John 8:12-30 (NRSV)
The scene of this argument with the Jewish authorities was in the Temple treasury, which was in the Court of the Women. The first Temple court was the Court of the Gentiles; the second was the Court of the Women. It was so called because women might not pass beyond it unless they were actually about to offer sacrifice on the altar which was in the Court of the Priests. Round the Court of the Women there was a colonnade or porch; and, in that porch, set against the wall, there were thirteen treasure chests into which people dropped their offerings. These were called The Trumpets because they were shaped like trumpets, narrow at the top and swelling out towards the foot.
The thirteen treasure chests all had their allotted offering. Into the first two were dropped the half shekels which every Jew had to pay towards the upkeep of the Temple. Into the third and fourth were dropped sums which would purchase the two pigeons which a woman had to offer for her purification after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12:8). Into the fifth were put contributions towards the cost of the wood which was needed to keep the altar fire alight. Into the sixth were dropped contributions towards the cost of the incense which was used at the Temple services. Into the seventh went contributions towards the upkeep of the golden vessels which were used at these services. Sometimes a man or a family set apart a certain sum to make some trespass or thank-offering; into the remaining six trumpets people dropped any money which remained after such an offering had been made, or anything extra which they wished to offer.
Clearly the Temple treasury would be a busy place, with a constant flow of worshippers coming and going. There would be no better place to collect an audience of devout people and to teach them than the Temple treasury.
12Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
13Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.”
14Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I judge no one. 16Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. 18I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.”
Jesus can testify about Himself because He, not they, has view of eternity: I know where I came from and where I am going.
Jesus can testify about Himself because He, not they, judges righteously: You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
Jesus can testify about Himself because His testimony is fully supported by God the Father: My judgment is true; for I am not alone.
19Then they said 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.” 20He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
21Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”
22Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”
23He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”
The word “he” is added by translators so the sentence will make sense in English. Jesus calls them to “believe that I am,” which the Jews would hear as a claim to deity, since that is the name God called himself when he spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
25They said to him, “Who are you?”
This question of the Pharisees comes from a combination of willful confusion and contempt. Though Jesus has told them over and over who He is, they will continue to ask until they get an answer they can use to condemn Him.
Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? 26I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”
27They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. 28So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.
When Jesus says he will be “lifted up,” he means “lifted up” off the ground on a cross. When Jesus is crucified, they will see the perfect obedience of the Son to the Father. And that obedience will lead to another elevation:
Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
29And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” 30As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
HERE is a Charles Wesley hymn — “Christ, whose glory fills the skies,” sung by the Washington Choral Arts Society. What a good prayer to sing every morning!
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true and only Light,
Sun of righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shade of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.
Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by Thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till Thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
Visit then this soul of mine,
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more Thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.
1) If an unbeliever asked you, “Who is Jesus?” — how would you answer? Would today’s passage help you explain more clearly who Christ is? How?
2) Jesus and his opponents argue by often asking questions. Consider this statement about Judaism:
It is a faith based on asking questions, sometimes deep and difficult ones that seem to shake the very foundations of faith itself. “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” asked Abraham. “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?” asked Moses. “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” asked Jeremiah. The book of Job is largely constructed out of questions, and God’s answer consists of four chapters of yet deeper questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … Can you catch Leviathan with a hook? … Will it make an agreement with you and let you take it as your slave for life?”
If you and Jesus were to have a discussion today, what questions would you want to ask him?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.