Introduction: Wednesday nite a father was holding his young son on his lap at prayer meeting, maybe 2 or 3 (?), and as we prayed around and came to him as the father finished praying, the young boy announced in agreement, “Amen!” It was evident that he was no stranger to seeing his father in prayer. We almost can’t help reflecting something of what we see in our parents, they are our first and most influential teachers after all. One evening a young boy was allowed to sit in his father’s place at the dinner table because he was traveling. His slightly older sister resented the arrangement and sneered, “So you’re the father tonite? All right, what’s two times seven?” Without a moment’s hesitation the boy replied calmly, “I’m busy, ask your mother!” “Like Father, Like Son.”
I’ve told you before of the shortest and most convicting sermon I ever heard. I was alone with Sarah in the church I was pastoring in NJ, he was maybe 4 or five years old. We were going down some dark steps at night. I told her follow close Sarah, her reply: “Ok Dad, I’ll follow you, and you follow God.” For better or for worse we learn from our parents and wind up repeating at least some of their habits, actions, and attitudes in our lives.
Kids don’t always “embrace” the example of their parents: remember the famous line from Mark Twain, “When I was 15 my father was so ignorant I could barely stand to have him around. When I was 22, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in only seven years!” It’s a process! We can learn some things, sometimes good things, from our parents. We had an icebreaker on this subject once in our small group and the only lesson I could come up with from my father was a line he repeated often: “If your gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough!” Oh well! For some reason I heard that pretty often when I was a kid!
The Big Idea: Far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.
I. Far more important than our physical lineage is our spiritual identity as God’s child (37-38). If you have been born again through faith in Christ the DNA of the New Creation has been set in your heart, and, gradually, you are being transformed, the old nature is increasingly being put away, as more and more we “put on” Christ. Paul says in 2 Cor 3:18 “…we are being transformed into the same image…” It’s a process that happens as God renews our mind through the Word (Rom 12:1,2).
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants…” Jesus concedes their physical lineage: they are indeed blood descendants of Abraham (v.37a). Our family history is important. I think a lot of families today have someone who has taken an interest in the “family tree.” In Mary Ann’s family that is her brother. Even though he speaks no Russian he took a trip last year to Belarus and met some relatives, and learned more about their father’s side of the family. Family histories are important. It is good to know where we came from and to try to understand our heritage. Sometimes you might even find someone famous (we have a pastor friend in NJ who discovered Davey Crockett was in his ancestory! While we were on a trip to Tennessee we bought him a coon skin hat!)
• The Jews were a chosen people, elected by the gracious purposes of God …
6 " For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 "but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).Lest they become prideful a couple of chapters later He says…
5 "It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6 "Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people. 7 " Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD” (Dt 9:5-7).• Grace, they sovereign election of God, His unmerited favor. They were entrusted with the oracles of God, and through them the Messiah, who would be a blessing to all nations, would come (Rom 9:1-5)…
“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”
They were entrusted with the oracles of God, through them His revelation would be given to the world, and ultimately, through them, the Messiah would come.
Their Rejection of Christ reveals their spiritual paternity (37b-38). 1. They seek to kill Him – Jesus has repeatedly spoken in this Gospel about the murderous intentions of the Jews—He knows their hearts—and ultimately that attitude would play itself out in the crucifixion. It is fairly clear in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost that he is holding his countrymen responsible for rejecting Jesus, and ultimately crucifying him, when he says “You nailed him to the cross by the hands of godless men…” The Romans were the instrument, the hammer in the hand so to speak, but they were responsible for rejecting Him and delivering Him up to be crucified. Jesus is God incarnate, he knows their hearts.
v.37b - They hate Jesus, and seek to kill Him, “because” His Word has no part in them. His Word is truth. Faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ. If we love God, we love His Word and as we receive it, we believe and obey. The song says rightly “Trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
v.38 Jesus essentially says “Like father, like son…” He speaks what He has seen with His Father, and they do what they have seen from theirs. As surely as Jesus speaks the Truth from His Father, they are speaking from theirs. Of course they don’t yet understand who it is that Jesus is pointing to as their spiritual father. It’s not principally biology but rather spirituality that Jesus is talking about, because far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.
