[March 13, 2005] In the beginning of chapter 8 the problem of sin was put in front of Jesus in the incident with the woman caught in adultery. Jesus first makes it clear that the problem of sin is not someone else’s problem but rather our own. Second, he explains that the problem of sin cannot be reduced to rule-breaking. The problem is that we are slaves to sin, that Sin is a master with power over us. Unless the root of sin can be exposed, it will not let us go. If it is exposed to the light, its grip will loosen and we can be free. The light that can expose it is the “Light of life,” who is Jesus Himself, the Light of the World. If we receive Jesus—in the form of the Holy Spirit (7:38-39; 6:63, etc.)—into ourselves, His life in us becomes the light that eradicates the source of sin.
In the first half of the chapter Jesus already disclosed what this Light of Life is: it is God Himself as the I AM (Exodus 3:14). He uses a special expression, in Greek it is ego eimi, in several statements: “I AM the light of the world” (vs. 12), “I AM who testifies concerning Myself” (vs. 14), “I AM from above” (vs. 23), “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins” (vs. 24), and “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM” (vs. 28). “I AM,” spoken by God is the light that exposes the root of our sin. Jesus comes to us as this very “I AM.” We, however, cannot hear this word or see this light without it killing us. In verse 43 Jesus says, “Why do you not understand My speaking? It is because you cannot hear My word.”
However, God comes to us—in Christ—as the Son of Man (thus taking on the form of the sin-serpent) and dies on the cross, thus eradicating sin in human nature for anyone who would receive His transformed human nature into themselves through the Holy Spirit. He eradicates the root of sin by His death and exposes it by His being the revelation of God. All this is implied in verse 28.
The Multiplication of Sin—the Children of the Devil
The line that Jesus takes in verses 37-44a is unacceptable to many Christians. We are all the children of God they insist. Acts 17:28 kind of says this (not exactly): God is our creator and He made us after His kind (as it were), forming us in His image and breathing into us His own breath. We are created good. By our fall into sin, however—and everyone has so fallen—we have created as it were a new self, a false self that thinks it is independent of God. This self that we so dearly identify with is NOT a child of God but rather a child of the devil. In our sin (the false self!) we do not accept and even resist our real origin and subsistence in God. The first epistle of John (3:8-10) says,
“He who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning.… Everyone who has been begotten of God does not practice sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest.”
Before we are born of God (John 3:3), we were born of the devil. We were dead to God and by nature were slaves to Sin. When we are begotten of God, a new Life exists in us, the life of Christ Himself through the Holy Spirit, a life which cannot sin. These two lives exist side by side in believers.
The Devil is a Murderer and a Liar
The devil—the father of our false selves—is the source of sin and the source of our sinful nature. The devil is like God’s shadow (but only a shadow, having no power of his own). Here Jesus describes two things that characterize the devil: (1) he is a murderer, which is to say, he is anti life. And he is a murderer because (2) he is a liar, which is to say, he is anti-truth, or anti-reality. A lie, by definition, is unreality. It has no reality of its own. God, on the other hand, is reality itself, the truth. Light automatically vanquishes darkness. A shadow cannot exist in its path. Sin has power over us only because we are living a lie. Our false self is a lie and our perception of the world around us is a lie.
Who Jesus Is
There is no sin in Jesus and therefore people cannot recognize Him. The whole world lies under the power of the evil one. What the false self is to the individual, the “world” is to society. The whole system is grounded in unreality. Therefore, when Jesus does not participate, they think He must be out of His mind. Jesus has no attachment to Himself, that is, to His own ego.
Rather, He is “I AM.” This is His word, His revelation, if we can hear it (verse 43). “He who follows Me shall by no means walk in the darkness, but shall have the Light of Life” (verse 12). “If anyone keeps My word, he shall by no means see death forever.” The light becomes life for us, life that overcomes death. We receive the light when we receive Christ by believing into Him.