“They answered Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to Him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of My own accord, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear My word. (John 8:39-43, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns in ESV referring to God the Father, Son, and Spirit)
Jesus had just acknowledged to the Jews critical of Him that they were indeed the offspring of Abraham (v. 37). He also told them that the things they did they did as slaves to sin being subject to their father. However, He did not call Abraham a sinner and say that Abraham and the one to whom they enslaved in sin were the same person. The Jews caught this point, and they adamantly responded claiming Abraham as their father. But Jesus did not miss a beat in closing the door He had opened in speaking of their parentage as opposed to their heritage. In essence He told them to prove it. If they were indeed children of Abraham then prove it by doing what Abraham did.
Abraham would have never sought to kill Jesus because his hope was in the promise of one like Jesus coming, but these Jews were committed to their effort to kill Jesus. Jesus told them that He had spoken the truth which He received from the Father, and it was because of the truth which He spoke that they rejected that they also rejected Him. Abraham made no effort to thwart God’s will. He may have tried to take things into his own hands, but he did nothing to try to stop what God had intended. Abraham would not have tried to kill God’s messenger. In fact, when messengers of God came to Abraham he listened and believed. Abraham’s belief was credited to him as righteousness.
“And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6, ESV)
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8–12, ESV)
Jesus knew the heart of Abraham and He knew their hearts. He knew that their hearts were not the same. Abraham believed the word of God and the others wanted to kill the Word sent to them. What they were doing was the will of their father, but their father was not Abraham. They did not respond well to this. They did not like what they perceived as being called illegitimate children. They knew their lineage, and Abraham was their father. They were not born of some other father. In their response we don’t know if this was also a stab at Jesus and the question that may have been around concerning his own presumed father (Joseph). We don’t know if they knew the story of His birth and that He was conceived prior to the marriage of His mother (Mary) and Joseph. If they did this comment could have easily been a “Look who’s talking” kind of response. But it would have also shown how much they did not know about Him being the God-man conceived by the Holy Spirit.
They persisted in claiming Abraham as their father, and through God’s promise to Abraham they claimed God as well. Jesus told them that this could not possibly be so. If they were from the Father then they would not reject the One sent by the Father. Instead they would embrace Him in love. They would recognize the Father’s word and they would accept the One sent to fulfill that word. They would know the One sent in the power of the Spirit to proclaim fulfill exactly what God had intended. They would have had a receptive spirit to the work of the Father in their midst. He told them that He was right in front of them, and they would not accept Him thus proving how alienated they were from God.
He continued to speak to them about their rejection, saying, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear My word.” They did not accept Jesus because of the message He proclaimed. They did not want to hear it and in response they rejected the messenger. There is this a I’ve heard over the years used by those who have been sent to give an unpopular message. It goes like this, “Don’t shoot the messenger!” Well, Jesus was sent to be the testimony of the Father before a people who did not want to hear the message and as such they vehemently rejected the messenger. Jesus was not a merely human messenger as John the Baptist or even Elijah might have been. He is, was, and always has been God—the Son, part of the inseparable Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit. As fully God He became fully man without giving up His being God in order to fulfill the will of God expressed by the Father and fulfilled in the Son full of the Spirit. God is God and there is no other. Seeing Jesus was seeing the Father. This is what Jesus had proclaimed as truth, and these Jews showed their rejection of the Father through their rejection of His Son. They were not of the Father and they would not accept the words of the Son. His words fell on deaf ears and hard hearts.
Even today we continue to encounter those whose god is not God and whose ways are not His ways. They reject Him and they do not comprehend His words. In doing this they reject those who publicly stand with Him and seek to proclaim His truth. When it comes down to it there are only two types of people, those who are adopted children of God by faith and those who are in darkness, lost in their sins. Jesus will speak more of this in the next verses, but for today there are a couple of thoughts I have on how to move forward with this information and example. The first is to make sure that I guard my heart and continue to hide God’s word in it so that I might know those things of God as opposed to those that are not. And as I look outside the church to those who are lost, I am to continue to pray that the Spirit might soften hearts and open eyes so that they might understand and believe. Along with that I am reminded of my role to be continually ready to give an answer for the hope that I have and to live in such a way that my life is a proof of God’s handiwork.
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13–17, ESV)