Knowing the Father: John 8:12-20

Focus Passage: John 8:12-20 (NCV)

12 Later, Jesus talked to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness but will have the light that gives life.”

13 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “When you talk about yourself, you are the only one to say these things are true. We cannot accept what you say.”

14 Jesus answered, “Yes, I am saying these things about myself, but they are true. I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I came from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards. I am not judging anyone. 16 But when I do judge, I judge truthfully, because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 17 Your own law says that when two witnesses say the same thing, you must accept what they say. 18 I am one of the witnesses who speaks about myself, and the Father who sent me is the other witness.”

19 They asked, “Where is your father?”

   Jesus answered, “You don’t know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father, too.” 20 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the Temple, near where the money is kept. But no one arrested him, because the right time for him had not yet come.

Read John 8:12-20 in context and/or in other translations on!

Part way through His ministry, Jesus gets into a debate with some Pharisees over the validity of His ministry and the claims He was making. In this debate, which was one of the more strategic attempts of discrediting Jesus, the Pharisees challenge Jesus because He is only a single person making the claim, and in their court system, a case needed to be proven by at least two witnesses.

When facing this challenge, Jesus had plenty of options to choose from, but He decides to use His Father (i.e. God the Father) as His choice. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I am one of the witnesses who speaks about myself, and the Father who sent me is the other witness.” (v. 18)

Perhaps the Pharisees were not expecting a clear answer like this, but not wanting to miss the chance to find someone else who may have been easier to discredit, they simply ask, “Where is your father?” (v. 19a)

While on the surface, their question sounds sincere, it is most likely a second level trap because if Jesus stated clearly that the Father who sent Him was God the Father, then the leaders would have had more reason to stone Him. If Jesus shared that His father was someone they could meet on earth, chances are high in my mind that these Pharisees would have used this information to find, discredit, and probably kill the “father” in question.

The response Jesus gives these religious debaters is simple while also incredibly profound. Jesus tells them, “You don’t know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father, too.” (v. 19b)

In Jesus’ response, we are introduced or reminded that Jesus and God the Father share the same character, the same love, and the same focus. This means that both God the Father and Jesus love humanity equally and they are both overwhelmingly merciful when it comes to dealing with people who have sinned.

The response Jesus shares tells us that when we truly know Jesus, then we will also truly know God the Father and we will understand what He is like. It is easy to miss out on knowing Jesus and God. Every religious leader who held to their preconceived ideas about God, and specifically about the Messiah He would send, missed truly knowing Jesus. Those living during Jesus’ ministry on earth who let go of their preconceived ideas were able to know and experience who Jesus was – and accordingly, these people then knew who God the Father is and what He is like and were blessed as a result.

Those of us living today cannot travel to see Jesus like those living in the first century, but we do have four accurate records that describe in detail Jesus’ love, His character, and His sacrifice. If we let go of our preconceived ideas about Jesus and God the Father, and simply pray and read what the gospel writers share, we will begin to understand who God the Father truly is. Many in culture believe Jesus is nice while God is mean, but that belief runs completely opposite of Jesus’ message in this passage. If we know Jesus is loving, merciful, and kind, according to Jesus, we also know God the Father is loving, merciful, and kind as well!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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