As Jesus spoke many believed him, but they still had questions. In this section a group of Jews who “had believed him” wrestle with his answers to their questions, but they aren’t listening. Jesus explains that everyone who sins is a slave to sin, a point they must not have heard, then this great statement of hope: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Sadly they spiral farther and farther away to the point they “picked up stones to stone him.”John 8:31-59
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One Reply to “Jesus and Abraham, Jews who believed turn on him”
As I read the debates between Jesus and Pharisees, Jews, leaders, etc., the words of Paul Simon’s, Sound of Silence, come to mind: “people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.” It’s sad. No doubt there were hundreds of Jews passing through the courts during this festival. Verse 30 (just before this passage) provided some great hope: “many believe in him,” but this passage points to a group who “had believed” him, past tense.
They talked without speaking and they heard without listening. Paul Simon does not profess to be a Christian and I don’t know him personally, but his words describe the condition of the hearts of the close-minded. Jesus addresses the Jews head-on; it’s apparent he knows their confused state and rather than let them leave to perpetuate a misguided theology, Jesus makes a point that gets their attention:
Their response is triggered by the words, “set you free.” In order to be set free, you must not be free, and we “have never been slaves of anyone.” Jesus clarifies that all who have sinned are in fact a slave to sin. That probably helped some nob their heads in agreement, but Jesus continues to load them down with concepts they can’t process. He makes several points:
Perhaps they had just heard the retelling of Moses and the escape from bondage, but it seems when they heard the first to bullets, they stopped listening completely. We aren’t slaves! “Abraham is our father.”
For a second time in this passage alone, Jesus says they are “looking for a way to kill me.” This time in reference to them not being like Abraham’s children, “Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” Ok, now Jesus had made them really mad. I suspect there other adjectives shot at Jesus, but John gives us this: “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Really?
Jesus does not hold back on these who would confront him with arrogance and great pride. Their response is to spout more insults as best they can, “you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed.” Again they reveal their true colors by attempting to cast Jesus as one of the despicable Samaritans and if that wasn’t enough, he must be demon-possessed.
Jesus provides words that honors Abraham, the chosen father of many descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” But when Jesus said, “before Abraham was born, I am!” they had heard enough and they intended to stone him. Jesus slipped away. This was not the day.
In some ways this gets back to an earlier thought that we should not be so quick to welcome people into the family of faith. This particular crowd “had believed” in what Jesus was teaching, but when pressed further, their belief was not founded on what he was teaching and they quickly slipped away. Had they become part of the disciples, they would have only corrupted the message for they did not truly believe who Jesus was, who Jesus is. Again, I’m not suggesting we should be judge and jury, but we should challenge those who want to profess Christ as Savior, make them think. It’s not just “say a prayer” and you’re done, but it is “say a prayer” and you’re done. The difference lies in the motivation. We should be willing to help people affirm their motivation.