Death or Demons? – John 8:48-59
by Pastor Lee Hemen
May 31, 2015
It isn’t new that when some folks can’t win an argument with logic or rational thought they resort to name-calling. Like children at play who do not like the outcome, some adults will revert back to their childish behavior as well. After all, we can’t be the ones who are wrong or at fault and our logic is always impeccable, right? In an argument, one does not have the license to be childish, abusive or immature. If a person has legitimate logical thoughts, they can give a reasonable voice to those thoughts in a constructive way.
Jesus faced those who disagreed with him but instead of using reasonable or logical arguments, they resorted to name-calling and being just plain mean-spirited. Let’s discover how Jesus handled the issue of his detractors calling him demon-possessed and him trying to show them eternal life. It was a matter of death or demons…
In this passage we join the conversation in mid-argument. We have covered much it already and are now getting to the finale. Jesus had just declared to them, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Since they had never heard God for themselves nor had a personal relationship with him, they concluded that…
I. Jesus was demon-possessed! (Vv. 48-51)
The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “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.”
1. When my father was a child in order to win an argument someone might say, “Your mother wears Army boots!” meaning, that his mother was manlier than she should have been. It was a cheap shot at a person’s parentage. Sadly, in our world today someone might retort, “Who cares!” or “Yes she does!” We find that when the argument does not go in the direction the Jewish leadership wanted they then began to attack Jesus personally with unfounded name-calling. They remark, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” They were calling him a half-breed, inferring that he wasn’t a full Hebrew and therefore have no right to say the things he was teaching. And, of course, there is the racist inference that was popularly held that all Samaritans, being half-breeds, forsaking the real worship of God and his temple, were after all “demon-possessed”! Jesus would have none of their insidious insinuations concerning his heritage. He bluntly refutes their slander by telling them, “I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.” Unlike their superficial spirituality, Jesus always sought to honor his Father and, unlike the Pharisees, he never sought after glory for himself! Yet Jesus knew the One who did seek the glory and honor due Him, namely God the Father, “and he is the judge” of their actions and attitudes! Far from being demon-possessed, the truth is, “if anyone keeps [his] word, he will never see death!” At this, they thought Jesus was demon-possessed!
EXAMPLE: Four people—a pilot, a professor, a pastor, and a hiker—were flying in a small plane when the engines died. The pilot said, “There are only three parachutes. Since this is my plane, I’m taking one of them.” He put it on and jumped out. The professor said, “I’m brilliant and the world needs me, so I’m taking a parachute,” and he jumped out. Then the pastor told the hiker, “I don’t want to be selfish, so you take the last parachute.” The hiker replied, “There are still two left, so we can each have one. The professor jumped out with my backpack instead of the parachute!” Though the professor thought he would land safely, his assurance was based on faulty thinking. There are those in our day and age who struggle with the gospel message, that if one trusts Jesus with their lives he will give them eternal life. It is a matter of faith, of trust. This is the catalyst of rebirth. It makes one wonder what more could Jesus do? The Jews were guilty of faulty thinking in that they thought Jesus was demon-possessed.
Like many in our world today who want to claim some kind of spirituality, but have no personal investment themselves, when confronted by the truth they show that…
II. They did not know who Jesus was! (Vv. 52-55)
At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, 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 replied, “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 not 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.
1. Of course not having a personal relationship with God, the Israelites were confused, and when someone is confused about something they mistrust in the first place, one often gets angry and the Jewish leadership does just that. So at Jesus’ pronouncement of eternal life through keeping his word, they exclaim, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, 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 knew full well who he was. And, the crowd knew where Jesus was headed in his teaching. For their narrow minds it was simple, “Abraham died and so did the prophets,” how then could keeping Jesus’ word give one eternal life? They angrily retort, “Who do you think you are?” Now put yourself in the midst of what is occurring here, the crowd is angry, vehement, and is challenging Jesus’ every word and notice what Jesus does. He calmly replies, “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 not know him, I know him.” Their attempt to dishonor Him was an attack on his Father, whom he knew full well! If Jesus had pridefully wanted to gain the glory, there would be none for God and it would mean nothing. Yet it is God who they tried to claim as their own, he was the one who glorified his Son. Jesus knew what he was talking about. They did not know God, but he did intimately, in fact if he had acquiesced to their faulty thinking and said he did not know God, he would have been a liar, just like them! Jesus boldly proclaims, “I do know him and keep his word.” They did not know who Jesus was, but it did not matter. Jesus knew who he was, and further more and more importantly, God knew who Jesus was!
EXAMPLE: There is a lot of folks who think they have to “find themselves.” They hardly know which end is up let alone find themselves! Someone once quipped, “They couldn’t find themselves with a compass and a flashlight in a dark closet!” For whatever odd reasoning some folks think that if they spend time in introspection they will ultimately discover their true selves. What few folks realize is that they need look no further than the pages of Scripture. God already knows who they are and sent his son to give them what they need in life. The crowds of Jesus’ day did not know what they truly believed, they did not truly know God, and the y certainly did not know Jesus. The wonderful truth is that they, like us this morning need only know Jesus!
Jesus was more than a man. He was more than a simple itinerant rabbi. He was more than just a thorn in the backside of the Jewish leadership. Jesus tells his audience exactly who he is…
III. Jesus is God! (Vv. 56-59)
Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
1. Here in John’s gospel is the foundational truth of who Jesus is and why he came. But more than that herein is the core of why the Jewish leadership had such hatred toward him. Jesus continued to school them by relating, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” While his Heavenly Father had sent him as the Messiah Savior, their earthly father Abraham longed for this day to occur and at the mere thought of it rejoiced over it! And, how do they respond, by their same incredulous spiritual blindness, “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” Evidently they had forgotten God’s promise, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3 NIV)” Jesus’ detractors were ready to curse him and in fact they would later do so, and in doing so they reap the curse of God on themselves for rejecting him. Jesus had in fact seen Abraham and responds with that which he can only do, the truth, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” What Jesus suggested was that he not only existed before Abraham, the one they claimed as the father of their nation, but Jesus was claiming he was God! Just as God declared to Moses when Moses asked him who to tell the Israelites who sent him, “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:13-14 NIV)” Jesus now uses the very same phrase. It is not lost on his enemies, “”before Abraham was born, I am!” “At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” Simply put, Jesus is God!
EXAMPLE: I had been fishing for bluegill and was doing pretty good, then I noticed it had slacked off because the wind had pushed my boat away from the hotspot. I pulled up the anchor and tried again only to be pushed by the wind again away from the spot I wanted. I could not get my anchor to hold firm to the bottom of the lake. When it comes to my salvation it is anchored firmly in the heart of God and what Jesus did for me. My Rock is not moved by my sin, my emotions, my doubts or fears — he holds fast to me even when I try to drift away — the reason? Jesus is God!
They thought Jesus was demon-possessed! The crowds of Jesus’ day did not know what they truly believed, they did not truly know God, and they certainly did not know Jesus. Simply put, Jesus is God!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.