11 April 2014

John 8:21-30

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realise that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.” (v. 28)


Jesus continues his dialogue in the temple courtyards in Jerusalem, although now he is described as speaking to the Jews (verse 22) as opposed to the Pharisees (John 8:13). It is possible that this may be the same group of people, although the fact that "many believed in him" (v. 30) suggests this was a more general group of people attending the Feast of the Tabernacles who were listening in to Jesus and his earlier discussion with the Pharisees.

As often happens in John's Gospel, those listening to Jesus misunderstand what he is saying. This time they think he intends to commit suicide and then ask the most basic of questions "Who are you?" (v. 25). Jesus appears frustrated by this repeated misunderstanding but nevertheless continues to explain things to them, although he goes on to suggest that they won't really understand until the Son of Man has been "lifted up" (v. 28), a clear reference to his forthcoming crucifixion. They are also words that echo those from Isaiah 52:13, underlining the divine identity of Jesus.

Jesus criticises his listeners for their sin. In this instance the word sin is singular and suggests that it is not individual misdeeds that Jesus has in mind, but the fundamental sin of unbelief. Failure to believe in Jesus, and that he reveals the glory of the Father, will lead to a spiritual death. The belief that "I am he" (v. 24) links to the words again found in Isaiah 43:10, "my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe in me and understand that I am he".

To Ponder

  • Imagine you were one of the people listening to Jesus. Talk of his own death does not appear to have disturbed those listening to him. What would your reaction have been?
  • Would you have understood what Jesus was saying? To what extent would you "believe in him" (v. 30)?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.