90 Days with Jesus, Day 38: John 8:12-20: No Other Way but the Cross of Jesus

John 8:21-30

21Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” 23But he continued, “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; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” 25″Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. 26″I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” 27They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

Let’s take a look at these words of Jesus and read them at face value.

There was a time when the people Jesus taught tried to seize him. They wanted to cling to him—but not for any reasons resembling righteousness. They had other designs on him that precluded accepting him at face value—that he was who he claimed to be. He gave them a lifeline (I wish I had a better metaphor here) and they rejected it. What was the only other option: You will die in your sin, Jesus said. This is the option? Acceptance of Jesus, belief that He is the One God sent, and there will be life outside of our sin. But rejection of Jesus is sheer stupidity because our last resting place will be our sin soaked lives.

Would there be a time when Jesus was gone and they would look for him? Jesus seems to believe so and at that time they would no longer be able to find him. They can’t seize him to arrest him; they won’t seize him to escape sin. Jesus indicates here that sin is a nasty little secret that man is simply unable and unwilling to come to terms with. Perhaps we are content to ignore it or avoid it or revel in it. But he makes it abundantly clear that they would die in their sin and the place where he was going would be inaccessible to those who did. Does there come a point in the time of some folk’s lives when Jesus simply become inaccessible to them any longer? When it is impossible to repent of sin? When their only ambition is to sin? I kind of gather that if they would ‘die in their sin’ that means they persisted in their sin as well. They would be unable to get out of it.

This is a major, major problem we face in the world today. I’ll take Dr. Phil as an example of the problem He invites all sorts of people onto his television program—and, frankly, the only difference between Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer is that Phil doesn’t spend as much time mocking the people as Springer does. I’ll admit, Phil’s arguments and solutions are well reasoned, articulate, and, as far as they go, probably scientifically sound. In some cases, I’ll bet they work. The problem is that we never hear about the root of the problem. We hear people say ‘the problem is that my brother stole my identity and I hate him for it.’ Phil might say, ‘why did you steal his identity? Were you trying to get even? Was it revenge?’ What we don’t hear Phil say is this: At the core of this problem between two brothers is sin, a deeply entrenched, living, breathing, fallen-ness that has not too quietly taken over their lives. He may get confessions and he may do some reconciling, but he has not dealt with the core; he’s killed the weeds and planted flowers, but he’s done so in the same exact soil.

Jesus says it again: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you would die in your sins. If you don’t believe that I am the one claim to be you will indeed die in your sins.” They will look for him and die in their sins. They will refuse to believe in him and die in their sins. Again I say it: We cannot get out of the dilemma we are in by ourselves. I don’t care how many feel good gurus PBS runs across a stage, I don’t care how many people stay in the Dr Phil House, I don’t care how many feel good stories are turned into After School/Hallmark Hall of Fame movies: Sin is in deep and it is not willing to let go just because we ‘get our house in order.’ Sin is relentless, pursuing with baited breath, hunting down the weak and the strong alike, the poor and the rich alike, the sinner and the saint alike. Sin is tireless, fearless and ambitious. It doesn’t care who the victim: Its aim is to devour.

And Jesus says that if we refuse to believe that he is I Am (this is what that nebulous phrase ‘the one I claim to be’ means) we are simply, utterly, beyond hope. There is only one Name given by which men (and women) might be saved: Jesus. If we are not clinging to Him what hope have we? So I do not think the answer is to send people some sentimental story of how someone with a lot of courage overcame the monsters hiding under their bed, or some inspirational story of how someone’s faith helped them get through a particularly nasty bout of splattergoit (a particularly nasty ailment non-muggles can get; certain readers will get it). I don’t think that such inspiration, however inspirational it may be, will get us through sin. It will not erase sin. It will not cure sin. PT Forsyth well makes this point when he writes,

“Even a loving God is really God not because He loves, but because He has the power to subdue all things to the holiness of his love, and even sin itself to His love as redeeming grace. A sympathetic God is really God because He is a holy, saving, redeeming God; because in Him already the great world-transaction is done, and the kingdom of his Holy love already set up on His foregone conquest of all evil. The great and crucial thing is done in God and not before Him, in His will and not in His presence, by Him and not for Him by any servants, not even by a son. It is an act of His own being, a victory in His own immutable and invincible being. And to be saved, in any non-egoistical sense of the word, means that God gains His own victory over again in me, and that I have lost in life’s great issue unless He do. God’s participation in man’s affairs is much more than that of fellow-sufferer on a divine scale, whose love can rise to a painless sympathy with pain. He not only perfectly understands our case and our problem, but He has morally, actively, and finally solved it. The solution is for ever present with Him.” (The Cruciality of the Cross, 60-61).

