And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
We have noticed that all these conversations took place in the temple following the wonderful words to that poor, sinful woman who was brought to Jesus by her accusers. “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (8:11). Phase after phase of truth has been set forth for the enlightenment of the Jewish leaders. Many and various claims had been put before the people, and one by one they had been questioned by the majority who had listened to Him.
Now in the closing part of this chapter there are really two outstanding themes. First, the sinlessness of Jesus, and then, second, His preexistence. Both of these testify to His Deity. He is God. On earth He was God manifest in the flesh, and because He was God in flesh, He was an absolutely sinless Man. He was the One who had existed from all eternity. He was the Son of the Father before He came into this world through the gates of birth. He says, “Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not” (v. 45). The truth was so utterly beyond anything that they had known that they would not accept it. It was a reminder that the natural man understands not the things of God. This explains why men have so much difficulty with the teaching of the Word of God. They are bereft of spiritual discernment. What men need is a second birth.
You remember the story of the man who was denying that God answers prayer. He said, “There is no such thing as God-answered prayer in this world.” An old Quaker was standing there and asked, “Does thee not believe that God answers prayer?” “No,” said the man, “I don’t.” “Did thee ever pray to God?” “No, I never did.” “Well then, friend, what does thee know about it? Had thee not better be silent till thee has tested it?” We need to test it for ourselves. We need the reality of the second birth, for except a man be born again he cannot see (that is, he cannot understand) the things of the kingdom of God.
Here was Truth incarnate moving among men. They listened and turned away incredulous. They could not believe because their minds were blinded on account of their sins. And so the Lord Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, [but] ye believe me not.” Then He puts this question, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (v. 46). They would not believe what He was telling them. Had they ever known Him to commit a sin or any kind? That question comes as a challenge to all the world still, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” Men have searched these records and have tried to find some fault or flaw in His character or something wrong in His behavior, but they have not been able to find one. He stands before us as the only sinless character in all history and in all literature, and that in itself declares that He is more than man. Of all men it is written, they have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But here was One who came to earth as man, and He never sinned but glorified God in everything He did.
Consider the prayer life of our Lord Jesus and see how that demonstrates His sinlessness. Our Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us” (see Matt. 6:12; Luke 11:4), but He never prayed that prayer Himself. We never read of Him joining with anyone in prayer. He prayed for people but not with them. Why? Because He prayed from an altogether different standpoint than others. He prayed as the Eternal Son of the Father whose communion had never been disturbed for an instant. When we come to God, we pray as forgiven sinners, or we pray for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus could not join in that. Some of our most blessed experiences have been when we have knelt with others and prayed with them. We pray with confidence and faith, believing that God is ready to forgive, for He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus never joined with any body to pray like that.
And then, again, consider the question of His piety. If you are a Christian, may I ask you this? How did your life of piety begin? You were not always a Christian. You were not born a Christian, though you may have been born into a Christian family. How did your life of godliness begin? Did it not begin with the recognition of your own lost estate, and did not that lead you to see your need of salvation and bring you to God for pardon? Jesus knew nothing of this. In His life we see piety without one thought or mention of repentance. No tears of contrition ever fell from His eyes. If He wept, He wept for others’ sins, as when He looked over Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee: how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). His tears were for others’ sins and sorrow. He had none for His own, for He was the sinless One, and in this we recognize His Divinity and His Deity.
And so He speaks the truth. He challenges everyone by saying, “If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:46-47). If we reject the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, our very rejection declares that we are not subject to the will of God. But our Lord’s hearers, on this occasion, were very indignant with Him. They resisted His testimony and answered, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (v. 48). And for an orthodox Jew to call anyone a Samaritan was to use the most contemptuous expression possible, for if there was anyone the Jew detested, it was the Samaritan. So they said, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (It is really “a demon.” There is only one Devil.)
Is it not a striking thing that in that parable of the man on the Jericho road, which we all love, He uses that name for Himself He pictures Himself as a Samaritan. It is as such our blessed Lord has come from the heights of glory into this dark world, seeking those that are lost. How wondrous His grace!
But when they said, “Thou hast a demon,” He replied, “I have not a [demon] ; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me” (v. 49). And whenever we refuse His testimony we are dishonoring Him. In the next verse He explains that He was here to seek the glory of God, and He could commit this into the hands of Him who “judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Then He adds something that astonished them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (John 8:51). Now outwardly, of course, believers die as others die. And yet the wonderful thing is that the words of Jesus are absolutely true: the believer does not see death. What does he see? He sees the entrance into the Father’s house. Death, we are told, is our servant. How does death serve us? By ushering us into the presence of God.
I was with an evangelist in the South, and we went to visit a friend who lived in a nice house where we were met at the door by a kindly colored servant. “Oh,” she said, “the mistress is waiting for you,” and took us inside. The evangelist turned and said, “You know, that kindly colored servant reminds me of the Scripture that says, ‘Death is ours.’” Death stands by, death is just a servant who ushers us into the presence of the Lord. “He that believeth in me shall never see death.”
When Mrs. General Booth of The Salvation Army was dying, she looked up and said, “Is this death? Why, this is glorious.” Somebody said, “But you are suffering.” She said, “Oh, yes, the waters are rising, but so am I.”
Yes, death is only the means of entrance into eternal blessing—with Christ. But oh, what a sad thing if one does not know Christ! That will mean eternal banishment from God.
But the Lord’s hearers did not understand, for they said, “Now we know You have a demon. Why, Abraham is dead, and he was the father of our nation, and the prophets are dead, and Thou sayest. ‘If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?’” (vv. 52-53). They could not conceive anyone greater than Abraham. Abraham was called the friend of God, and here was God standing among them in human guise. “Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God” (v. 54). He added, “If I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (vv. 55-56). When did Abraham see His day? When God gave him the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations… be blessed” (Gen. 22:18; 26:4).
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But the Jews could not understand this. They said, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). He did not say, “I have seen Abraham,” but He said, “Abraham saw my day.”
Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (v. 58). Again, He uses the incommunicable name of God. “Who shall I say has sent me?” said Moses. “Say I AM has sent thee.” And Jesus says here, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He speaks as the God of Abraham. Notice how He insists on His preexistence. He is the ever-living Christ who came into this world as our Redeemer.
When He spoke like this, they counted it blasphemy. You remember how some of them came to the temple earlier, intending to stone that poor woman, but when Jesus thus declared His Deity they took up stones to cast at Him. “But Jesus hid himself,… going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (v. 59), and they lost their opportunity. They refused to credit His testimony and He left them, “and so passed by.”