II. Actions Speak Louder than Words! If we are truly God’s child we should be being changed, more and more like Jesus (39-41a).
v.39 “Abraham is our Father!” Jesus’ hearers claimed to be Abraham’s spiritual children (Jesus conceded their physical descent in v.37). Abraham was called by God and he responded to God’s work in his life with growing faith. There were some ups and downs to be sure (like not mentioning that Sarah was his wife!), but when the moment of greatest testing came in Gen 22 he was ready to sacrifice the son whom he loved, the son of promise, Isaac, in obedience to God. So Abraham became an example of faith, absolute trust in God alone. Spoken of by the prophets and referred to in the NT, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” If they were “spiritual children” of Abraham, as he took God at His word so would they.
(vv.39b-40) Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.” Abraham did not do this. Many people will claim to be a child of God. Sometimes it seems like asking someone if they are a Republican or a Democrat—Of course I’m a “Christian”, I’m not a Muslim or something! Or, “I believe in God, I’m not a heathen!” Or even, “I don’t feel like that’s what Jesus would say…” Or, “My Jesus would do something like that!” Well it’s not our ideas or our feelings or our wishes that determine what is true about God. His Word is Truth. What does He reveal about himself in the Word? That is truth! They were not responding to the truth as Abraham did, they didn’t believe Jesus because they didn’t believe the Father.
C. (v.41a) “You do the deeds of your father!” And, according to what Jesus has been saying, he’s not Abraham! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That is sometimes true of human descent; it is especially true of our spiritual paternity. You will know them by their fruit! *** Far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.
III. Genuine Faith, faith that marks us as a child of God, will show itself by openness to God’s truth (41b-47).
“We’re not illegitimate children [like you!]!” (41b). Now, the “like you” is not in the text, but that seems to be what they are implying. Rather than dealing with what Jesus is saying and responding to the truth, it seems like they try to personally attack him based on the “rumor” that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock. Rather than looking at themselves they were trying to change the subject and point at the question of Jesus’ birth—how dare he talk about them! People will often resort to “smoke screens” like this when they get uncomfortable with hearing the truth. Anything to divert the attention from themselves and their own need. “There are too many hypocrits in the church!” “I don’t have the right clothes to wear!” “All they do is talk about money in that place!” You know what I mean, you’ve all heard it. Some of us even said it before God changed our hearts! (At least I did!).
v.42 Jesus is very direct, if they were really God’s children they would love Jesus, since he came from the Father. He repeats again that He was “sent” by God. The dividing point between truth and a lie, is how people deal with Jesus. The many will say they accept Jesus, but they deny his deity, or don’t recognize the sufficiency of his sacrifice. They “remake” Him into what they think he should be rather than hearing and believing who he claimed to be.
v.43 “Why don’t you understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to my word…” This is very much the theology that Paul reflects in I Cor 2:14, the natural, unregenerate man is “unable” to understand the things of the Spirit. Now there is an impediment to your attempts at witnessing! They won’t understand because they can’t understand—that is until and unless the Father draws them.
The devil is the father of lies and a murderer (v.44) and the people reject Jesus because He tells the truth (v.45)!
“Which of you convicts me of sin?” Here “convict” is used to refer to the the objective exposing of sin, not the inward sense of remorse for having sinned. Jesus never sinned, so He can put himself out there and say He has never acted in disobedience to the Word of God. He is saying who can show evidence that I have sinned? If they can’t (and they cannot!) why then don’t they listen to Him? V. 47 is a summary: “He who is of God hears God’s words, therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
What is God saying to me in this passage? Far more important that our family tree is our spiritual identity as a child of God. Our life should be marked by a growing submission to our Father’s word.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? It may be that you have a very interesting family tree. But can I ask, “Who’s your daddy?” Who’s DNA is so imprinted on your heart, that it is progressively changing you? Are you visiting today and feel intrigued by the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to die for your sins? That may be evidence that the Father is drawing you, enabling you to hear His voice and to believe. It’s as simple as A.B.C… First, admit that you are a sinner, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, there is none righteous, not even one. Believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross and that he was raised again the third day, and finally, confess Him as the savior and Lord of your life. In the language of John, as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
Believer, I hope this word from Jesus encourages you as you seek to be a witness for Him. It reminds us that we are not going to save anyone, only God can draw the person supernaturally to himself, as he opens their heart to the truth and leads them to repentance and faith. Amazingly, he has chosen to use us in that process, and calls us to share the Good News with passion and urgency. Resurrection Sunday is just a few weeks away. This reminds us that we’ll have opportunities to invite friends and neighbors into our homes, and to our church, to hear the Good News of the cross and the empty tomb. Can you identify two or three people near you, and begin to pray for them, and then look for an opportunity to invite them?