It happens every time we get on an airplane before take off. The flight attendants ask for our attention in order to go over and explain the safety instructions for that particular plane. And without fail, 99.9% of the passengers don’t even look up. You’d think people would look up, if there’s a crash it’d be nice to know what to do. Those instructions, in truth, could save your life. But nonetheless, few pay attention. In spite of this these attendants faithfully continue to do their job on each flight they work day in and day out, and for this they are to be commended. “…when it comes to preaching at Christmas time each year, pastors feel a bit like a flight attendant reviewing the familiar to those who’ve heard it all before.”[1] You’d think we’d look up and hang on every word, because this message and the instructions that come with it could save your life eternally. But similarly and sadly, few pay attention.

It is my prayer that we would not fall prey to the coldness of the familiar this season. But be, by God’s grace, warmed – encouraged – revived, as we encounter and once again explain the wondrous events of the incarnation of God.

In John 8:13-20 we find two moments of accusation and because of this text we as readers are brought to a final moment of accusation. So, prepare to see Christ accused. Prepare to see Him accuse the Pharisee’s. And finally, prepare to be accused yourself.

Christ Accused (v13)

In 8:12 Jesus gives one of His most monumental and memorable statements saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This verse stands forth from John’s gospel as a multifaceted diamond, shining brightly and brilliantly. Last week we examined this verse from three specific angles and we saw something of God’s blazing glory in the face of Christ. As we continue on in the very next verses there could not be a starker contrast. The brightness of the fiery glory of Christ is immediately followed with the darkness of the Pharisee’s unbelief. v20 tells us these things happened within the treasury in the temple…and once Jesus’ great statement in v12 hit their ears they were quick to chime in with their objection in v13, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

The first thing that ought to jump out at you is that their objection has nothing to do with Jesus being God’s true light, at all. Jesus had said in 5:31 that if He’s the only One testifying about Himself His testimony isn’t true and here 3 chapters later it’s as if the Pharisee’s had completely disregarded what Jesus proclaimed about Himself being the light of the world, waiting for the moment He finished speaking so they could catch Him in a technicality. ‘Remember what you told us back by the pool of Bethesda? You can’t testify of yourself alone, there has to support.’ Even here at the start we sense nothing good will come of their disregarding Christ’s statement of divinity.

We understand the first part of their response, “You are bearing witness about yourself…” Jesus Himself had made the statement in v12 about who He was, not John the Baptist or one of His disciples, no, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the very light of God. This is why the Pharisee’s added the second phrase to their objection “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” They add this last phrase not just to make their opinion known, but to state the unlawful act they think Jesus is doing. Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 mention that a charge is only established on the evidence of two or three witnesses. So because Jesus said what He said in v12 Himself the Pharisee’s conclude that Jesus’ statement is not only unlawful but false, because they don’t see anyone else affirming His words, they don’t see anybody backing Him up. But was that really the case? Think about it: couldn’t the lame man now healed in John 5 by the pool of Bethesda give testimony? Couldn’t John the Baptist? Couldn’t Nicodemus bravely bear witness as well? If they really wanted to find it, other sources of evidence were ample and abundant, which reveals their true motives. Unbelief is strange, though never having sufficient evidence, it never runs out of objections.[2] So they accuse Him, as if He were on trial before them.

There is thick irony to notice here.[3] The Pharisee’s say Jesus’ witness is invalid. The word witness they use in Greek is the word martyreo, which is where we get the word martyr. A martyr, you all know, is someone who dies for bearing witness to something others find horridly offensive and wrong. The irony is that for bearing this witness these Pharisee’s will soon make a martyr of Christ. Can it get any more backwards, that the creature should put the Creator in the dock and sit in judgment over Him? It’s one thing to say the testimony of a man is false, it’s one thing to say my own testimony is false as I’m up here preaching. I’m a man and nothing more, you must remember it and examine what I say before swallowing it like a good student of the truth. It’s another matter altogether to accuse Christ as false. Would anyone ask Einstein for his college diploma? Would anyone ask Michael Jordan to prove his ability to play basketball? Would anyone ask Gandalf to prove his wizarding credentials? Of course not![4] To accuse Christ is nothing else than high treason against the King of kings.

The Pharisee’s Accused (v14-19)

How does Jesus respond to such an accusation? He provides reasons why His testimony is valid. So, in v14-19 the accused becomes the accuser, the witness becomes the prosecutor,[5] Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisee’s and puts them in the dock.

First, in v14-15 He says, “Even if I do bear witness about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” In this first accusation Jesus says the testimony He is bearing witness to is true. Or in other words, it’s more than mere opinion, it’s from firsthand experience. He had come from heaven and He is going back to heaven. This reveals that the Pharisee’s didn’t even know the simplest fact about Him – where He was from. They believed He was nothing more than a hillbilly Galilean. Why are they so clouded in their judgment? v15 gives the answer. They’re judging Jesus according to the flesh.[6] Jesus tells them as much and adds that He judges no one in this respect. Yes Jesus will stand in judgment over all men at the end of all things when the books are opened and every account is settled. When Jesus says He ‘judges no one’ He is not denying such truth. He is contrasting His own eternal judgment with their fleshly judgment. They judge with an earthly judgment, and therefore are wrong and false. Jesus judges with a heavenly judgment, and therefore is true and correct.

