John 8:41-47 (NIV)
“You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
Jesus said to them, “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 no 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! Can any of you prove me guilty 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.”
The conversation between Jesus and the people listening to Him, a crowd which included a fair number of Jewish leaders, was heating up. Jesus was speaking very directly to them about who He was and why they needed to believe in Him, but their hearts were closed to what He was saying.
Jesus had pointed out to them that their claim to be Abraham’s children (that is, people who were like Abraham) was denied by their very un-Abraham-like actions and attitudes. But this caused them to take an even more extreme stand: they were God’s chosen people and, as such, their only Father was God Himself.
Jesus shook His head in disbelief as He answered their argument. If they were actually God’s children, they wouldn’t be opposing Him; they would love Him and cling to His teachings because He had come from God and was doing the work that God has sent Him to do. His words would be received eagerly by them as a direct message from their Father.
But, far from receiving God’s words spoken through Jesus, the hearts of these people could not really hear what He was saying to them. Their actions and their spiritual deafness pointed to a much different father: the devil himself. And there the family resemblance was quite clear. The devil was a liar and a murderer, advancing his own agenda, and completely willing to destroy the hearts and souls of people as he went. In the murderous intentions of the Jewish leaders, in their forceful pursuit of their own agenda in God’s name, and of their even making of the converts “twice as much a son of hell” as they themselves were (Matthew 23:15), the family resemblance was unmistakable.
In contrast stood Jesus: holy, pure, and with every credential of coming from God’s side firmly established by both His words and His actions. Even His strongest enemies could not prove Him guilty of even a single sin, though they watched Him like hawks. His life was a living testimony of who He was and of where He had come from.
It is vital to realize that the entire context of this conversation was not condemnation of the people in the crowd, although looking at snippets of the discussion can sure sound like it. The context is back in verses 31-32: Jesus’ offer to set free by the truth all who were willing to believe in Him and become His disciple. He was holding out life to them, and the opportunity to gain an entirely new pedigree; to become legitimate children of God (John 1:12). But before they were willing to receive this gift, they had to be shown their need of it; the wall of their false self-image that they were already God’s children had to be broken down. It was not pleasant work, and many would not hear, but it was the work that Jesus had come to do (Luke 19:10), and He was doing it with all His heart.
Father, this brings out the undeniable fact that before someone is able to receive the good news of salvation, they must first understand the bad news of their own lostness. Jesus only came to save the lost, those who are willing to admit their sin and separation from You. Those who are convinced of their own righteousness, or who believe that they are okay, even better than a lot of people, won’t repent, so they can’t receive Your forgiveness and restoration. Of course, I realize that that doesn’t mean that I have to beat people over the head or yell in their faces that they are sinners. Jesus didn’t approach it that way. Even His strongest condemnations were delivered in love. Help me to be like Him in this area, too. Amen.