You Will Die In Your Sins!
John 8:13-26 HCSB So the Pharisees said to Him, "You are testifying about Yourself. Your testimony is not valid." (14) "Even if I testify about Myself," Jesus replied, "My testimony is valid, because I know where I came from and where I'm going. But you don't know where I come from or where I'm going. (15) You judge by human standards. I judge no one. (16) And if I do judge, My judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent Me judge together. (17) Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid. (18) I am the One who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me." (19) Then they asked Him, "Where is Your Father?" "You know neither Me nor My Father," Jesus answered. "If you knew Me, you would also know My Father." (20) He spoke these words by the treasury, while teaching in the temple complex. But no one seized Him, because His hour had not come.
(21) Then He said to them again, "I'm going away; you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I'm going, you cannot come." (22) So the Jews said again, "He won't kill Himself, will He, since He says, 'Where I'm going, you cannot come'?" (23) "You are from below," He told them, "I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (24) Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (25) "Who are You?" they questioned. "Precisely what I've been telling you from the very beginning," Jesus told them. (26) "I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the One who sent Me is true, and what I have heard from Him--these things I tell the world."
This is a passage with MANY alternative translations (just compare a couple of the translations you have at home) so I will largely take it from the Greek, I will also include some reference to verses we skipped over in yesterdays passage. Here are some of the main points:
Jesus was in the Temple, teaching good Temple-going Jews. Why would He say such terrible words? The Jews knew their Bible and thought they loved and obeyed God and they tithed even down to the herbs they grew, and the Jews did many good works such as almsgiving. But they were far from the Kingdom! Though religious they were sinners, and hardened and blinded sinners, who would die in their sins.
The Jews quibbled with grace and disputed with God. They would not learn, and refused to receive, because it would have meant a loss of face and position. To believe in Jesus you first have to agree that you are a sinner, and these were absolutely sure they were righteous!
Jesus does things the reverse of what we would first expect, for instance He is always tough on religious experts and always gracious to learners, enquirers and repentant sinners. It is those who listen and learn who receive grace – not those who “know it all”.
Despite many years of religion the temple-going Jews were unreceptive to grace and ignorant of the voice of God. They were spiteful and contentious and neither knew Jesus or the Father nor could they understand obvious spiritual analogies.
“For if you do not believe that I am (He) you will die in your sins”. This is the well known “ego eimi” construction of John the “I AM” that harks back to the ancient personal name of God YHWH which means “I am that I am”. At the very least it should be interpreted “unless you believe that I am who I say I am” and more likely “unless you believe that I am YHWH” .you will die in your sins. This is what makes the claims of Jesus so crucial. Unless we believe them we bear our guilt and are lost from grace forever. The “liberal” churches that challenge the deity and resurrection of Christ are empty and powerless because grace only comes where Christ is believed.
"Who are You?" they questioned. "Precisely what I've been telling you from the very beginning," The last part of this verse “from the very beginning” is hard to translate. “From the beginning I have said it to you” or “The Beginning, what I also say to you.” Would be approximate literal translations. However given John’s specialized use of the word for beginning - arche (pr. ar-kay) as the primordial spiritual realm it probably means “I am the One who has been speaking to the Jewish nation from the beginning, I am Yahweh”.
Jesus is the Voice in Creation and the Voice from Sinai, and the Voice of grace. It has always been the same Voice and the Jews chose to ignore it and substitute their own understanding instead. Jesus speaks the Word of the Father: “But the One who sent Me is true, and what I have heard from Him these things I tell the world." Thus to fail to heed Christ is to be out of tune with Creation, with law and with grace, even with all things, it is lost-ness indeed!