39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
(John 8:39-47 NIV)
As we look into today’s passage, we see Jesus continuing to dialogue with the Jews at the temple courtyard. Jesus has just talked about their spiritual heritage, and the Jewish crowd only wanted to talk about their biological heritage. The group thought that their natural heritage from Abraham was also their spiritual heritage, and as such was their ticket to heaven.
At the end of the last passage, Jesus differentiated Himself from the unbelieving crowd by saying He was following the example of His Father in heaven while they were following the example of their father (implied to be the devil).
As we pick up the dialogue in today’s passage, the crowd replies that Abraham is their father, again implying that their biological heritage is also their spiritual heritage.
Jesus picks up the crowd’s words and uses those same words (“Abraham’s children”) as the testimony against them. Jesus reminds the crowd about how Abraham responded when God spoke, either directly or through a prophet. Jesus is essentially saying that Abraham honored those who spoke God’s words to him, and would never think of dishonoring God or His prophets, let alone murdering them. Jesus said that if the crowd were Abraham’s children, they should act like Abraham instead of their father (implied to be the devil).
The crowd reacts again to Jesus’ insinuation and throws a personal insult at Jesus along the way by implying that they are all legitimate children, not conceived out of wedlock like Jesus was. Having lost the argument that Abraham was their spiritual father, the crowd now says that God is their spiritual father.
Jesus has been gracious to the crowd up to this point and has just implied that the crowd has a different father (the devil) than Jesus (God the Father). Jesus responds not to their personal insult, but to their claim that they belonged to the same Father as Jesus. Jesus cannot hold back any longer. They are claiming they belong to the same Father as Jesus, so Jesus talks plainly and pointedly to them.
Jesus says that if they were from the same Father in Heaven, then they would recognize Him as being God’s Son. Jesus says that siblings know each other and love each other, and there is no recognition or love from the crowd to Jesus.
In verse 43, Jesus asks and answers a question of the group: “Why can’t you understand what I am saying? Because it’s a family thing, and you are not in My family.” In verse 44, Jesus makes no more insinuations – He calls out the crowd as having the devil as their father. He points out two attributes of the devil – 1) he is a murderer, and 2) he is a liar. Jesus has just offered the crowd eternal life (the opposite of murder), and truth that sets them free (the opposite of lies), and the group has rejected them both.
In verses 45 – 47, Jesus tells the crowd that He is telling the truth, then asks and answers His questions about their unbelief. Ultimately, Jesus says, the crowd does not believe Jesus because they are not in God’s family.
How do we proclaim God as our Father? There is much to be learned from Jesus’example here, mainly learning to respond in grace to those who claim to be associated with God. Are those who claim to be of God depending on Jesus’ offers of eternal life and spiritual freedom, or are they depending on something or someone else?
May we always offer Christ and Christ alone to those who are searching for a relationship with God, and may we do so with grace and love, just as someone who showed us Christ with grace and love.