Perspective is your ability to see something and when you see something from a different, from one angle, that's your perspective. You're seeing it from your perspective. If you were to move 10-20 feet to the right or left, you'd see the same object with a different perspective. And you might get a different view of it. As an example, how many of you this morning, honest shows of hands, looked at least once, but you looked and saw the Sandia Mountains? Raise your hands. Ok, you saw them. They're unmistakable. Now from our viewpoint down here in the city looking eastward, they appear to be almost monolithic, almost one sheer flat band of mountains. But if you have the privilege of ballooning over them, you see a very different perspective. You see that it's not one but several peaks that are together but there is space between them. And it is not the same view that you get from the front side. So the angle makes all the difference. The perspective makes all the difference both physically as well as emotionally. Philosophically you have a perspective in life and it might vary from another person's perspective. I'll give you an example of how powerful perspective can be. I'm gonna read to you a letter written by a college student to her parents. She's not getting great grades and she needs more money so she writes a letter. Dear Mom and Dad, I just thought that I'd drop you a note to clue you in on my plans. I've fallen in love with a guy named Jim. He quit high school after grade 11 to get married. After about a year ago, he got a divorce. We've been going steady for two months and we plan to get married in the fall. Until then, I've decided to move into his apartment. I think I might be pregnant. At any rate, I've dropped out of school last week, although I'd like to finish college sometime in the future. You can imagine what that would sound like if you were the parent reading that note. On the very next page she continued: Dear Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that everything I've written so far in this letter is false. Sigh. None of it is true. But Mom and Dad, it is true that I got a C in French and I flunked math and it is true I'm gonna need some more money for my tuition payments. She's a clever gal. She learned the power of perspective. She learned that even bad news sounds like great news when you compare it and contrast it to a different perspective. Question: do you think those parents were happy to send her money? You betcha. You betcha. After reading that? You betcha.
That's perspective. Now this is what we have in the Gospel of John. John gives us heavenly perspective. He presents Christ to us as the Messiah, the Lord, the Savior of the world. In fact, as God in human flesh. That's heaven's perspective. That is not the perspective of the crowd that He is talking to. They see Him as a liar, a fake, a fraud, the object of their scorn, the brunt of their jokes. And it's true that, to some people, Jesus--He's bad news. But to those who know Him and know better, He's good news. Something else about perspective. This very crowd thought of themselves as heaven bound, remember that? Because we're descendants of Abraham therefore we're guaranteed salvation. That's their perspective. Jesus comes along and shatters their perspectives. He calls them liars, children of the devil, and those who don't know God. Well you can imagine a conversation like that doesn't go over very well. And what we're about to read is the culmination of a very heated argument. It's not that Jesus is arguing. He is simply stating truth. But they are getting very emotional about what they hear. Have you noticed something about arguments? They have different levels to them. When an argument begins, it typically begins at the intellectual level. Somebody has a point and they share the point and then somebody makes a counterpoint and then you hear the counterpoint and you think you've got a better counterpoint so you say it and that's the intellectual level. It doesn't stay that way very long, however. The second level, because it goes down from that point, is the emotional level. You get emotionally involved. You raise your voice. Your cheeks get red and you're thinking not only do I not like his points, I don't think I like him! And then it can finally even digress to the physical level.
Now this is what we're gonna see here. We've been hearing this point/counter point, but they're now starting, they being the crowd, to move to level number two: the emotional level. To call Jesus names because they can't deal with His arguments. So it's an ad homonym or personal attack; very emotional. They'll call Him names and by the end of the chapter, verse 59, we're told they want to pick up stones and kill Him because of what He says. Now we're gonna look at what they call Jesus or their perspective of Jesus and we're gonna see then Jesus' true perspective of Himself. So there's three possibilities as to who Jesus is. And this is a great paragraph because it sort of brings us to that focus. Who is this guy? And that's what they're saying to Him. Who do You think You are? Who is this guy? He's either number one, an evil imposter, or number two, an incapable promoter saying things that He can't really do, or number three, He is the eternal Creator. Let's begin at verse 48 of John chapter 8: "The Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Just imagine saying those words to Jesus Christ. You are a Samaritan and you have a demon. "Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges."
