Unless you believe that I am He...
John 8:21-30 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” 25 So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning? 26 I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” 27 They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said, “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. 29 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.” 30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.
There are many people, even outside of the Christian faith, unbelievers and people of other faiths who say Jesus was a good man; a good teacher, or a prophet. They will say that He spoke truth and that following Him is a way to live well and to get to heaven. In truth though, you cannot say and believe any of those things about Jesus, unless you also believe what He said about Himself. In today’s text Jesus says: “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” In John 14:6 Jesus says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” It makes no sense to believe that Jesus is one of several or many ways to God and heaven, when He Himself says He is the way. Beyond simply speaking some truths, Jesus says He is the truth. Jesus claimed equality with God. In John 10:30 Jesus says: “I and the Father are one.” Either we believe what Jesus says or we believe Him to be either deceived, a deceiver or delusionary. We frequently hear people today, who think very highly of themselves called narcissists. Perhaps that is the label that many unbelievers would give to Jesus today.
In today’s text it says: “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. 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.” As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. Far too often we as believers, as followers of Christ, as those who try to fulfill His commission to preach the gospel complicate things. The truth is simply that: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It is not our job, our call or our commission to convince people of that. We need only to lift Him up, as He says. In John 12:32 Jesus says: “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Being lifted up from the earth, refers to Jesus crucifixion on the cross. We complicate things when we try to convince others about Jesus. We try to demonstrate the love of God in ways that people will accept it, receive and believe it. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 Paul says: We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul continues saying: When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Like Paul and like Jesus, we should not complicate the message of the gospel. We should not think that we can convince others by our persuasive words. We should not believe that more will become believers if we change or adapt the true words of Christ to make them more acceptable. We should simply lift up Christ. If we want to demonstrate the true love of God to the world, then we should point the world to the true demonstration of His love: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The simple truth is that some, like those in today’s text, will come to believe in Him. Others will not. They will say that to believe that Jesus is the only way to God is intolerant and not inclusive. They will say that we are deceived, deceivers or delusional. But Jesus says: “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” It’s a simple truth and a simple choice.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the demonstration of Your love; that Christ died for us. Lord Jesus, thank You that You not only showed us the way we should live, but that You are the way, the truth and the life. Holy Spirit work in me and through me, that I would both believe and speak the simple and true words of Christ and allow You to cause others to see Christ crucified, the demonstration of the love of God. Amen.