A Sermon

Text:  John 8:12-20

Title: An Impasse Made Possible, Where is God?

By: Rodney John Tombleson

Some corrections require exceptional, beyond conventional approaches, not because the problem is dire, but because reality is bigger than the experience of our best thinkers.  Jesus could have been crazy, but if you can do it, it’s not bragging!  “God is my witness?”  Yeah sure.  But in this situation, it was true. 

Number of words: _1929__

Delivered: Ascent Christian Church

Prineville, OR

Date: 3/7/2021

Introduction

—–Here we are again in the wilderness with the ancient Israelites.  Well, sort of.  As was mentioned last week this was one of the 3 main festivals of the Jews at the time of Jesus, the Feast of Tabernacles, Booths, Shelters or Ingathering.  I say one of 3 because these 3 involved pilgrimages to the Jerusalem temple.  Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. This feast was celebrating the successful survival of the people during their desert on the way from Exodus to the promised land.  The camped in tents or booths.  No Winnebagos!  Water was a luxury.  Light was also cherished.  Lights were a huge part of this festival!  When I’m camping, I’ve always wanted to put up one of those big, long strings of lights around my camps!  But every time I see one in a store I get sticker shock and don’t purchase!  God’s presence was in the pillar of fire at night, and candles were lit in the tent of the ark of the covenant.  Even God resided in a tent during this period and did so even for a long time until Solomon built the temple. 

—–The Jewish Festivals all in their own way point to Jesus.  That is a whole study in and of itself. 

Here in this passage, we find Jesus just at the end of or just after the feast.  The 7 candles of the large candelabra had all been lit day by day of the weeklong event but there is no 8th light to light.  It is at this point that Jesus makes this daring declaration, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness but shall have the light of life.”   So just as the people of God walked often late at night, they had the pillar of fire to lead them, so too will God’s people in the New Covenant have a light to lead them, Jesus himself.  The story starts with light so often, Genesis 1:3 and again, John’s Gospel starts in 1:5 with light. 

—–Note here, “the crowd” is not mentioned from chapter 8:1 until chapter 11:42.  At this point, Jesus confronts His adversaries, the Jewish leadership.  This he does in the temple, the public area of the treasury.  This was also where anyone could enter to bring offerings.  And it was right next to the Sanhedrin Hall, where judgements were deliberated and delivered.  It would have been convenient for the Pharisees to arrest and put Jesus on trial right there and then.  

12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not [a]true.” 

—–Jesus makes this daring and grandiose claim.  And what do the Pharisees do?  They start a lawyerly knit-picking party!  They do not focus on truth or falsehood.  They focus on legality (Deut. 17:6, Deut. 19:15), of the claim.  Are legal value and truth always the same?  My Dad used to say, “It may be so, but it isn’t right!”  Or, “It may be right, but it isn’t so!”    

Lexie is on jury duty.  I remember when I was on jury duty.  I only sat on one case which had numerous associated charges against the defendant.  We the jury knew he was guilty of all of them.  But because of legal technicalities, we could not offer a finding on 3 or 4 of the lesser charges.  It was so frustrating. 

14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I am testifying about Myself, My testimony is [b]true, because I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge [c]according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17 Even in your Law it has been written that the testimony of two people is [d]true. 18 I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” 

—–Jesus and the Pharisees were talking past each other.  One of them, however, was telling the truth.  Jesus lowers the boom on them by overruling the objection that he needed 2 witnesses.  You’re right he said, even the law says so, I am one witness, my Father is the other!  Furthermore, He didn’t need to judge anyone in this, merely to identify His purpose in coming.  He was sent by the Father.  God has sent His Son, that is the operating model.  Jesus is not going to be bogged down in legal niceties. 

—–Verse 15: Jesus accuses them of judging according to the flesh.  What?  This means “weak and incomplete” (Morris, Leon, p. 440).  Human desires fall far short of eternal purposes.  It was impossible for the Pharisees to understand where He came from or where He was going.  And they were the best thinkers of their time…?

—–Jesus does not back away from judging, but it is clear he isn’t there for judging at that time.  There will be a time for that.  But that judgement is not the fleshly, “weak and incomplete” kind of the Pharisees. 

Now contrast verse 15 with 9:39. “And Jesus said, For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”  (John 9:39). The purpose for which Jesus came into the world will have deep, eternal, consequences.  Rejecting him will produce judgement. 

