Reader: “Who are you?” they demanded.”
Response: “Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be.”
Scripture: John 8:21-30
Later Jesus said to them again, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going.”
The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?”
Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”
“Who are you?” they demanded.
Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father.
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
The context of this passage has to do with one of the major Jewish pilgrimage feasts, Sukkot, of the Feast of Tabernacles. Because of the nature of the feast, Jerusalem was packed with Jews from near and far. As we mentioned several days ago, one of the questions each of the first chapters of John seeks to answer is “Who is Jesus?” Previously at this festival, he had told the gathered Jews that he was the light of the world. In this passage he is warning of the danger of unbelief and permanent separation from God. There are two levels of thinking unfolding before us. Jesus is talking about heaven. The people have not come close to realizing he is from heaven. They believe he is just another man, albeit one who is a little “off.” Jesus has said some pretty amazing things in their hearing so my guess some of them think he is a mental case, so their suicide question makes sense. His words that follow would be all the more troublesome if you believed he was just a man, especially when he says, “You are from below, I am from above. You belong to this world, I do not.”
When I was in grad school, I auditioned singers for a choir I was directing. A young man came in to audition and on the form filled in his name as Jesus Christ. We talked and he proceeded to tell me he would be in the choir because he was Jesus. We talked some more and I eventually assured him he was not Jesus Christ. With a quizzical look he asked me, “Then who am I?” We unsuccessfully tried to get him some help. The Jews listening to Jesus were viewing Jesus in the same way I viewed this young auditioner. But Jesus gives them some concrete hints. On another occasion, he had said, “I AM the light of the world.” Here he says,”I AM who I claim to be.” Every Jew knew the I AM who spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai was God. Here, the phrase sailed right over their heads. And we get the question again, “Who are you Jesus?” In this passage we see Jesus’ exercise of restraint. “I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t.” I have to admire his determination to say only what the Father told him. Do you and I live that way or do we “unload” on people? We also have another instance of Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man, a messianic phrase the people would have picked up, and tying it to the I AM. In another identification clarifier, Jesus refers to his relationship to his Father. Some of the crowd were able to see the light and believed in who he was. In regard to Jesus, the question from the people, “Who are you?” is as relevant today as it was then. The challenge to any unbeliever is, “Can you change your mind as to who you think Jesus is?” In talking with people who have yet to believe, it seems to me that is the most important question. Keep praying for those who have yet to discover the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Music: “We Come, O Christ, to You” Grace Community Church
Lord Jesus my Savior, in some ways I’m like the Jewish people I just read about and in other ways I’m not. Unlike them, I know you are the Son of God, God come to earth in human flesh. I believe in you completely. But in another way I can ask the same question “Who are you?” Lord, I am susceptible to presuming I know you to the depths. I can be too familiar and simply treat you as another human being, not as the Son of God, a member of the Trinity, the one through whom the universe was created. Lord forgive me for the time I trampled around on holy ground and did not hear your voice to take off my shoes. It is a wondrous thing to know you love and care for your children. May I learn more and more in the days that lie ahead what it is and means to know you and to have the mind of Christ. I bow before you in embarrassment and humility as my Lord and Redeemer. I love you Lord. Forgive my foolish ways and dullness of spirit. Help me to find more and more each day who you are, my glorious Savior of the world. In your wonderful name, the great I AM. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp