Snapshots of a Mighty Savior
Scripture: John 8:48–59
Snapshots of a Mighty SaviorJohn 8:48-59
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Pastor Randy Smith
In A.D. 381, Gregory of Nazianzus, spoke using material we have studied from the Gospel of John about the remarkable nature of Jesus Christ:
"He began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life. Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water. Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest. Jesus paid tribute, yet He is the King. Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons. Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears. Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world. Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death."
Of all the people who have walked on this planet, no other figure has made a greater impact on humanity. For in His Name we bless God and curse men made in His image; we begin and end wars. For in His Name we date our calendars and start the most popular religion in the world. Some ascribed to Him the utmost allegiance while others reserve for Him the most murderous intents. Who is this Man that the whole world has come to know as Jesus Christ?
Last week, Jesus provided for us four snapshots that define a true disciple. You'll remember that a true disciple: Endures in the word, Embraces the truth, Exercises the freedom and Emulates the Father. This week, Jesus concludes His discourse by providing us with three snapshots that define His character. This morning, I'd like to exposit the Scriptures by presenting you with three beautiful photographs, increasing in intensity, that capture the essence of our Mighty Savior and answer the question, "Who is Jesus Christ?"
1. JESUS CHRIST - THE SUBMISSIVE SON
First, Jesus Christ is the Submissive Son.
It's been said that people attempt to achieve their agenda on different levels of argumentation. The most sophisticated and mature level is when people debate a topic from an intellectual perspective using authentic data and sound reasoning. Often if one's objective is not achieved at this level, a person will resort to an attack on the idea itself, possibility the implementation or the timing of a certain situation. Finally, as a last resort, people stoop to personal attacks: slanderous comments, name-calling or an assault on one's credibility. Most child debates begin on this third level. Most adult debates unfortunately end on this third level.
The Jews wanted nothing more than to discredit and undermine the ministry of Jesus. We have already studied a number of their attacks using the upper levels of argumentation, which proved unsuccessful and often backfired in their faces. So when everything else failed, they stooped to the juvenile level and began the personal assault on Christ's character. In response to His accusation that the Jews were in bondage to Satan their spiritual father, "The Jews answered and said to Him, (verse 48) 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'" In the mind of a first-century Jew, this attack was the lowest blow that could be made. Nothing could have been more insulting and blasphemous. "Jesus, You are a demon-possessed Samaritan."
Since He would not permit His character to be defined by children belonging to the 'father of lies,' Jesus concludes His speech by initially denying such charges. In verse 49, "Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon.'" Then in the verses that follow, without any vengeance, He presented the truth about His character, beginning with His relationship to the Holy Father.
Earlier in verse 38 Jesus said, "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father." Though all people apart from Christ seek to honor Satan, their spiritual father (verse 44), Jesus made it His ambition in verse 49 to "honor My Father." The primary way He sought to honor the Father was to "always do the things that are pleasing to Him" (verse 29) and "keep His word" (verse 55) and "not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (Jn. 6:38). All people whether they realize it or not are honoring their spiritual father. The only question is, "Who is your spiritual father?" Jesus knew His spiritual father and sought to honor Him by His confession and His lifestyle.
So imagine the irony! Jesus was called a demon by the children of the devil! Then He countered this vile attack by responding that He seeks to honor His Father, God. Such a thought would have been repulsive to any demon. Additionally, the Jews, by dishonoring the Son (verse 49) were unknowingly dishonoring God the Father and giving honor to Satan, their spiritual father. In John 5:23 we learned, "He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." Dishonoring Christ is dishonoring God the Father and dishonoring God the Father reveals one's true spiritual paternity. Jesus by honoring the Father demonstrated that He belonged to God. The Jews (and anyone else) by dishonoring Jesus demonstrated that they belonged to Satan.
The text continues. Verse 50, "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges."
In the same way that Jesus sought to honor God the Father, He also sought to glorify God the Father. While on earth, Jesus gave us the ideal model of perfect submission to the Father. Even as God in the flesh, He did not pursue His own goals or His own agenda or even His own glory. He "(came) in (His) Father's name" (Jn. 5:43) and "kept (His) Father's commands" (Jn. 15:10) and sought His Father's glory because God the Father is the "One (verse 50) who seeks (glory) and judges (those who don't glorify Him)." Regarding Jesus, perfect submission for God's approval and God's glory was everything!
However, though Jesus does not seek His own glory, God the Father loves the Son and in turn glorifies the Son. We see this stated in verse 54, "Jesus answered, 'If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.''"
This model is demonstrated in the church age. We glorify the Father by exalting the Son. Since "all authority has been given to (Jesus) in heaven and on earth" (Mt. 28:18), we are to "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:18). We "listen to Him" (Mt. 17:5) and follow His commands (1 Thes. 4:2) so that His name may be "magnified" (Ac. 19:17). Philippians 2 says "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow…and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11)."
The Father glorifies the Son and is glorified Himself when the Son is honored. And though the Jews claimed God as their own (end of verse 54), they demonstrated their alienation to Him by refusing to honor the Son.
The story is told of a wealthy man who lost his wife when his only child was very young. At that time a housekeeper moved into the home to care for the young boy. The son died early in life, eventually followed by the death of his heart-broken father. The man had no heir to his enormous wealth, and there was a question as to what would become of his valuable possessions. Since no one was found, all was passed over to the state that in turn held an auction to sell his belongings in the mansion where he had lived. The old housekeeper who brought up the son from infancy had no money but nevertheless attended the auction. She could not buy the expensive furniture, but there was on the wall of the house a picture of the son. It was one of the first items open for bidding. "The son, the son, how much for the picture of the son, " said the auctioneer. The crowd cried, "We don't want the son, show us the valuable items!" The housekeeper loved the son and since no one wanted the picture, she purchased it with a very small sum of money. She took the picture home. Eventually, after a considerable time, the housekeeper decided to clean the picture. As she disassembled the frame and removed the glass some papers that appeared important fell out. She took them to a lawyer who said, "I guess you landed on your feet this time. This gentleman has left all his wealth to the one who loved his son enough to buy the picture!"
God the Father loves the Son. He sent the Son to redeem the world from their slavery to sin. To reject such an infinite love offering is demanding of infinite punishment. To receive the Son delivers us from sin, makes us heirs to the kingdom (Rom. 8:17) and gives us the Father as well. People cannot have One without the other. To reject the Son is to reject the Father. To receive the Son is to receive the Father. Elsewhere John said, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also" (1 Jn. 2:23; c.f. 4:15; 5:1). Elsewhere Jesus said, "You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also" (Jn. 8:19). "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (Jn. 17:3).
2. JESUS CHRIST - THE SUFFICIENT SAVIOR
Jesus is the submissive Son. Let's move to our second snapshot that naturally continues our discussion. Jesus is also the sufficient Savior. Since the Father has appointed eternal life through the Son, Jesus can boldly declare in verse 51, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death."
Before we cover this crucial verse, let's see how the false converts misinterpreted Jesus' comments. Naturally, their fleshly minds focused on the temporal. They said to themselves, "Never die? We know that the spiritual giants who walked the planet eventually died. What in the world is this madman trying to say?" In Verse 52, "The Jews said to Him, 'Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.''"
Yet in verse 51, Jesus was not speaking in the literal sense. He was not speaking about physical death (even Jesus Himself would physically die on the cross); He was speaking about spiritual death. He was speaking about heaven or hell. He was speaking about eternal blessedness or eternal damnation.
Though many like to think all people are heading for heaven, possibly excluding the few hardened criminals that have forfeited such a privilege, the Bible teaches exactly the opposite. The Bible teaches that all people are born in a state of sin, heading for hell.