They're discovering that they're unable to answer His arguments so they are reduced to using abusive language. The emotional level. They'll just call Him names. If you remember, they have been trying to trap Jesus in this chapter. In this whole setting of Jesus in Jerusalem at the temple, they try to trap Him. Number one, they tried to do it physically. They tried to actually send temple police in there to arrest Him and get Him out of there. They were called the temple guards. So they sent the temple guards in there to physically grab Him and take Him. they came back without Jesus. You know what they said? They said well where is He? Why didn't you bring Him? The temple guards said nobody ever spoke like that guy! They were just so amazed at what they heard. So plan number one failed. They couldn't trap Him physically. So then they thought let's try a different tactic. Let's try to trap Him in His own words. They brought a woman caught in adultery and said Master, the law says you gotta stone somebody like that--what do You say? They were ready because whatever He would say they thought would be the wrong answer. If He were to say yeah, stone her, I agree with the Law of Moses, they knew the crowd would turn against Jesus. The compassionate one--where's compassion in that? Not only that, the Romans would get rid of Him because only Rome could exercise the right of capital punishment. But if on the other hand Jesus were to say I disagree with Moses. I'm compassionate. Let her go free. Then it would set Jesus at odds with Jewish Law. The Law of Moses. They thought they had Him trapped. Until He said these words: you are without sin, you throw the first rock. And it said they were convicted in their own consciences and dropped those rocks and all walked away.
So that failed. They couldn't trap Him physically. They couldn't trap Him with His words. So now they are resorting to name-calling. A personal, emotional attack. You're a Samaritan and you have a demon! Now we hear those words and we think well it doesn't sound that bad. I mean, if somebody called you a Samaritan, you probably wouldn't get all shook up. But you have to understand something. 2,000 years ago, the worst thing one Jew could call another Jewish person was a Samaritan. The Jewish people hated, capital H, the Samaritans. They hated them so much that if they had to go from Jerusalem to Galilee or vice versa, the direct route was through Samaria, they would cross the Jordan River twice to avoid Samaria, adding days to their journey. But they didn't want to set foot on Samaritan soil. Even the woman at the well of Samaria, the Samaritan woman, was amazed that Jesus talked to her and said how is it that You being a Jew would take to me, a Samaritan woman, for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans? So they call Him a Samaritan and that is an insult. It's an insult because, to the Jewish people, Samaritans were religious frauds. They were heretics. False teachers. Did you know that in Samaria there was a rival religion? They built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. It was a rival temple to the one in Jerusalem. They had their own sacrifices. They had their own Bible. And it was in conflict with what was taught in Jerusalem. You may also remember back in Nehemiah chapter 4 that when the Jews came back from captivity to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritans said we want to help you, Nehemiah and the rest of the crowd said sorry, you can't help us.
And so there was this longstanding animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews. And they said You're a Samaritan. It's like saying you're a heretic. You're an enemy of the Jews. Something else I need to insert here. Jesus was the one who was breaking down the barriers, not erecting them. He was the one that needed to go through Samaria, the Bible says. He was the one who loved the people in Samaria as much as anybody else and wanted to save that outcast, that woman who was scorned and despised. So different than the Pharisees. Also, when our Lord Jesus wanted to give an example of what real friendship was he didn't gave a parable of the good Pharisee or the good Sadducee or the good scribe, but the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. So Jesus was all about breaking down the very barriers that existed between these two rival groups. But they call Him the slanderous name: you're a Samaritan! Not only that, they said He had a demon. They said that Jesus Christ was demon-possessed. Now that's tantamount to saying you're nuts, you're insane, you're irrational because typically demon-possessed people act and sound very irrational.
