A blog post I wrote for the Mosaic Lent Blog, which ended up not being needed, so I thought rather than sending it to the digital dustbin I would post it here.
John 8:21 Later Jesus said to them again, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going.” 22 The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?”
23 Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. 24 That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be,[b] you will die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they demanded.
Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. 26 I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” 27 But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” 30 Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.
THE ULTIMATE QUESTION: Liar, Lunatic or Lord?
One way to read the Gospels is as a kind of detective story, as the story of Jesus unfolds the Gospel writers give us more and more clues as to who Jesus really is to help us come to the right conclusion about his identity and its implications for our world and life.
This passage is one of those passages where John begins to drop some very direct clues as to Jesus identity, that he is rather more than a former builder and woodworker from Nazareth. This whole section is designed to raise and answer one question about Jesus
“Who are you?”
Anyone reading this far in John’s Gospel will be asking that question about Jesus as much as any of the Jewish people who first asked it here.
So let’s piece together the clues that Jesus gives us here about his identity
You cannot come where I am going
You are from below; I am from above.
You belong to this world; I do not
You will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins
When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he.
I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.
And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me.
What Jesus says here about himself, is nothing short of scandalous, make no mistake there is no other way to categories these claims other than, outragerous.
Just look at the claims Jesus makes in this passage :
He belongs to, and has come from, the realm of God
He has a uniquely special relationship with God the Father, who sent him
He is divine (“I Am” was the name Jewish people knew God used to describe himself)
His death will deal with humanity’s sin problem
Your eternal destiny rests on your reaction to who Jesus claims He is
Every so often in a conversation, or on some radio phone in or tv talk show I hear someone say something like, “Well I believe Jesus is a great moral teacher.” What they mean by that is that Jesus in his day was the rough equivalent of Ghandi in the 20th century or perhaps the Dalai Lama today. Some one who was very wise, who lead an inspiring life, who teaches uplifting stuff etc etc The problem is that categorising Jesus as a “great moral teacher” gets shipwrecked on passages like this.
During my career in the police and as a pastor I have met a few people who have claimed that they were from God, that they had a special mission in life that had implications for all of humanity. In the police I usually had to take them back to the local psychiatric hospital. I don’t remember anyone suggesting these people were “great moral teachers.”
CS Lewis, who famously moved from being an atheist to one of the greatest defenders of Christianity there has ever been, never allowed people away with the shoddy thinking that relegates Jesus to being “one of,” one of humanity’s great moral or religious teachers. This is what Lewis said
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Forget the final question on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Here in this passage is the single most important question you will ever ask yourself and answer. You have to make up your mind if Jesus is of no significance or ultimate significance for you.
The Jews of Jesus day had to make up their mind, every single reader of this passage in John’s Gospel has had to make up their mind, and now you need to make up your mind.
In relation to Jesus you need to ask yourself and come to a conclusion about “WHO ARE YOU?”
CS Lewis pointed out that our options in answering that question are strictly limited …. “You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
So is Jesus a madman, or bad man or more than man? You have to come to a conclusion, either you will conclude Jesus has no significance for you, he was a liar or a lunatic or does He have ultimate significance for you, He is who he claimed to be and so your Lord and Saviour.
John tells us that some of those who first asked that question believed that he had ultimate significance, “they believed” CS Lewis eventually believed, I came to the point when I believed too.
What about you?
What conclusion have you come to about Jesus?