Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 24: Look at the Light
One thing that many people enjoy seeing is the dolphin shows that Sea World and other aquatic show parks put on. It is amazing to see how dolphins and some other sea creatures seem to be able to actually understand and respond to commands from their trainers. And of course, through the years people have trained other animals to do similar things. And sometimes we even see household pets whose owners seem to be able to communicate with them. But everyone knows that no matter how clever and well trained those animals may be, they can’t really communicate with humans the way other humans can. And that kind of communication, or lack of it, is a good illustration of the relationship between God and the unsaved person in the area of understanding and communication.
The whole chapter shows Jesus Christ as the light of the world. In verses 1 through 11 we have “the exposure to the Light,” and in verses 12 through 20 we see “the explanation of the Light.”
In verses 21 through 29 it is “the examination of the Light;” in verses 30 through 47 “the extension of the light, and in verses 48 through 59 we see “the exit of the Light” (but not the extinguishing of it)
In our last two studies we have looked at “the exposure to the light,” when Jesus shined the light of His omniscience into the accusations against the woman who had been caught committing adultery, and “the examination of the light” by the Jewish religious leaders after Jesus had announced that He was “the light of the world” in verse 12.
So as we come to verse 21, we find the Jewish leaders carrying their conversation with Jesus a step further into an intense “examination of the light.” The announcement that brings about this examination is in verse 21:
Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.”
This is the first time that Jesus publically refers to the fact that He is going to die – even though they don’t realize what He is saying. But we know that it is what He is talking about from the phrase “where I go you cannot come.” So out of that evolves the argument that fills up the rest of the section, verses 22 through 29. The first part of the argument is as to His destiny in verses 22 through 24
So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself because He says, “where I go you cannot come?
Back in verse 19 they had asked, “where is your father?” now they ask “will He kill Himself?” They don’t know that He has been instructing His disciples that He is going to Jerusalem to be put to death for the sins of the world. Will He kill Himself? No! but He will give Himself as a ransom for sinners. But Jesus explains their lack of understanding in verse 23.
(23) And He said to them, “you are from beneath,” I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
The reason they couldn’t understand is that they are of a completely different nature than He is – they are “from beneath,” He is “from above.” I Corinthians 2:11,12 elaborates on this concept.
For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that have been given to us by God.
Then skip down to verse 14:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.
Verse 11 is saying that it is impossible for one man to know what is going on in another man’s mind and spirit. And the same thing is true of God and man. But the amazing thing is that God gives His spirit to believers, thus we are able to understand Him even better than we can understand one another, verse 12 says. Don’t ever be surprised when your unsaved friend just doesn’t seem to “get it” when you witness to him. And don’t be thrown of by the fact that highly educated and intelligent people are not willing to accept the truth of Christ and are willing to accept the ridiculous lies of evolution and liberalism. All of this is because they don’t have the ability to receive spiritual truth. And going back to John chapter 8, that is why Jesus says what He does in verse 24:
Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.
People die because they are sinners. It is the end result of sin. So Jesus is not threatening these men, just stating the facts. This doesn’t mean that they can never be saved, in fact as we will see a little further down in the passage, many of them are going to believe in Christ. But the principle is that if a person dies without accepting Christ as Savior, he will die in his sins.
So that is the argument as to His destiny, But in verses 25 through 29, the argument moves on to a discussion as to His deity.
Then they said to Him, “Who are you?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been to you from the beginning.
These religious leaders did not know what Jesus’ mission was, nor did they know Him. You can tell this from their questions:
“Where is your father?” – verse 19; “Will He kill Himself? – verse 22, and now, “who are you?” – verse 25. But Jesus’ answer was always the same: “from the beginning” He had been saying He was the Son of God. And His answer continues in verse 26.
I have many thigs to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things that I heard from Him.”
Jesus consistently maintained that what He was doing and saying was only what the Father wanted Him to do and say. He claimed that God the Father had sent Him, and that He was doing the Father’s will. He never appealed to His own mind or to His own intellect. And this is an example for us preachers – it should always be God’s word that we are giving out, not messages that are the product of our own intellect.
The response of the Jews is in verse 27:
They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.
They missed His whole point. As Jesus pointed out in verse 23, they were of the earth; they simply cannot understand heavenly things. Jesus continues in verse 28:
Then Jesus said to them, “when you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father taught me, I speak these things.
The phrase “son of man” in the first line of this verse is still another claim by Jesus to be the Son of God. In Daniel 7:13and 14 Daniel sees a vision of heaven at the end of time on earth. The vision is of the Son of God coming before the Father to be given dominion over all the earth (fitting in with the vision of world empires that Nebuchadnezzar had had in chapter 2.) And the Son of God in that passage is called “the son of man.” And in verse 28 Jesus boldly takes that title for Himself. And Jesus’ prophecy came true: after the death and resurrection of Christ many of the priests in Jerusalem believed in Him according to Acts chapter 2. And these facts taken together explain something that is still true today: it is only the redemptive death of Christ that tells who He was, why He came, and the eternal results. You cannot really understand who Jesus Christ is until you understand what He has done. Without this aspect of truth about Him He was no better than any other great teacher. In fact, without that He really is in the category of the “crazies” like Jim Jones and David Koresh of our generation and hundreds of others down through history because of passages like this one, where He claimed to be God.
Jesus concludes this part of the discussion in verse 29:
And He who sent Me is with Me, the Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please him.”
Have you ever finished a day without looking back on it and wishing you had done something differently? It is probably pretty rare to not end one that way, isn’t it. But Jesus never finished a day that way. He made it clear that He always did the things that pleased the Father.
The remainder of the chapter needs to be covered in one sitting and it is too long to add to what we have covered thus far. But in closing this study, think about what we have seen: We have seen, first, that the reason people cannot seem to understand the simple truth about Jesus Christ is that they are not willing to accept it by faith. But those who are willing to believe, even if they have to also pray “help my unbelief” receive the Holy Spirit, who opens their eyes to the truth of the things of God. You see, faith is not believing that a chair will hold you up, it is putting the full force of your weight on the chair. Until you do that, your faith in that chair, or anything else, including Jesus Christ, is only theoretical. Have you really and actually committed your eternal destiny, by faith, to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross?
Then we have also seen that apart from the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He is nothing very special. And we have seen that all of this is wrapped up in the fact He was following the plan and will of God in all that He did. Since it is possible for us to know the very mind of God, because of the Holy Spirit living within us, you and I have the possibility of doing “only those things which please the Father.” And in fact, as we will see in the next section of this chapter, that is the secret of true happiness and fulfillment and success in life. Why not take that as our day to day goal, if you haven’t already?