—–Verse 17 I notice he refers to Himself and God as 2 people or 2 men (“anthropos” generic sense).  Both are persons, and not esoteric concepts, far away notions, made up idols.  And they also qualify as credible witnesses. 

Again, the Pharisees, having been proven wrong, and being more politicians than faith leaders, try to shift the narrative. 

19 So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” 20 These words He spoke [e]in the treasury, as He taught in the temple area; and no one arrested Him, because His hour had not yet come.

Isn’t that a funny question?  It is something like asking where is air?  Who would even dare to ask where is air?  Air is everywhere!  I can feel it blow through my hair!  It’s almost more than I can bear!  There is so much air, we have plenty to spare.  But without air, how would we fair? 

—–Jesus stays on message.   It is only in the Son and in the Son alone that the Father is revealed.  That is John’s key message throughout the book.  Jesus was not to be sidetracked and neither was John as he wrote his Gospel.  He wrote,  “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”   (John 20:30-31)

WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE, 8:12-20, MEAN?

—–Have you ever felt that God is just too far away?  Do you wonder, when I pray, can He really hear me? 

Think of it this way.  If the sun were any closer to earth, could we survive?  Would the light from it be too bright for our eyes?  Wouldn’t God’s light be overwhelming if we were as close to Him as we might want to be?

There is sufficient light to show us the way.  Do we put in the necessary time and effort to see the way?

—–Try an experiment on your own time.  Go 24 hours without any man-made light.  I mean lights at home, including TV, electronic devices, phones, candles, car lights, flashlights, oil lamps, even reflected light and all of that.  No lights.  Create a brief culture for yourself without any light. 

—–I see a culture we live in right now that is gradually trying to turn out the spiritual light that Jesus has provided us.  But it won’t work.  Light overcomes darkness, every time.

—–Light exposes both bad news and good news.  What we do with that, the choices we make is how we live. 

—–Light and law are very different.  We don’t lawyerly knit pick our way through life.  What an unhappy existence that would be! 

—–Having the light doesn’t mean we can solve every problem, but we see so much better!  I would not want to live without my understanding of Western civilization! And especially without the knowledge of Jesus!  What unique changes He has made!

—–What does light do?  It exposes things unseen in the darkness.  Contours.  Details.  Threat or foe.  Guilt or innocence! 

—–Look a little closer at this grand claim that Jesus makes, “I am the light of the world…” there is a catch.  “…he who follows me…”   I missed that the first time through, and the second time…Wait!  What!??  To see the light, I must follow Him???

Ah but there is good news.  Ask Jesus, tell Him you not only want to but will follow Him, and you’ll experience His promise, that you “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Just like ancient Israel, we will never be alone, as we have the pillar of fire lighting the way. 

Look, there are always resources we have! 

Choices. Enlightened by His presence in our lives!

Other believers with whom to share and encourage us!

Holy Spirit, living in us, bearing witness!

Light from the Word of God!

Light of Jesus Himself! 

CONCLUSION:

—–Jesus could have just been a crazy person with a bold claim.  “God is my witness!”  Yeah sure.  However, in Jesus’ situation, it turned out to be true.  If you can do it, it’s not bragging.  Jesus came to correct the condition of man.  Man is sinful.  The problem was and is dire!  A correction was brought and still is needed by those who haven’t heard. 

—–Some corrections require exceptional, beyond conventional approaches, not because the problem is dire, but because reality is bigger than the experience of our best thinkers. Was Jesus crazy? Could He do it?  Well then, it’s not bragging!  “God is my witness?”  Yeah sure.  But in this situation, it was true.  Jesus and the Jewish leaders were at an impasse.  But it turns out that this impasse was made possible because Jesus could deliver on his claims! 

—–Also, note the greater context of the claim Jesus makes.  Chapter 8 stands just before what?  Chapter 9!  LOL.  What is chapter 9?  The subject there is a blind man who sees only darkness, but Jesus brings him light.  Jesus says what he will do and does what He says.

Author: Rodney John Tombleson

Raised in Columbia basin of Oregon. High school class of 1971. Married, 1974 BA, 1980 MDiv', 1985 Currently retired. I needed an outlet for my thoughts, so I decided to try a little blogging.

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