John wrote his Gospel to persuade people to believe in Jesus (20:30–31). From the opening verses he declares that Jesus is God, stressing his unique relationship with God the Father. He focuses on seven of Jesus’ miracles, to demonstrate his divinity. In Exodus 3:14 the Greek Translation of the OT renders God’s personal name – in Hebrew YHWH (Jehovah) - as Ἐγώ εἰμι (I AM WHO I AM). John uses the same phrase 23 times in his gospel and makes it clear each time that Jesus is claiming divinity. In seven of these passages, John joins this phrase to tremendous metaphors which are expressive of Jesus’ saving relationship toward the world. We have spent the past 5 weeks discussing these passages.
Use Of “I AM” In John’s Gospel
In the Gospel of John “I am” is used by Jesus in three different ways. (1) It appears as a simple statement of identity here (4:26) and in 6.20; 18.5. (2) Most often it is followed by a predicate nominative (6.35, 51; 8.12; 10.7, 9, 11, 14; 11.25; 14.6; 15.1, 5). (3) In several places it is used absolutely (8.24, 28, 58; 13.19). … Although there is evidence of a similar use of this term in religious literature outside of the Old Testament, the Old Testament itself offers the best background for understanding its use in this Gospel. In Exodus 3.14, the passage in which God reveals his name to Moses, the Greek Septuagint translates the Hebrew phrase as (Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν) “I am the Existing One.” This rendition of the divine name in Greek is paralleled elsewhere in the Old Testament. In several places “I am” (literally Hebrew “I [am] he”) is used as a divine name. Isaiah 43.25 is a striking example. There the Hebrew reads “I, I am he, who wipes out sin.” The Septuagint translates the first part of this statement by using the Greek expression “I am” twice. The Septuagint actually reads “I am I am who wipes out sin” and the second “I am” becomes the equivalent of the divine name. The Greek translators of Isaiah 51.12 followed the same procedure. In later Judaism the expression “I am” is definitely used as a name for God. Thus in those passages in John’s Gospel where Jesus uses “I am” in an absolute sense, he is identifying himself with God. TEV attempts to indicate this divine title by the use of capitals (in 8.24, 28; 13.19 TEV has ’I AM WHO I AM’; in 8.58 ’I AM’).
In each of the public declarations, the Jewish religious leaders that were listening either grumbled against Him, accused Him of having a demon (or being insane) and/or sought ways to kill Him.
The most heated of these events took place after the “I AM the Light of the Word” pronouncement in John 8:12.
THE TRUE DISCIPLESHIP
Few New Testament passages have such a complete picture of discipleship as this.
(i) Discipleship begins with belief. Its beginning is the moment when a man accepts what Jesus says as true, all that he says about the love of God, all that he says about the terror of sin, all that he says about the real meaning of life.
(ii) Discipleship means constantly remaining in the word of Jesus and that involves four things.
(a) It involves constant listening to the word of Jesus. It was said of John Brown of Haddington that when he preached he paused every now and then as if listening for a voice. The Christian is the man who all his life listens for the voice of Jesus and will take no decision until he has first heard what he has to say.
(b) It involves constant learning from Jesus. The disciple (mathetes) is literally the learner, for that is what the Greek word means. All his life a Christian should be learning more and more about Jesus. The shut mind is the end of discipleship.
(c) It involves constant penetrating into the truth which the words of Jesus bear. No one can hear or read the words of Jesus once and then say that he understands their full meaning. The difference between a great book and an ephemeral one lies in the fact that we read an ephemeral book once and never wish to go back to it; whereas we read a great book many times. To remain in the word of Jesus means constantly to study and think about what he said until more and more of its meaning becomes ours.
(d) It involves constant obeying of the word of Jesus. We study it not simply for academic satisfaction or for intellectual appreciation, but in order to find out what God wishes us to do. The disciple is the learner who learns in order to do. The truth which Jesus brought is designed for action.
(iii) Discipleship issues in knowledge of the truth. To learn from Jesus is to learn the truth. “You will know the truth,” said Jesus. What is that truth? There are many possible answers to that question but the most comprehensive way to put it is that the truth which Jesus brings shows us the real values of life. The fundamental question to which every man has consciously or unconsciously to give an answer is: “To what am I to give my life? To a career? To the amassing of material possessions? To pleasure? To the service of God?” In the truth of Jesus we see what things are really important and what are not.
(iv) Discipleship results in freedom. “The truth will make you free.” “In his service is perfect freedom.” Discipleship brings us four freedoms. (a) It brings us freedom from fear. The man who is a disciple never again has to walk alone. He walks for ever in the company of Jesus, and in that company fear is gone. (b) It brings freedom from self. Many a man fully recognizes that his greatest handicap is his own self. And he may in despair cry out: “I cannot change myself. I have tried, but it is impossible.” But the power and presence of Jesus can re-create a man until he is altogether new. (c) It brings freedom from other people. There are many whose lives are dominated by the fear of what other people may think and say. H. G. Wells once said that the voice of our neighbours sounds louder in our ears than the voice of God. The disciple is the man who has ceased to care what people say, because he thinks only of what God says. (d) It brings freedom from sin. Many a man has come to the stage when he sins, not because he wants to, but because he cannot help it. His sins have so mastered him that, try as he will, he cannot break away from them. Discipleship breaks the chains which bind us to them and enables us to be the persons we know we ought to be.
“O that a man may arise in me
That the man I am may cease to be”—
that is the very prayer which the disciple of Christ will find answered.
In verse 33 The Jewish leaders here dispute what Jesus has just said. They claim that they are the descendents of Abraham and have thus never been enslaved to any man.
In verses 34 – 36, Jesus explains that anyone who sins is a slave to that sin. The Jews take offense that Jesus is implying that they sin by refusing to accept Him for who He is.
In verses 39 – 47, Jesus lays it on them. In 8:40 The Lord proceeded to give a very clear example of the difference between them and Abraham. Jesus had come into the world, speaking to them nothing but the truth. In verse 41, the Jews may well have been accusing the Lord of being born of fornication. In 8:42 The Lord showed the falseness of their claim by reminding them that if they loved God, they would love Him whom God had sent. It is foolish for anyone to claim to love God and at the same time to hate the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no particular time at which He was born the Son of God, but this relationship of Son to the Father existed from all eternity. But the Father sent Him into the world to be the Savior of the world, and so He came as the obedient One. In 8:44 Now the Lord Jesus came out openly and told them that the devil was their father. This did not mean that they had been born of the devil in the way believers are born of God. Rather, it meant, as Augustine said, that they were children of the devil by imitation. They showed their relationship to the devil by living the way he lived. “The desires of your father you want to do” expresses the intention or tendency of their hearts. They were murderers because the intention of their hearts was to kill the Son of God. They were liars because they said that God was their Father. They pretended to be godly, spiritual men, but their lives were wicked. In 8:46 Only Christ, the sinless Son of God, could ever truly utter words like these. 8:47 If a man really loves God, he will hear and obey God’s words. The Jews showed by their rejection of the Savior’s message that they did not really belong to God. It is clear from verse 47 that the Lord Jesus claimed to speak the very words of God.
Believer's Study Bible. 1997, c1995. C1991 Criswell Center for Biblical Studies. (electronic ed.) (Jn 6:19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
TEV Today’s English Version
Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993], c1980). A handbook on the Gospel of John. Originally published: A translator's handbook on the Gospel of John, c1980. Helps for translators; UBS handbook series (124). New York: United Bible Societies.
The Gospel of John : Volume 2. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (20). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jn 8:47). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.