Now we're hearing something in our text and I want you to get this. Here's what it's about. Jesus Christ of Nazareth comes on the scene and does miracles that are indisputable, has a huge following--indisputable, and the people of Jerusalem and Judea, they've gotta do something with that. They gotta explain it. Here's their explanation: false teacher, Samaritan, demon-possessed, irrational. What I want you to know is what you're reading here in John chapter 8 became written down later on in a set of books called the Talmud. The Talmud are many volumes of Jewish literature, part wise sayings, part stories, part interpretations of the Law. But they also write about Jesus Christ and in the Talmud, they said Jesus Christ learned magic while He was down in Egypt as a young child and led a rebellion. Here's the quote from the Talmud: "Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and deceived and led Israel astray." That which eventually was written down, this is where it comes from. The reaction here in this group at Jerusalem. Now question. Really easy to answer. Did Jesus Christ have a demon? Was all the things Jesus doing by the power of Satan? Absolutely not. This is how backwards they have gotten. They are now attributing what Jesus did miraculously to the work of Satan. They're calling God Satan and Satan God. That's some kind of sick. No He's the Son of God. He is God Himself in human flesh--the very opposite is true.
So look at His reaction. Verse 49: "Jesus answered," and notice how calm and poised and simple the answer is. I don't have a demon. You're a Samaritan and You have a demon! I don't have a demon. "But I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me." That is so simple but so profound. I think of the words of Peter in 1 Peter chapter 2 concerning Jesus: when He was reviled, He did not revile in return. He had no ego to protect. He never said... He just... it's not true. Let Me correct you. This is the truth--and He moved on. What does it tell us in Proverbs 15 verse 1? A soft answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger. They're trying to stir that up in Jesus and He just says, I don't have a demon. Have you ever thought about what Jesus could've said to them at this point? I mean, He's the master of all language. He's shown that you can't contend with Him on an intellectual level. He just shredded down those guys to pieces. All of things He could've said at this point. I thought of a few things He could've said. But all He said was it's not true. I don't have a demon. I honor My Father--the opposite is true. And you dishonor Me.
Next time you're verbally attacked, you might want to think back to this little passage of Scripture. Next time somebody says something to you and lashes out at you and you are so tempted to rip into that person and shred him or her to pieces, push their buttons and you know just what buttons to push, to just think back to this. Winston Churchill had quite a mouth on him. He had an edge to him. It was hard to dispute with him. He had that reputation. On one occasion, someone that he knew, George Bernard Shaw, the playwright in England, was opening a new play, opening night in London, and sent two tickets to Sir Winston Churchill with a note: bring a friend if you have one. Not to be outdone, Winston Churchill wrote back and declined going on the first night. He said I'll attend the second night if there is one. Right back at him. Well he became known for that and probably the most famous repartee between Winston Churchill and another person was the Lady Astor, a member of Parliament. And she tried to belittle him publicly on one occasion. She said Sir, if you were my husband, I'd put arsenic in your tea! And he shouted back if I were your husband, I'd drink it! That was Winston Churchill. On another occasion, again in public, he had a little too much to drink and she shouted out above the crowd, Sir, you're drunk! And he looked back at her and said Madam, you're ugly! And in the morning I will be sober. You know why we laugh at that? Because we like it. That is our human nature coming out: tit-for-tat, eye for eye, jib for jab.
Here's what is amazing: not Christ. To this verbal attack, He simply denies what they said and gives the truth. Verse 51 is also astonishing to me. Look at what He says to them. Again, right after their attack: "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." You know what this is? This is an invitation to them. Even in this late stage of their animosity and their rejection, as far as they've gone already in their rejection, He still holds out His hand to them. Say I know you don't believe in Me, but for your sake I wish you would. Because if you would believe what I say, you would never see death. Now this is an invitation we've come across many times so far in the Gospel of John. Quick review: John 3:16 to Nicodemus, Jesus said, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Same truth--different words. To the crowd in Galilee in John chapter 5 He said this is the bread of heaven, that if anyone eats he will never die. Same truth--different words. So gracious, so beautiful, so if you have any of those irregular people in your life. They put you down. You don't like being around them because they do, just again think back to this. Somebody put it so beautifully: love your enemies; it'll drive them nuts.