From the beginning of time, Satan tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, saying, "You surely will not die" (Gen. 3:4)! When our original parents listened to the "father of lies" and disobeyed the command of their heavenly Father (Gen. 2:17), sin entered the world. Spiritual death spread to all. The Apostle Paul said, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam" (Rom. 5:14). "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). We call this original sin. All people are born in sin, all people continue to sin and the "wages of sin is (spiritual) death" (Rom. 6:23). Biblically speaking, all people have transgressed the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). "There is none righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10). They are spiritually dead (Eph.2:1) both awaiting and deserving hell.
However, there is hope as Jesus proclaims in verse 51 to "never see (spiritual) death." And that hope is found in Him. Allow me to share the other half of the verses I quoted earlier. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22). "For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17). For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23)
According to the Bible, those apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, live in a state of spiritual death (1 Tim. 5:7; Rev. 3:1). Jesus said they are "judged already" (Jn. 3:18). They are only waiting an eternity in the lake of fire when they face their physical death and depart from this existence. That fact should cause anybody who has rejected Jesus Christ to tremble.
Yet God has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 Jn. 4:14). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). He sent His Son to deliver people from spiritual death to spiritual life. He would punish His Son so sinners could receive mercy. He would condemn His Son so sinners could escape condemnation. Though spiritual death is universal in Adam, spiritual life is available and given as a free gift to those who trust in the Person and work of Christ through faith and repentance. They will pass from this life into instant glory. Jesus made this very clear in verse 51, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never (ou me-double negative in the Greek) see death."
But you may be wondering, what is the connection between salvation by faith and salvation by keeping Christ's word (as it says in verse 51). Are they the same or are these two different conditions necessary for salvation?
Scott Hafemann, my former Greek professor, said in a recent book I have been reading, "Scripture is insistent that obedience is not simply good advice for those who have faith - a desirable but not required outcome of faith in our lives. Nor is it to be added along the way as evidence of a prior faith, or as the next step toward a 'deeper Christian life.' And the purpose of God's commands is not merely to show us that we are sinners. Simply put, faith and hope do not exist without obedience; since obedience to God's commands is the flowering of faith itself…Jesus' gospel is not unrelated to the Bible's demand for holiness. Obedience is not a 'second step' added to our faith, so that 'accepting Jesus as Savior' must be supplemented by 'accepting Jesus as Lord." We are not saved by grace and then sanctified (made holy) by our own works. Being a Christian is not a matter of adding our will to God's, our effort to His. Rather…'putting away sin,' which is faith in action, is the means to persevering, which we do by depending on Jesus from beginning to end. In other words, repenting from the disobedience of disbelief, and the life of persevering faith that this brings about, which entails obeying God, are all one expression of 'looking to Jesus.' One cannot exist without the other…(Therefore) there is one thing, not two, that we must do to be saved: trust God with the needs of our lives. This one thing, trust in God's provision (now supremely manifested in Christ) will show itself, from beginning to end, in our many acts of repentance and obedience." (Scott Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith, pg. 191-192)
All that to say, trusting Christ is synonymous to obeying Christ. Obeying Christ is synonymous to keeping His word. Keeping His word is synonymous to believing and repenting. The condition to receive the sin-covering work of Christ is clear. Faith must be demonstrated that seeks to believe, trust, obey and live by the word of Christ. Just as Adam and Eve brought upon themselves spiritual death by disobeying God's Words, we receive spiritual life when we obey Christ's word.
3. JESUS CHRIST - THE SUPREME SUPERNATURAL
The third point of this message has been hinted at throughout the sermon. Jesus is superior to Abraham and the prophets. Faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation. Jesus is worthy to be glorified in worship. Jesus' words are on par with God's words. Now in the climax of this wonderful discourse, Jesus reveals the true identity of His nature.
