Jesus Is the Greatest of All!
Jesus Is the Greatest of All!
The Gospel of John
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - January 25, 2017
(Revised September 18, 2019)
*Most of you know that here in John 8, the important Feast of the Tabernacles had just ended in Jerusalem. And Jesus was still in the city preaching before a crowd of people in the Temple. Part of the people believed in the Lord, but Jesus was also preaching to Jewish rulers who hated the Lord.
*Some of them hated the Lord so much they had been trying to kill Him for months, maybe over a year. But Jesus was there, preaching to them all, and warning the unbelievers that they were lost without Him.
*As we would expect, those hard-hearted rulers began to argue with Jesus, and part of their argument went back to the great patriarch Abraham. This Old Testament hero of the faith lived 2,000 years before Jesus was born. And the Bible calls Abraham "the Friend of God" because by faith, he left his home and followed the Lord to the land that would eventually become Israel.
*Genesis 12:1-3 says:
1. Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.
2. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
3. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.''
*Those last words were a prophecy and a promise from God that one of Abraham's descendants would be the Savior of everyone on earth who believes in the Lord. Jesus is that promised Messiah, the Christ, the only possible Savior of the world.
*Well, the scribes and Pharisees who argued with Jesus held Abraham in high regard, so they sort of "pulled the Abraham card" on Jesus. It started in vs. 31-33, where Jesus was talking about the freedom only He can give:
31. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
32. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.''
33. They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?''
*Then in vs. 37-42, Jesus said:
37. "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.
38. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.''
39. They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father.'' 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.
41. You do the deeds of your father.'' Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father God.''
42. Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me."
*In vs. 51, Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.''
*And in vs. 52-53, those hate-filled unbelievers replied:
52. . . "Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.'
53. Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself out to be?''
*With this background in let's read vs. 46-56, thinking about the answer to their question: "Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?
*Down through the centuries of human history, it would be hard to name a man who was greater than Abraham. John Phillips gave this brief summary of why Abraham was a great believer:
"About one quarter of the book of Genesis is devoted to the story of Abraham. Although Abraham was born and raised a pagan idolater, when God’s word came to him, he obeyed it. He turned his back on his old way of life and became a pilgrim and stranger on earth -- and a citizen of heaven. He learned to trust and obey.
His spiritual pilgrimage began with a great demand on Abraham's faith, that he give up his earthly father, and it climaxed with an even greater demand on his faith, that he give up his promised son, Isaac. Abraham staked everything on the dependability of God and the reliability of his word." (1)
*Every Christian today is reaping the benefits of Abraham's faith. And Galatians 3 tells us that all Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham. But as great as he was, Abraham was a dim candle compared to the shining sun of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus is the greatest of all! And tonight's Scripture shows us why.
1. FIRST: JESUS IS THE GREATEST BECAUSE OF HIS HOLINESS.
*How horrible the universe would be if the Lord who has infinite power wasn't infinitely good! We could only count on the most miserable existence. But thank God, Jesus is infinitely good! That's why in vs. 46, the Lord could ask these questions to the unbelieving Pharisees, "Which of you convicts Me of sin? -- And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?"
*John Phillips explained that Jesus "challenged them to point the finger at a single sin in His life. He dared them to take the entire Mosaic Law in all its 613 commandments and test His life by its letter and spirit. He challenged them to take the prophets and writings as well, the whole Old Testament, and to lay that infallible plumb line alongside His life to see if they could detect the slightest deviation from the upright and the true.
*He challenged them to go to His home, to cross-examine those who had lived with Him: His mother, His brothers and His sisters to see if He had ever been anything less than perfect. . .
*Had He ever done anything He ought not to have done? Had He ever failed to do something He ought to have done? Had He ever behaved lustfully or spoken covetously? Could they find any sin in His public or private life?" (1)
*Of course, the answer is NO! Jesus Christ is the spotless, sinless Lamb of God who came to die for our sins. That's why in John 1:29, John the Baptist saw Jesus, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
2. JESUS IS THE GREATEST OF ALL BECAUSE OF HIS HOLINESS, AND BECAUSE OF HIS HOPE.
*The only real hope for the world is Jesus Christ! God's Word reminds us of this truth in vs. 47-51, where Jesus said:
47. "He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.''
48. Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?''
49. Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.
50. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.
51. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.''
*Here in vs. 51, Jesus said this to everyone who believes in Him, to everyone who receives Him as Lord and Savior: "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone KEEPS MY WORD, he shall never see death.''
*Remember that the original word for "keeps" has the idea of guarding something, watching over it carefully, and that's how we treat God's Word if we believe it. We will treasure His Word, love it, trust it, and try our best to follow it.
*Again, Jesus said, "If anyone keeps My word, HE SHALL NEVER SEE DEATH.'' But we must understand that the Lord was talking about spiritual death, the everlasting death in the horrible place called hell. The Bible calls that death "the second death" And in Revelation 2:11, our glorified Lord said, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.''
*Jesus was talking about the second death here in John 8, but Christians, the Lord rescued us from the second death when He died on the cross for our sins! What great hope we have in our risen Savior Jesus Christ! We have the sure hope of everlasting life. We have the only eternal hope the world will ever see.
*Paul talked about our hope in Titus 3:3-7, and there Paul said:
3. we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
4. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5. not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6. whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7. that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
*Believers now see death in the whole new light of hope, and we can echo what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:55: "O Death, where is your sting?" We also know the truth of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." Christians: Our death was defeated by Christ's death on the cross, and by His eternal resurrection.
*The wonderful Presbyterian pastor Peter Marshall gave a great testimony about our hope. It came from a family Peter knew. Their little boy, their only son, was sick with an incurable disease. Month after month, his mother tenderly took care of him, read to him, and played with him.
