It is painful to be exposed when we have been so sure of our invincibility. Much more if there are assumptions of being God’s favorites and above accountability from secret sins.
Jesus spoke truth to the powerful. Though he loved to comfort the afflicted, for the proud he had to make a point to afflict the comfortable. Having just finished exposing the plot of murder in the hearts of the religious leaders at the end of the week in the Feast of Tabernacles they were knocked back on their heels. In tough love, he is about to point out to those with a false sense of security where the roots are bad.
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” [So] they said to him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word. You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me. Can any of you charge me with sin? If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.” (John 8:39-47).
If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham- This would take longer than what space affords here, but suffice it to say Abraham had very good works. I have heard it said from Steven Ray in his documentary, like the title, that Abraham was the “Father of Faith and Works”. His works included trusting God with the life of Isaac because he understood something about resurrection, making decisions that went beyond his own generation and many others. Fundamentally, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) all in the context of hearing God and obeying.
But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God– Jesus will not let himself be distracted. Though Jesus does not impose, he does confront if someone is in any kind of full engagement. For believing Christians, there is the belief that Jesus is still the same and conviction is carried out by the Holy Spirit to bring truth. And truth hurts.
You are doing the works of your father!– If the subject of the root of sin comes, up Jesus does not only bring up the devil, but sometimes the devil as a usual suspect. Appropriate to this case, Jesus exposes that they are tied to the polar opposite of his wellspring. The principle is to show the root by its fruit even if it hurts.
We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God– Interesting in a sense that the religious leaders are so quick to go to the fatherhood message of Jesus as they adopt his language just to keep up in a fight.
If God were your Father, you would love me– Moving now farther than the works of Abraham, Jesus speaks to love. However, the love that Jesus speaks of is still tied to obedience. Jesus unveiled much more about himself to his disciples at the Last Supper saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:23).
Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word.- In the social sciences there is a term used for dysfunctional filtering of information called confirmation bias. This is where someone’s conclusion is already formed and information will be accepted or dismissed to fit that accordingly. The heart of the matter for cynics like those who Jesus addresses is that they have their own agenda to sin and like keeping it that way. John addresses this with his own voice in his gospel.
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. (John 3:19).
You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires- Here Jesus presses in and calling out the exact spiritual cause and effect.
But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me— This reminds me of the detox pain in getting used to sobriety again. Keep in mind that biblical belief is a pregnant word with a fullness of meaning in obedience. If they accept the words of Jesus as true, then truth has consequences in which they could be transformed in repentance. This is seen in the original Greek word metanoia which where we get metamorphosis from.
Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.– Jesus makes this statement with an implied invitation even to the hard of heart. He says “words of God” as a term used in the plural which points to a revelation of God much greater than the memorization of scripture. Jesus implies that they could have an ongoing, vibrant relationship. This would be if they gave up their “freedom” in what they thinkis spiritual privilege and surrender themselves to God’s full ownership. To do that is to be saved totally. For some of the hearers in this confrontation, they make the right choice of believing and we can assume their place would be of those marked with something that cannot be washed away. Freedom is to belong to the One who made us.