Verse 56, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Unlike the ones who were seeking to kill Him, Abraham, their great hero of the faith, "(their) father," rejoiced to see the day of Jesus. Abraham was no stranger to God's hatred toward sin. You'll recall he witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:28). He knew "the Lord knows how to rescue the godly" to deliver them from sin and destruction (2 Pet. 2:9; c.f. Gen. 19:16). He knew "the Judge of all the earth deal(s) justly" (Gen. 18:25). All of these experiences of Abraham pointed to the work of Christ, the day of Christ. And Abraham, who lived 2,000 years before Jesus had this general attitude toward the Messianic age, when God would rescue sinners, punish sin and display His justice. The Person and work of Jesus identified the ultimate fulfillment of all Abraham's hopes and joys.
The Jews would most likely have accepted that Abraham rejoiced to see the Messianic age. However, they took offense when Jesus said, "Abraham rejoice to see My day."
Once again, the Jews take a literal interpretation and misunderstand the words of Christ. Though Jesus spoke of Abraham seeing His day, the Jews thought that He meant that Abraham had seen Him. Verse 57, "So the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?'" In other words, how could Jesus claim to be a contemporary of Abraham when Jesus was under 50 (He was probably 32-33 years old to be exact) and Abraham had been dead for two millennia?
Verse 58, "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.'" Jesus could have answered His critics' question by saying, "Before Abraham was born, I was." Such an answer would still have been unsatisfactory to His opponents, but true, meaning Jesus was around before Abraham. However Jesus went even further. He wanted His opponents to understand that He is eternally existent. Therefore He said to them, "Before Abraham was born, I am." In other words, "Abraham became, he had a definite beginning, but I always existed; I am."
When Moses met with God on the holy mountain, God commissioned Moses to go to Pharaoh to deliver His people from their suffering in Egypt. In Exodus 3:13 we read, "Then Moses said to God, 'Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?'" "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM'; and He said, 'Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you''" (Ex. 3:14; c.f. Isa. 41:4; 43:13). I AM is the personal name of Jehovah.
Just imagine the outrage among these devout Jews when they heard Jesus also identify Himself with same sacred name that was reserved exclusively for God! There was no doubt in their minds; by claiming to be "I am," Jesus was claiming to be God. The charge against Him now exceeded a demon-possessed Samaritan to an outright blasphemer. And the penalty prescribed in the law for such blasphemy was death. Leviticus 24:16, "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death." The Jews took immediate action. Verse 59, "Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple." There was no doubt that Jesus' claim to deity was both recognized and rejected!
Because of the claims of Jesus Christ, all people of all ages are forced to either stone Him or fall down at His feet and worship Him as God incarnate. Jesus Christ cannot be accepted as the first-created being (Jehovah Witnesses) or only as a prophet (Muslims), a philosopher, a moral leader, a good example or a teacher. These are the marks of a cult. According to orthodox biblical teaching, Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Trinity, God Almighty in the flesh. The Apostle John was careful to make sure that his readers understood this truth from the get-go. The first verse in this gospel says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1). And for salvation to be genuine, one must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God! One must acknowledge Him as the great "I am." In 8:24, Jesus made this point crystal clear. "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."
C.H. Spurgeon uttered these first words before he began his illustrious ministry at The Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. "I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshipers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ.' My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a (theological heritage) admirable and excellent in its way. But the (legacy) to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me...is Jesus Christ, who is the arm and substance of the gospel, who is in Himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth."
And I would like to echo the same mentality for the Grace Tabernacle. We don't gather to enjoy talented music. We don't gather to enjoy sweet fellowship. We don't gather to enjoy fine teaching. We ultimately gather to meet with Jesus, and we use these disciplines as the means to this greater end. We gather to exalt Jesus Christ who is: The Submissive Son and The Sufficient Savior and the Supreme Supernatural who is the blessed and only sovereign, the God above all gods, the King above all kings and the Lord above all lords (c.f. Dt. 10:17; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:16). Hallelujah! Amen!