John 8:21-30: Lost people matter to God.
“21 Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.’22 This made the Jews ask, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, “Where I go, you cannot come”?’23 But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.’25 ‘Who are you?’ they asked.‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,’ Jesus replied. 26 ‘I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.’27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’ 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.” NIV
As we have seen, especially in chapters 7 and 8, Jesus was surrounded by an atmosphere of intimidation, abuse and danger. It swirled around Him like smoke. Murder was in the air. There were people who wanted Him dead. It’s true to say that this was not the whole story. There were others who were fascinated by Jesus and open to hear from Him. But the people were divided. They were not on the same wavelength as the Lord:
”You’re tied to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms.” The Message.
Yet Jesus did not allow His enemies to silence Him. He was in a scary environment, but He pulled no punches. Three times in this short section He speaks about the possibility of dying ”in your sin” (or ”sins”: verses 21, 24). One commentator made the point that to die with your sins unforgiven; unatoned for, is the greatest tragedy in the Bible. We must never be afraid to preach the unadulterated gospel. It will produce results (30).
There is a danger in contemporary evangelicalism that many Christians may be losing touch with the reality that lost people really are lost; that those who die rejecting Christ will stay lost for eternity. To use old fashioned terms, we need a ‘burden’ for ‘souls’ that will populate our prayer meetings and stir us to faithful witness, even as we feel the walls of secularism slowly moving in to crush our testimony.
The call of Jesus is to ”believe” in Him (24). This is the only way to escape such a terrible fate.
Twice in this passage Jesus uses the expression “I am” (24, 28). The translation adds the explanatory words: ”that I am the one I claim to be”, but in the original language I understand Jesus just says ”I am”. His courage was immense, for His Jewish detractors would certainly want Him done away with for such an ‘outrageous’ claim. We must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, and if we trust in Him it has to be faith in this Bible Jesus – this divine Jesus – and not another of our own making.