In 1969, in Pass Christian, Mississippi, a group of people was preparing to have a “hurricane party” in the face of a storm named Camille. The wind was howling outside the posh Richelieu Apartments when Police Chief Jerry Peralta pulled up sometime after dark. Facing the beach, less than 250 feet from the surf, the apartments were directly in the line of danger. A man with a drink in his hand came out to the second-floor balcony and waved. Peralta yelled, “You all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can. The storm’s getting worse.” But as others joined the man on the balcony, they just laughed at Peralta’s order to leave. “This is my land,” one of them yelled back. “If you want me off, you’ll have to arrest me.”
Peralta didn’t arrest anyone, but he wasn’t able to persuade them to leave either. He wrote down the names of the next of kin of the twenty or so people who gathered to party through the storm. They laughed as he took their names. They had been warned, but they had no intention of leaving.
It was 10:15 p.m. when the front wall of the storm came ashore. Scientists clocked Camille’s wind-speed at more than 205 miles-per-hour, the strongest on record. Raindrops hit with the force of bullets, and waves off the Gulf Coast crested between twenty-two and twenty-eight feet high.
News reports later showed that the worst damage came at the little settlement of motels, go-go bars, and gambling houses known at Pass Christian, Mississippi, where some twenty people were killed at a hurricane party in the Richelieu Apartments. Nothing was left of the three-story structure but the foundation; the only survivor was a five-year-old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day. What a terrible price to pay for their failure to heed those warnings!
I. SETTING AND FIRST WARNING (verse 21)
The passage of Scripture that we are now studying is John 8:21-30. Jesus has been defending Himself in the previous Scriptures by answering their questions, giving instruction, and describing His relationship with the Father. Now He is going to take control of the conversation and issue some warnings to His listeners. Verse 21 says, “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘I go away, and you shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come’,” Didn’t He just say those words in John 7:33? Yes, but this time He inserts a warning: “you shall die in your sin.” In chapter 7, His listeners were composed mainly of the pilgrim Jews who had traveled a great distance to attend the feast. They were open to His teaching and many of them were placing their faith in Him (John 7:31). Here in chapter 8, Jesus is back in the temple on the following day and He is interacting with the Pharisees and the Jerusalem Jews. They have been opposing Him since the beginning of His ministry, and now it’s time for them to face the music. There are going to be dire consequences to their actions if they don’t heed His warnings. When Jesus uses the words “die in your sin”, He is warning that they will die unpardoned. Only the Messiah can pardon their sins and only He is the Messiah (Acts 4:12). I don’t believe that Jesus was saying those words and the words that follow, in anger. He was saying them with sadness and urgency in His voice, pleading with them to heed His warnings. Before His death, Jesus expressed in words His attitude toward the Jews in Jerusalem. In Matthew 23:37, He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”
The word “sin”, here in verse 21, is in the singular and has the same meaning that it does in John 16:8-9, where Jesus says, “And He (speaking of the Holy Spirit) when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin because they do not believe in Me . . . “. Their sin is that of unbelief. It is the greatest sin: the sin of rejecting Christ.
II. A SARCASTIC RESPONSE (verse 22)
The response of these Jews was not what Jesus wanted to hear. Instead of heeding His warning of impending danger, we find these words in verse 22: “Therefore the Jews were saying, ‘Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” They say those words sarcastically, and loud enough for Jesus to hear them. I imagine they were probably laughing as they said them. In their minds, they are adding up the things they have already said and thought about Jesus and are drawing their own conclusion. “He’s a deceiver, He’s broken the law of Moses, and He’s crazy, so He must be suicidal also. That explains why we can’t come where He is going. He’s going to hell after He commits suicide, and we certainly aren’t going there!” I must say, they are really stretching their imaginations to come up with that reply! Ironically, they are the ones in danger of committing suicide spiritually and eternally by rejecting Him.
III. EXPLANATION AND SECOND WARNING (verses 23-24)
I’m amazed at the patience and mercy of Jesus. Instead of reacting to their insinuation about suicide, He ignores or overlooks it, gives a more detailed explanation of His first warning and then warns them again. In verse 23, Jesus says, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” There is a major difference between them and Himself: their point of origin. He’s from heaven and there is no one else like Him. No one else can make that statement truthfully. They, on the other hand, originated on earth. They are not only in the world but they are also “of” the world. Their attitude and their words and actions demonstrate their worldliness and their sinful resistance to the truth.
In verse 24, the Lord Jesus gives them a second warning: “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” He warned them of the consequences of their actions and gave them the only way out of their predicament. In HIs warning, Jesus is once again claiming to be God. The Greek text does not have the word “He”. Jesus is speaking to them in Aramaic and is saying, “unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins.” He is using God’s covenant name which He gave to Moses in Exodus 3:14. It was the name the Jews would not pronounce. When the Scribes copied the Old Testament Scriptures, they would use a new pen to write that name, and then set that pen aside. Those listening to Jesus knew who He was claiming to be, as well as His authority to give those warnings. Jesus has warned them again that an eternal disaster awaits them if they do not heed His warnings. How are they going to respond to His words?
