by Pastor Matt Bishop
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Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God (John 8:47).
Courtroom trials are, by their nature, adversarial and difficult for many people to hear. Accusations, arguments, rebuttals, judgements and convictions.
Perhaps that’s part of why this passage is very difficult to hear. John’s Gospel is sometimes described as one long trial of Jesus. Today’s text is a prime example in the way Jesus is being ‘grilled’ by people who had previously believed in him (see 8:31). This text is also difficult to hear because, historically, it’s been used to justify never justifiable anti-Semitic views and behaviours. Moreover, even today, many Christians mistakenly use it as a basis to reject those with other views.
This text can be more helpfully heard when we hear it as addressed to us. And then focus on Jesus’ warning of the adversary – the devil. Forewarned is forearmed (see Ephesians 6:10–17). Jesus alerts us to the devil’s main occupation: lying! This is something we are all at risk of being the victims of all the time. Jesus knows the devil’s lying habits only too well. They first surfaced in the Garden of Eden when the serpent asked, ‘Did God really say?’ (Genesis 3:1). Jesus, in acutely knowing the lying question – one we all ask all too often – makes his decisive answer worthy of believing. Yet it’s an answer in actions, not words, and from another tree: Calvary’s cross that Jesus dies on to take away the sins of the world.
And what about for us now as children of God made free by Christ’s death for us on the tree? Well, listen to our living Lord here. Watch out for the devil’s lies! Be forearmed by knowing God’s whole counsel. A few verses earlier Jesus says, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples’ (John 8:31). In John’s Gospel, holding to Christ’s teaching is first and foremost believing. Yes! God really did say that his Son Jesus is sufficient for reconciling us to God eternally (John 8:32)! Then out of trusting him follows the service and love Jesus asks of all his disciples in response. God really said that!
Lord Jesus, your final word to us has been a word of grace earned on Calvary’s tree. As we live in your grace, we thank you for your words that warn. Guard our tongues so that we testify about you truly. Guide us to leave judgement to you. In your name, we pray. Amen.