emphasis.  Then He tells them that if anyone keeps His word he shall never see death.  Yet this sentence as it is translated does not seem to make sense, for we know that there were many among His followers and His disciples who did keep His word, and yet they tasted of death just as all men have (excepting Enoch and Elijah) since the fall of Adam.  What then did the Lord mean by this?

This phrase, “shall never see death,” is improperly translated, as there are words in the Greek that are simply ignored by the translators.  The most significant of these words is the Greek word aion, which I have made more English by spelling it “eon.”  This word has to do with that which flows, and speaks, when the Lord uses it, of the great flow of God in the future when He flows out to the world in the time of His earthly kingdom.  This is what the Lord was actually talking about.  He who keeps His word might see death at this time, but he shall by no means see death in respect to the eon.  Rather, he shall live for that entire time period, and death will have no power over him at that time.  This is what the Lord was telling them, and this is the truth, not what our translators have given us in the English versions.  We need to understand this truth about the coming eon, and the resurrection life that God will award to His servants then.  None of those who keep His words need worry about dying at that time.  What a blessed time that will be!

52.  Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that you have a demon!  Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’

The Jews twisted His words here.  He had said that one who kept His words would never see death in respect to the eon.  They changed this to never tasting of death for the eon (or the outflow.)  They changed it in the same way that modern translators have changed it to make it sound as if He meant that one who keeps His words will never die an Adamic death, which was not true at all, nor are the words of verse 51 true at all as they currently stand in modern translations.  Although they did not seem to alter them in a very large or significant way, they nevertheless proved that they were not keeping His words, even as He said, for they could not repeat them back to Him even as He had spoken them, but rather found it necessary to add their little commentary on them even as they repeated them, changing their message from speaking of God’s future kingdom to saying that one who believes will never die at all!  This was a great crime against the words that the Lord had spoken.  Yet this is the same crime that the modern-day translators have committed, for they likewise have changed the Lord’s words to make them be saying the same thing!

53.  “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

These Jews who had believed that He was the Messiah but were nevertheless rejecting Him are quick to jump on what He said here.  He must have a demon, they boldly proclaim!  Abraham is dead, as well as the prophets.  Yet He claims that if anyone keeps His word he shall never taste of death in respect to the eon!  Abraham was a great and honored man, the patriarch of all Israel.  And the prophets were great men of God as well.  And yet all these men were dead!  How could the Lord claim that one would not taste of death for the outflow (or in perpetuity) when these great men had obeyed God’s words and still had died?  This argument made perfect sense if the Lord had been talking about not dying in this world, and would have been a proper rebuke of Him.  Yet they had changed the Lord’s words, as we saw above, even as our modern translators have changed them to make them be saying the same thing.

54.  Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing.  It is My Father Who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.

The Lord ignores their false argument altogether, for it was not a legitimate point but rather a twisting of His words.  Instead, He returns to the matter of their dishonoring Him by claiming that He was demon-possessed and a bastard.  He tells them that if He honors Himself, His honor means nothing.  But it is His Father Who honors Him.  Then He reveals to them at last in no uncertain terms Who His Father is of Whom He keeps speaking.  His Father, the One Who honors Him, is the very One Who they say is their God!  Surely His honor means something, if anyone’s does!  Yet how had He honored the Lord?  By all the miracles and mighty works that He had given Him to do!  These Jews had seen these honors and mighty works, and so they knew that the Father had honored Him.  Yet they refused to acknowledge it, and thus proved that they only said that He was their God, whereas in truth He was not.

55.  “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him.  And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.

Although they claimed He was their God, by their refusal to acknowledge His honoring of Jesus Christ, they proved that they did not actually know Him.  Yet the Lord Jesus knows Him.  The Lord goes beyond just claiming to know Him, and says that, if He claimed not to know Him, then He would be a liar like they were (when they said they knew Him.)  Yet the Lord acknowledges that He certainly does know Him and keep His word.  It was that word that He delivered to them, and it was that word that they were rejecting.

56.  “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

Now the Lord reveals to them that their father Abraham, whom they intimated was so much greater than the Lord, had rejoiced to see His day.  The word “rejoiced” here literally means that he jumped for joy!  What day was this that Christ was speaking of?  It was the day of Christ that we read about in Scripture, that great coming day when God will rule the earth through His kingdom.  (see Philippians 1:6,10; 2:16.)  That was the day that Abraham saw and was glad.  What a blessing it was for him to see that day!  When we read of what things will be like on earth at that time, we could almost jump for joy ourselves in contemplation of all the great things that God will do then.

57.  Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

The Jews notice that He speaks as if He had seen Abraham do this.  Certainly, there is no record in the book of Genesis of any event happening to Abraham like this.  Thus, they scorn His words, pointing out that He is less than fifty years old.  Indeed, He was, but was rather in His early thirties.  How then, they reason, could One so young have seen Abraham?

58.  Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

The Lord answers them with His solemn emphasis, “Truly, truly.”  Then, He tells them that, “before Abraham was, I AM.”  Notice that it is not, “Before Abraham was, I was,” as if He was merely acknowledging His Own existence before Abraham was born, although that too was true.  Rather, He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” calling their minds back to the story of Moses and the burning bush and the great declaration of the Lord of His great name, “I AM WHO I AM.”  (Exodus 3:14)  Thus, He claimed once again to be the “I AM,” the Lord Himself Who had appeared to Moses and so many others in the Old Testament, the One Who had made the world, the One Who had appeared to Moses and Who had led Israel out of Egypt.  That is Who the Lord Jesus was.

59.  Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

This declaration of the Lord’s was too much for these Jews.  Thus, they put a period on their rejection of Him in spite of their realization of the fact that He truly is the Messiah.  They do this by taking up stones and preparing to stone Him.  Yet the Lord is not threatened by their attempt to murder Him.  All He has to do is hide Himself.  How does one hide himself in the middle of a crowd?  This is something that it would be impossible for a man to do, but for God Himself, it is an easy task indeed.  Then, being hidden from them, it is an easy task for Him to go out of the temple, passing through the midst of the crowd that was clamoring for His death and yet which could no longer see Him. 

What a miracle this was, and what a proof it was that what He had been saying was really true!  Yet these men were beyond proof, for they had rejected the Word of God, and no miracle could convince them or bring them to faith.  Thus, we close the chapter once again by returning to the great purpose of the book of John.  These men are set up for us as examples of men who realized the truth about Jesus Christ, and yet who refused to accept it and act upon it.  Will we be the same way, realizing that Jesus is truly Lord and Savior and yet refusing to come to Him and be saved?  Or will we do the opposite and keep the words of the Lord, thus identifying ourselves as those who do indeed belong to God?  The choice is ours!