Many were coming to believe in Jesus as He taught in the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem. He told them, “‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
Now, when Jesus spoke of freedom, He spoke of freedom from sin. That was the terrible consequence of the curse that had come upon humanity when Adam and Eve first stepped away from God. They chose their own will and stepped across the line of righteousness into evil when they honored the words of Satan and believed his lies. Jesus had come to pay the full price. He would remove the twisted power of the curse in every heart that had faith in His work! As those who claimed to believe in Jesus heard His message of freedom, they were indignant. “‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be free?’”
“‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for My word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.’”
Wow. Jesus was not going to let these people believe a lie. They thought that just because they had been born Jewish as a descendant of Abraham, they had a special status before God. The Old Testament said that they were heirs of God’s promises. This was true, but now God’s greatest Promise was standing right in front of them, and they refused to believe! The Messiah had come to break the power of the curse and the sin and shame that came from it that was a part of every human life. Jesus was the only person whose life was absolutely perfect and pure. It didn’t matter if they were the children of Abraham or not if they rejected the Son of God! Jesus brought everything He said from the Father, but these Jews were not listening to Him. They were too busy listening to their true father: Satan.
“‘Abraham is our father,’” they protested.
“‘If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did.’’ Jesus said. Abraham was a man known for his great faith. He heard the word of God and obeyed immediately. These Jews were acting exactly opposite. They heard from the mouth of God’s only Son, and they sought to destroy him! Jesus went on:
“‘As it is you, are determined to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing things your own father does.’”
“‘We are not illegitimate children. The only Father we have is God himself,’” they argued.
“‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own; but He sent me. Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’”
This enraged the Jews. Who was this Man who so insulted them in the very courts of the Temple! How dare He say they were followers of Satan! So they cried out, “‘Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?’”
Jesus replied, “‘I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. I am not seeking glory for Myself; but there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.’”
The Jews were in a furor. They raged on; “ ‘Now we know that You are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet You say that if anyone keeps Your words he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do You think you are?’”
Jesus answered them, “ ‘If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who glorifies Me. Though you do no know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.’”
“‘You are not fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?’” they squealed in unbelief.
Jesus replied, “‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!’”
Wow. It is hard for us to understand how great a statement this was. Jesus was claiming to be God. When Moses stood at the burning bush and asked for God’s name, He told him “I AM.” Every Jew understood deeply that this was a way of referring to the Most High God, and it was sacred. The Jews were so blistering with anger when they heard Him make this tremendous, incredible claim that they started picking up stones. Claiming to be God was blasphemy, and the punishment was death. But claiming to be God is only a blasphemy when it is a lie. Jesus was telling the truth! These Jews claimed to be the children of Abraham, but that would have meant they were like Abraham, and he was a man of great faith. God promised to make his family into a great nation, and for twenty-five years, Abraham trusted God to make that happen as he wandered in the wilderness. He believed and hoped for something he could not see. Now Jesus stood before the crowds and appealed for them to believe in eternal things they could not see. They had to have faith that these words He spoke were from God Himself, and they had to believe that He gave the words of life and freedom from sin. They had to trust Him to know the right purpose for the Messiah. They had to believe that Jesus’ glorious miracles were empowered by the Father. How many ways would Jesus offer them to have faith, and how many would they refuse before their chances were over?
The Jews heard their Messiah and rejected it once again. They were ready to kill Him with the stones in their hands that very moment. The time would come for Jesus to lay down His life, but it would not come because of the rage of men. He would offer Himself as a sacrifice when the Father said so. He slipped away in the crowds and hid Himself until the chaos and upheaval was over.