Second, in v16-18 He says, “Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent Me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the One who bears witness about Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness about Me.” In this second accusation Jesus addresses the technicality they had tried to call Him on in v13. They said His witness was false because He was testifying alone and based on the Law, as we’ve seen, testimony is only valid if it is corroborated or supported by another. But, though it may seem to them that Jesus is alone, they are gravely mistaken. The reason the Pharisee’s are wrong, the reason Jesus’ testimony and judgment is true and valid is that He is not alone.[7] His Father sent Him, His Father is ever with Him, His Father judges with Him, and His Father bears witness of Him.

When boys play they often get into contests of strength. I remember as a young boy my friends and I would do this when we had a disagreement over what to do, where to go, or what to play. We would arm wrestle to see who was stronger, we would ride our bikes down steep hills to see who was brave enough to go the fastest, even if we just had a baseball nearby we would see who could throw it the farthest. Whoever won the contest of strength was the one who got to choose what we do. I was a small skinny kid, so I often lost these contests. I didn’t like that at all, as you can imagine. On one specific occasion I remember losing and then telling my friend, “Well, my Dad can beat up your Dad.” I may be small and skinny, but at that moment I appealed to a higher power. Of course then you know what happens next, the contest then becomes a back and forth dialogue about what your Dad can do and nothing is resolved because that kind of conversation is unending.

Well, in a similar and much greater way, to show the folly of the Pharisee’s technicality, Jesus appeals to a higher power. The highest power in fact, His Father. As you can imagine the Pharisee’s had trouble with this. When Jesus spoke of His Father, of His sending Him, of His judgment, of His bearing witness along with Him, they are thinking ‘Joseph doesn’t have that kind of authority, what is Jesus talking about?’ So naturally they respond with a question in v19a, “Where is Your Father?”

Jesus’ answer to this question is His final accusation in our text today. He answers them by sharply saying, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” They had accused Him of being false, He showed Himself as true. He turned the tables and accused them, their unbelief stood out as clear as day.

Conclusion: Our Accusation

We have seen eternal accusations being made in our passage today. Jesus the accused becomes the accuser. I want to turn the tables once more and end with another accusation. I want to place us in the dock, because we too often read passages of Scripture like this, condemn the Pharisee’s, and think ourselves to be in the clear when the reality is, we’re not.

So here it comes, the moment that I (as a good flight attendant must) will review the familiar. Are you paying attention? Will you look up in give me your ear? Or will you disregard what I’m about to tell you?

Think about it. One commentator says of this passage, “The whole history of Israel was so designed that the Jews should have recognized the Son of God when He came; all their history was leading up to that coming. But they had become so involved with their own ideas, so intent on their own way, so sure of their own conception of what religion was that they had become blind to God.”[8] We repeat this same mistake when we devote ourselves to political, social, and personal agendas that reflect our own priorities rather than the Bible’s. In the past scientist’s have demanded an anti-supernatural Jesus, socialists have demanded a fair Jesus, capitalists have demanded a greedy Jesus, racists have demanded an ethnocentric Jesus, and patriots have demanded a nationalistic Jesus. Today there’s a more popular flavor of unbelief, we demand a Jesus who makes no demands and teaches no doctrine. Why? This Jesus can be whatever we want Him to be, this Jesus is comfortable, this Jesus is safe, this Jesus won’t stir the pot, this Jesus won’t make holiday conversations hard, this Jesus won’t separate you from the world. Yet, as easy as it is to accept that kind of Jesus, it isn’t the Jesus of the Bible and therefore it’s an idol of our own making. Which really reveals who we are inside. Standing against the bright and brilliant light of the world, is us, those in the world, black in darkness, corrupted in character, and horrid in heart. Before Christmas is a comfort to us, it exposes us. As we see the baby in the manger, and behold the very incarnation of God, we learn anew that God has broken into our fallen world because we are fallen and need a Savior! There can be no boasting at Christmas time of who we are, or, the only boasting that can exist at Christmas time can be that God has come to us to do what we couldn’t to make up for us doing what we shouldn’t. He came to save, and in order to be saved you must know yourself to be lost.

So Church, see things as they really are. Though we often put God in the dock and act as if we were judge and jury, the roles are in reality reversed. We are in the dock. God is Judge and Jury. We are accused, the evidence is abundant, and we are found wanting. If you believe this about yourself, you’ll find the relevance of Christmas repeatedly shocking. It will be more than mere festivities, more than ribbons, more than tags, more than packages, boxes, and bags. It will be more than once a year moment, it will be a lifetime of repeated rejoicing in the incarnation of God. Why? In it, in the baby born, in Christ is the salvation, forgiveness, and redemption we need from our sin. These Pharisee’s saw Jesus but didn’t see Him as the light of the world. They heard His voice but didn’t hear the very voice of God. Their unbelief is dark for sure. But if we approach this holiday season as just that, we’re just as dark. May the Light of the world be the light of your Christmas this year.

 

 

Citations:

[1] C.J. Mahaney began a recent sermon with these thoughts, Zechariah’s Song, 12.10.17, accessed on 12.13.17 via Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville podcast.

[2] Richard Phillips, John 1-10 – Reformed Expository Commentary, page 519.

[3] R.C. Sproul, John – St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 157.

[4] Richard Phillips, page 522.

[5] Gospel Transformation Study Bible, study notes, page 1423.

[6] R.C. Sproul, page 157.

[7] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT, page 441.

[8] William Barclay, quoted in Phillips, page 520-521. This whole section provided this application

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