Jesus Proclaims that He is Lord and Savior and is Rejected by the Religious Leaders
Journeying Through John (John 8-9)
Last week we ran into a friend who was talking about the fact that Jesus is Lord. This truth is the very cornerstone of our Christian faith. Our friend said that Thomas Jefferson, (who was a Universalist and not a Christian) insisted that Jesus never said that He was God incarnate, or the Son of God. Was Thomas Jefferson correct that the Bible didn’t record Jesus declaring that He was Lord? Our friend seemed bothered and confused by this. But of course this is a lie. Thomas Jefferson was wrong.
This lie – that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God or God in the flesh - is just one of many lies against the faith and a lie that keeps reappearing. All one needs to do is open the Bible and read it to see that Jesus indeed proclaimed Himself Lord and Savior and Son of God over and over again. We need to be on guard and know what the Bible says in order to be able to stand against the many deceptions that will be used to try to undermine our faith. Satan has an arsenal of weapons to use against us and against our precious faith. Lying and twisting the truth about Jesus being the Son of God and Savior is tops on satans’ list. He will use any distortion to keep us from believing that Jesus is Lord. And satan will sink to any depth to keep us from believing in Jesus as Savior God and receiving His new life.
In John chapter eight, Jesus is being attacked by the Pharisees. They want to kill Him because He had said that He and the Father are One. The Pharisees believed that Jesus had committed the sin of blasphemy. The Jewish law taught that the punishment for blasphemy was stoning. (Lev.24:16) So Jesus had gotten Himself into serious trouble with the very priests who instructed the people into the ways of God. The very reason that these “men of God” eventually put Jesus to death was because He was telling the crowds that He was Lord and Savior and thousands were believing and following Him.
Jesus tells the Pharisees : “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:21) During this same time period Jesus announces to the crowds, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) And He repeats to His followers: “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.” ( John 8:51) How could the Pharisees and Sadducees tolerate all of this? Jesus was threatening their legalism and their religious status and power. He must have a demon, they reasoned. They began to plot and plan His death.
But these religious leaders didn’t wait, but picked up stones to stone Him on the spot when Jesus mentioned that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing His day. The Jewish leaders were outraged that Jesus spoke as if Abraham had looked forward to seeing Him, since Abraham had lived in 2,000 B.C. When they chided Jesus that he wasn’t fifty years old yet so he couldn’t have known Abraham, Jesus replied: “I tell you the truth, Before Abraham was born, I Am!” (John 8:58) Jesus is expressing the eternity of His being, His own unchanging timelessness. Jesus didn’t just live 2,000 years ago, but He lives today and forever and His Spirit lives through those of us who believe in Him. Jesus is the great “I Am” and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is Son of God, Savior. The Jewish leaders were livid with rage at this statement but they were also furious that Jesus called Himself “I Am”. God had instructed Moses many centuries earlier that the Israelites could call Him, “I Am”. (Exodus 3:14) So now the Jewish religious leaders immediately recognized that Jesus was calling Himself by God’s Name, “I Am”. They shouted their accusations of blasphemy at Jesus while picking up stones and trying to stone Him!
As we move on to chapter 9 in John, we read that Jesus heals a man who had been blind since birth. And wouldn’t you know, Jesus meets and heals this blind man on the Sabbath! Instead of rejoicing that this man in their congregation was healed and could see, the religious leaders excommunicated the man who had been healed from their synagogue. The synagogue was the center of Jewish community life, so excommunication cut a person off from many social relationships. The religious leaders refused to learn from Jesus’ healing and instead responded with judgment and criticism because the healing had been done on the Sabbath. They tried to discredit the miracle and doubled their efforts to trap Jesus and put Him to death. And all the while hundreds of people were following Jesus and listening to His teachings and believing on Him.
Jesus found the man that He had healed from blindness and told him that He was the Son of Man. The man who had been blind believed in Jesus and worshiped Him. (John 9:38) Then Jesus told him: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39) It would seem that Jesus is saying that those of us who are proud and think we can see on our own and refuse help are really spiritually blind. We have allowed our pride and reputations and status to keep us from spiritual sight. But if we can acknowledge our spiritual blindness and that we need help, and that we need the Savior, then He gives us spiritual sight.
We read in John that wherever Jesus went teaching and loving and healing, the crowds were divided by His message. People were either for Him or against Him. They either accepted His message or rejected it. But the people who rejected Him the most were the very ones that we would have thought would have accepted Him! By far, the religious leaders, the men who knew the Scriptures by heart, the ones who had given their lives to lead Israel to God; these were the ones who hated Jesus the most and the ones who were responsible for putting Him to death. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not”. (John 1:11)
Why did this happen? Why were Jesus’ murderers the very leaders who claimed to know the ways of God? What can we learn from this? Did this phenomenon just happen in Jesus’ time or is it still happening today? Can religious legalism triumph over love today like it did back then? Can religious groups today still pit their power against our Lord and His kingdom of love like they did back then? If we follow Jesus and live humbly, can we also be persecuted by the church that we think we belonged to? Are churches now becoming political in nature and leaving behind a concern for the poor and the alien, the very ones that Jesus spoke so much about? What can we do about it? I don’t have the answers. Do you?