When Jesus Won the Debate: John 8:31-59

Focus Passage: John 8:31-59 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. 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. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 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 obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Read John 8:31-59 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While visiting Jerusalem part way through Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders in the temple get into a debate with Jesus. John’s gospel records this debate as well as what we can learn about the opposition Jesus faced.

As the leaders were getting more and more agitated at Jesus’ claims, we come to an interesting part of the conversation. After calling these Jews out for being children of the devil, Jesus says, “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? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (v. 45-47)

It is important for us to pay attention to Jesus’ challenge here. If these leaders – or anyone – could prove that Jesus had sinned against God’s law, then they would have the right to judge Him. However, without proof, then they have no case. If there is no case that can be made against Jesus, then what He is telling them must be classified as true.

However, these people don’t hear/understand Jesus, and Jesus comes out and cleanly says this by telling them that they don’t belong to God.

The leaders respond by trying to change the subject: “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (v. 48)

Before this point, the idea that Jesus was a Samaritan was not even in the discussion, and this attempted maneuver is a sign that these leaders have lost ground in their debate. They are now trying to grab whatever insults they can in order to save their reputation and worldview that said Jesus could not be from God.

Seeing what is happening, Jesus simply answers the question that they appear to have asked each other: “I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.” (v. 49)

In every conversation Jesus had, in every healing Jesus did, and in every word Jesus taught, He gave honor to God the Father. Jesus received dishonor from those living in that century and that culture, and He receives dishonor from culture today.

As Jesus’ followers, we should not be surprised when the world discriminates against followers of Jesus. In some ways, we should expect to find plenty of examples of it. However, we should also remember that when the world throws everything at us to try and derail our focus from Jesus, we can know that when time and history have ended, those of us who have stood with Jesus will be standing with Him in a newly recreated earth.

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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