IV. ANOTHER SARCASTIC RESPONSE (verse 25a)
Verse 25 begins with these words: “And so they were saying to Him, ‘Who are You?’ Those three words may sound innocent and inquisitive, but they are not. Let me translate those words into a familiar expression: “Who do you think you are to tell us what to do?” Have you heard that expression or used that expression before? It’s certainly not the kind of response you would like to receive after doing somebody a favor! I think they are acting like bullies, making fun of Jesus and trying to badger Him to the point where He might lose His temper and explode in anger at them. Do you have that impression also?
Sin’s effects in a person’s life are much like the answer to the following question: “How does a worm get inside an apple?” Perhaps you think the worm burrows in from outside. Actually, the answer is “no”. Scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside. But how does it get inside? Simple! An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Sometime later, the worm hatches in the heart of the apple, then eats its way out. Sin, like the worm, begins in the heart and works its way out through our thoughts, words, and actions. That principle certainly holds true for these Jews as they interact with Jesus and make jokes about His warnings and His identity. To them, Jesus was just a poor, uneducated carpenter from Galilee, whose warnings they considered to be ridiculous and unfounded.
V. A REBUKE (verses 25b-26)
Jesus responds to their question by asking them a question as a form of rebuke. He says, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?”. Jesus has been making those statements since the beginning of HIs ministry. If we look at John 3:31-34, we find that John the Baptist said similar words about Jesus. So the issue, here in verses 25 to 26, isn’t lack of information, nor the clarity of that information. The problem on their parts is a stubborn unwillingness to respond in spite of the information given to them. Have you ever observed a situation where a person knew that something was true; the explanation was clear and irrefutable but the person refused to believe it. This is another one of those cases.
Jesus continues in verse 26 by telling them that He has many more things that He could say to judge and condemn them, but He speaks only the things that the Father wants Him to say. God the Father is making the judgments and Jesus is passing those words on to them saying, “the Father who sent is true; and the things I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” He’s pointing out that the remarks they have been making were not only directed at Him but also at God the Father.
VI. TWO MORE CLAIMS SILENCE HIS LISTENERS (verses 27-30)
In verse 27, the apostle John makes this comment: “They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father.” John may be writing those words as one who was there, giving a possible reason for their sudden silence. Personally, I think they knew what He was saying but couldn’t understand how it could be true. Therefore, they refused to believe it but didn’t know what to say to Him. There were no sarcastic remarks this time, but they still refused to acknowledge who He is. In verse 28, Jesus goes on to say, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” Jesus is talking about His crucifixion, and they are the ones who will be crucifying Him. They will be handing Him over to the Roman authorities and demanding His crucifixion. How will His death be proof that He is the Messiah? There will be the miracles that accompany His death and follow His death. For example, the three hours of darkness in the middle of the day, the earthquake, the words He said while on the cross, and the unusual way that Jesus gave up His spirit. Add to that His burial, resurrection, appearances, and ascension into heaven. There is another unmentioned proof that Jesus is truly the Messiah – the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53, Psalm 22, and many other Scripture passages in the Old Testament). They were fulfilled completely, in every detail. It was now obvious that these Scripture passages didn’t apply figuratively to the nation of Israel, but literally to Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ second claim, in the remainder of verse 28 as well as verse 29, was His perfect obedience and fellowship with His heavenly Father. Here are Jesus’ words: “I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” Jesus’ life was consistent with His message. They would not be able to deny that Jesus’ obedience to the Father was perfect, even to the point of death.
Verse 30 tells us, “many came to believe in Him”. As we progress through the rest of chapter 8, we’ll learn whether or not this belief was real.
If you are not a true follower of Jesus Christ; if you haven’t experienced a changed life as the result of making Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, please give that decision some serious thought. Please heed the warnings before an eternal disaster strikes you. If it happens, it will be no laughing matter! It’s a matter or eternal life in heaven or eternal suffering in hell. Please don’t put it off. There will be no excuses.
If you are a Christian, God has called you to be His ambassador. As ambassadors of Christ, believers have a responsibility to warn people of the consequences of their unbelief and rebellion against God.
Here’s an example from American history. “Late one night a salesman drove into a strange city and tried to get a room in a hotel. The clerk informed him that there was no vacancy. Disappointed, he started to leave the lobby when a dignified gentleman offered to share his room with him. Gratefully, the traveler accepted his kindness.
Just before retiring, the man who had shown such hospitality knelt and prayed aloud. In his petition, he referred to the stranger by name and asked the Lord to bless him. Upon awakening the next morning, he told his guest it was his habit to read the Bible and commune with God at the beginning of each day, and asked if he would like to join him. The Holy Spirit had been speaking to the heart of this salesman, and when the host tactfully confronted him with the claims of Christ, he gladly received the Savior.
As the two were ready to part, they exchanged business cards. The new believer was amazed to read, “William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State.” You see, William Jennings Bryan was not only the Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, but more importantly, he was an ambassador for Christ.
May you consider that role to be both a privilege and a responsibility, and decide to pursue it wholeheartedly. Let’s be ready, willing, and able!
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Welcome to this completed project: John 8:21-30. I hope you will come back again soon when you’re in the neighborhood. There are many completed projects on this site.