*She was hoping to keep him from realizing the seriousness of his illness. But as time went on, the young boy began to understand the meaning of the word death, and he knew that he was going to die.
*One day his mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. . . and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their death. As she closed the book, the boy sat silent for an instant as though deeply stirred with the trumpet call of the old English tale, and then asked the question that had been weighing on his little heart: "Mother, what is it like to die? Mother does it hurt?"
*And Peter Marshall wrote, "Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen supposedly to tend to something on the stove. She knew it was a question with deep significance. She knew it must be answered satisfactorily. So she leaned for an instant against the kitchen cabinet, her knuckles pressed white against the smooth surface, and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and would tell her how to answer him.
*And the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.
*'Kenneth,' she said as she returned to the next room, 'you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed. It was not where you belonged. And you would only stay there a little while.
*In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come, with big strong arms, and carried you away.
*Kenneth, death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room -- our own room where we belong -- because the Lord Jesus loved us.'
*The lad's shining, trusting face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and that there would be no more fear. . . only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven. He never questioned again. And several weeks later he fell asleep just as she had said." (2)
*This is the hope we all have, if we have put our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
3. JESUS IS THE GREATEST OF ALL BECAUSE OF HIS HOPE, AND BECAUSE OF HIS HUMILITY.
*Most all of us have a problem with pride from time to time, but Jesus never did. We see the Lord's humility after the Jews accused Him of being demon possessed in vs. 48.
*Can you imagine a greater insult to the Lord God Almighty? But in vs. 49-50, Jesus replied:
49. . . "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.
50. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges."
*Then in vs. 51, the Lord simply told the truth about everlasting life: "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.''
*And in vs. 52-54:
52. Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.'
53. Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself out to be?''
*Again, in vs. 54, Jesus answered with pure humility: "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God."
*Thank God for the humility of Jesus Christ! Thank God because Jesus even humbled Himself to the point of death. And He did it for our sakes. As Paul said in Philippians 2:6-8:
6. (Jesus), being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.
8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
*No one has ever suffered like Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins. Tim Zingale explained: "The cross was real, the pain, the suffering, the agony was real, so real that the earth shook and trembled from the dread and awe of the event.
*Jesus died upon that cross. He suffered, He bore pain, He felt the sting of death. He felt the wrath of God . . . Jesus was not crucified on a cross in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves on the town garbage heap. . . He was crucified at the kind of place were thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Jesus died in a most worldly way, a most inglorious way at the hands of the Romans, who mostly felt nothing for Him, no remorse, no pity, no compassion." (3)
*Jesus Christ humbled Himself to even suffer and die on the cross for us.
4. HE IS THE GREATEST OF ALL BECAUSE OF HIS HUMILITY, AND BECAUSE OF HIS HONESTY.
*Speaking of His Heavenly Father in vs. 54-55, Jesus said:
54. "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.
55. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word."
*Thank God Jesus is 100 percent honest 100 percent of the time! We can always count on His Word!
*One of the first intentional sins we see in our children is lying. We don't have to teach them to lie. They get that on their own. Lots of adults have problems with honesty too, but Jesus never did.
*In fact, the Bible tells us that God cannot lie. When Paul opened his letter to Titus, the Apostle said he was "in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" (Titus 1:2). And in John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
5. JESUS IS THE GREATEST OF ALL BECAUSE OF HIS HONESTY, AND BECAUSE OF THE HAPPINESS ONLY HE CAN GIVE.
*In vs. 56, Jesus spoke about the joy of the Lord in Abraham's life. There He told the Jews, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." The word picture for "rejoiced" in this verse is that Abraham jumped for joy! And we can too because of Jesus Christ!
*God let Abraham look down the corridors of time. He saw Jesus and rejoiced! John Phillips assumed that God gave Abraham a special vision like the vision Paul reported in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5, and that's certainly possible.
*But A. T. Robertson saw a connection between vs. 56 and Hebrews 11. There God's Word is talking the faith of Old Testament heroes like Abraham, and Hebrews 11:8-13 says:
8. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10. for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.
12. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
13. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, BUT HAVING SEEN THEM AFAR OFF were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (4)
*The original word for seeing there is the same word Jesus used in vs. 56, where again the Lord said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
*No doubt Abraham saw many amazing things, and they gave him great joy. But Christians we have spiritually seen much more! He had the promise of the coming Savior. We have the fulfillment of that promise! We can look back and see the cross. We can look back and see the empty tomb. By God's grace, we have gotten to live on the resurrection side of the cross! So we can have multiplied joy!
*The Apostle Peter wrote of this, and here's what he said in 1 Peter 1:3-8:
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4. to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
5. who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
7. that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
8. whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible (joy unspeakable) and full of glory,
*Yes, we will face trials and tribulations in this life. But through Jesus Christ we can have overcoming, everlasting joy, because Jesus is the greatest of all!
*Let's worship the Lord Jesus Christ for His infinite greatness.
(1) Adapted from EXPLORING THE GOSPELS: JOHN by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "His Exposure of the Wickedness of Men" - "Contradicting Them" - John 8:12-59
(2) Adapted from "Go Down Death" - Sermon by Dr. Peter Marshall - Source: A MAN CALLED PETER by Catherine Marshall, pp. 272-273 - McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, Copyright 1951
(3) SermonCentral sermon "The Blood of Christ for Us" by Tim Zingale - 1 Peter 1:18-20
-Adapted from EXPLORING THE GOSPELS: JOHN by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "His Exposure of the Wickedness of Men" - "Contradicting Them" - John 8:12-59)
-WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by Archibald Thomas (A. T.) Robertson - Published in 1930-1933 - John 8:56