Forsyth is convinced that this happened at Calvary: “And our faith is not merely that God is with us, nor that one day He will clear all things up and triumph; but that for Him all things are already triumphant, clear, and sure. All things are working together for good, as good is in the cross of Christ and it’s saving effect.” (62)

So when they ask him, “Who are you?” Jesus’ response is understandable: “Just what I have been claiming all along.” What has he been claiming about himself? Well, re-read chapters 1-6 to get the gist. And besides, why should he continue to repeat his answer to the question they ask? They haven’t believed him up to this point, why should one more repetition all of a sudden change their minds? And just like happens with the disciples in chapter 16: They did not understand what he was telling them about his Father (16:17-18). So he nails them one more time: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM I AM (the meaning of that innocuous phrase ‘the one I claim to be’). This is a declaration that He is God, YHWH. This is his open avowal that He is God in the Flesh, God among us, God come down, God tabernacled among us. This is Forsyth’s point, echoing Paul: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the World to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV). Jesus is saying that will fully understand when we see Him crucified. It is in the cross that all of what Jesus said makes sense because it is there that we see how God dealt with the problem of this world. It is in the cross that God makes his open declaration of who Jesus, what His purpose is, and How God means to conquer us. It was not in any other way but the cross.

Jesus says, “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me…I always do what pleases him.” Jesus did not even invent this stuff any more than Christians did or Paul in particular. Jesus spoke the Word of God—It was God who ‘told’ him what to say. It was God who sent his message to earth through Christ. It was God who revealed this plan. It was God who said: “Jesus is the I AM I AM.” This is no mere invention or parable of men—and God did not send the Christ here so that he could help us get over all the stuff that the gurus and doctors of this world tell us we need to get over. God sent His Christ to this world to deal with sin.

Another major problem we have in this world is this conception of sin so that even in some of the major denominations in this world right now there is no such thing as sin. Sin is being eradicated as a problem: The church has effectively dealt with sin in this world by declaring sin to no longer be sin. Take homosexuality for example. Many preachers claiming to be Christians have thrown all their eggs into one basket and claimed that they can be practicing, fornicating homosexuals and Christians and still get clear of God’s wrath. And they invite many others to participate with them in their delinquency. But it is not just homosexuals and their apologists.

Well if this is true—that what the Bible calls sin is no longer sin because man has declared it to not be sin—then of what need or use is there for Jesus? If Sin is allowed in then Jesus may as well leave because the two are incompatible. The price of sin cost Christ his life. I don’t see how people can do it. I don’t see how the blood of Christ can be trampled on, I don’t see how Christ can be publicly humiliated all over again, I don’t see how the cross can be turned upside down and sin welcomed with open arms. Truly what the book of Hebrews says is true: There is no sacrifice left. The author of Hebrews wrote in the tenth chapter:

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Thus Jesus says: You will look for me and you will die in your sins. Why? Because there will come a time when he will not be found. Find Him while He may be found.

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS–nothing I wrote should be considered a criticism of Dr Phil per se. I’m sure he is excellent in his field. My point is that however well he does his work as a Psychiatrist he still does not deal with the core of the problem. He treats symptoms, and many times resolves them, but he does not treat causes.

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  1. 1 Secret Confessions » Secret Confessions July 23, 2007 9:32 pm

    […] 90 Days with Jesus, Day 38: John 8:12-20: No Other Way but the … He may get confessions and he may do some reconciling, but he has not dealt with the core; he?s killed the weeds and planted flowers, but he?s done so in the same exact soil. Jesus says it again: ?You are from below; I am from above. … […]




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