Jesus’ opponents picked up stones to stone him because Jesus laid claim to deity as the great “I AM.” Jesus proclaimed that he is the anointed one of heavenly truth. If you believe him you will know truth and that truth will set you free. Big claims…
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
37 “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
John 8:31-33, 37-40, 52-53, 56-59
The truth will set you free. And by the way, the truth is found in Jesus. Today’s message brought to you by Father Abraham, who rejoiced at seeing Jesus’ day.
Jesus is having an interaction with the Pharisees, who were debating Jesus’ authority and teaching and history. They question Jesus’ statement on freedom. “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
This is strange. The history of Israel up to that point disagreed with the Pharisees’ assessment. And they were under Roman rule as they spoke. Yet they clung to their identity as Abraham’s children. Jesus asserted that their walk didn’t match up to their talk.
Notice the Pharisees skating. First they defend their freedom. Then they rely on Abraham as their father. Then they pivot to Jesus’ statements on eternal life and never tasting death. Everyone dies. Even Father Abraham. Who do you think you are, Jesus? Oh, that’s the point…
This isn’t about Abraham. Or the Pharisees. Jesus is fine for them to pivot around and twist words to justify themselves. Jesus is raising the bar on real truth and living in integrity for the real God. And what is essential to those points is that truth is from Jesus’ Father in heaven, and Jesus is bringing the message.
So in front of the whole crowd and the Pharisees, Jesus says that Abraham rejoiced at the thought of Jesus’ day, and then goes on to say that before Abraham was born, “I am.” This phrase refers back to God’s own name as the one who was and is and is self-existing. They pick up stones to stone him because Jesus has just laid claim to deity.
And so we reach the pointy end of the stick. The Pharisees, and everyone else, have to grapple with Jesus’ identity as God. Jesus is the anointed one of heavenly truth. If you believe him you will know truth and that truth will set you free.