As we’ve often realized from other readings, if Jesus wasn’t God’s Son, He was guilty of making outrageous claims about Himself. If He was only a man, His claims could be considered blasphemous, because what He said about Himself can only be rightfully said of God. Today’s reading contains a number of Jesus’ specific claims regarding who He is and only what He can do. As we read them, we realize that there has never been and never will be another person like Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t God’s Son, He told the biggest tales anyone has ever told. Let’s consider some of Jesus’ claims that we just read.
Jesus once again declared that God was His Father and that they had a unique relationship. For example, He had come from His Father, having been sent by Him to the earth, and was going back to Him. In a special way, His Father was always with Him, and Jesus said only what His Father told Him to say. Likewise, He always did what was pleasing to His Father, and so He never sinned. Not even once! Jesus claimed that God wanted to glorify Him and that He knew the Father like no one else. Finally, He declared that He existed before Abraham was born, making Himself thousands of years old. Jesus literally told His Jewish audience, “Truly, truly, before Abraham was, I Am.” I Am was a name by which God revealed Himself to Moses, and so Jesus was actually claiming to be the eternal God of the Old Testament! When Jesus made that claim, the unbelievers who heard Him decided He was worthy of death for such blasphemy, and they picked up stones to kill Him.
Because Jesus was who He was, He could do what no one else could do. He claimed to be the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Light stands for truth whereas darkness represents ignorance of the truth. Everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is ignorant of the truth and believes lies, stumbling in darkness, just as Jesus said. But if they’ll follow Him, just as a person follows a light in the darkness, He’ll lead them to eternal life.
Notice that Jesus didn’t claim to be just a small candle or the light of a little town. He claimed to be the light of the entire world! What a claim! He was saying that every single person in the entire world should look to Him as the source of truth and the only way to find eternal life!
This was not Jesus’ only claim to be the sole source of salvation for humanity. He declared that anyone who wouldn’t believe in Him would die in their sin. That means they would go to hell. However, whoever would believe in Him, He would set them free from their sins. Whoever would obey Him would never die.
Can you understand why it is so absurd for people to say that Jesus was a good man, but not the Son of God? Jesus left us no option to believe that He was just a good man. If He wasn’t God, He was either a liar or a lunatic.
Why are Jesus’ amazing claims so important? Because they force everyone to make a decision to either believe in Him or not believe. And everyone’s eternal destiny is determined by what he or she believes.
If a person truly does believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be and that Jesus can do what He claimed only He can do, that person will begin to obey Jesus. That is why Jesus talked about Himself setting people free from their slavery to sin, and why He said, “Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!” (John 8:51, emphasis added). And that is why He said, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings” (John 8:31). Many people make claims of being Jesus’ disciples, but aren’t, as proven by how they live. Jesus’ true disciples keep obeying Him.
Q. When people first believe in Jesus, are they set free from all their sins immediately?
A. No, they are progressively set free from their sins as they learn and grow spiritually. Jesus said that we would be set free by knowing the truth. When we first believe in Him, we gain knowledge of some truth and are set free from some of the more major sins. And as we learn more about Jesus, we grow more like Him, becoming less and less sinful. One day in heaven, we’ll all be sinless!
Q. When Jesus promised that people who obey Him will never die, did He mean that they will never die physically?
A. No, because everyone in the Bible who believed in Him died physically. Jesus must have meant that those who display an obedient faith will never die spiritually, which is much worse than physical death. Physical death is a separation of the body and spirit, whereas spiritual death is a separation of the spirit from God. When people believe in Jesus with an obedient faith, their spiritually dead spirits are reborn and they receive God’s life inside. As they continue in their faith, they never have to be concerned about dying spiritually.
Application: As Jesus said, those who are not born again have Satan as their spiritual father. Because of that, they act like the devil, who is a liar by nature. Those of us who have truly believed in Jesus, however, have God as our spiritual Father. He has caused our spirits to be reborn. Because of that, we act like Him. He always tells the truth, and so should we. People who always lie prove that they aren’t saved. The Bible says that all liars will spend eternity in the lake of fire (see Revelation 21:8).