If you look now at verse 51 and down a few verses, we come to a second accusation that they bring against Christ. The first is that He's an evil imposter, a false prophet, not really true Jewish in nature, a heretic. The second is that He makes promises He can't keep. He's an incapable promoter. Like the politician who makes promises, and it happens every election, I don't care who it is, promises are made and never kept. Look at what they say. Verse 51: "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." And "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.' Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?" Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. If is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 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." The first accusation is that He was a Samaritan. The second accusation is that He's making promises that are outlandish, that nobody can keep. Who do You think You are? Are you greater than Abraham?
Now this question, this follow-up question, is to be expected because of what Jesus said. You see, they go back to Abraham. Wait a minute now, Abraham, he's dead, but Abraham actually heard God's voice and obeyed God's voice. But he's dead. And the prophets, they heard God's voice and they spoke God's words, and they're dead. And now You come along and say whoever listens to You will never die? If they listened to God and they're dead, who do You think You are? Well they're setting Him up for the bomb to drop. Who do You think You are? Are You greater than our father Abraham? Now here's what we're dealing with here. We're dealing with a fundamental issue and it is the fundamental issue in the entire Gospel of John or Believe 879. The fundamental issue is the title of this message this morning: Who Is This Guy? John gives us that portrait of Christ and he gives that portrait over and over again: He's the Messiah, He's the Lord, He's the Savior, He's God in a human body. So that we would believe, and in believing, we would have life. That's heaven's perspective. Their perspective, just in this chapter, is number one: You're an illegitimate child born of fornication, verse 41. Number two: You're a Samaritan heretic. And now number three: You are demon-possessed. I'll say one thing. Wherever Jesus went, He was certainly controversial. He sure stirred people up. He stirred their emotions up. There was not a whole lot of neutrality because He would divide that crowd. In fact, He said I came to divide.
By the way, do you know that Jesus still does that? I could prove that. Next time you're in a crowd, not a church crowd, maybe a movie crowd, maybe a crowd of neighbors, mention the word Jesus Christ in a voice loud enough that they can hear or overhear and not, not in any kind of derogatory fashion, of course, because they're sorta used to that. But just talk about how much you love Jesus Christ and just watch what happens and how they react to that. He is controversial. I discovered Encyclopedia Britannica that has articles on lots of things, their article on Jesus Christ--20,000 words are devoted to Christ in the Encyclopedia Britannica. 20,000 words. That's more than their article on Aristotle, more than their article on Alexander, Cicero, Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammed put together. You know why that is? I think here's the reason: because Jesus said the kinds of things nobody else said and He made such claims that nobody else dare make. And if the claims that Jesus is making, these claims, are not true, than He is the worst of all liars and He is the megalomaniac of all megalomaniacs.
Historian Phillip Shaft said this testimony, if it is not true, must be downright blasphemy and madness. So there's a couple options. That's their perspective that number one He's an evil imposter or number two He's an incapable promoter. Look at verse 56. Jesus says something different. He says, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Now up to this point in this conversation, I'll just put it this way, Jesus was only throwing grenades. Now He drops the bomb. Now He says something so unmistakable, because they keep saying well who are You, well who are You, well who is this guy, who do You think You are, are You greater than Abraham? And He said, "Most assuredly," verse 58, "I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Not I was. I AM. They knew exactly what that meant. I'll show you as we go. Notice the next verse: "Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
He said Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it and he was glad. In other words, it was Abraham who recognized My superiority and My priority--not vice versa. You're talking about Abraham and he's the guy and he's our father and he's the superior one. What I want you to know is Abraham, the guy you keep pointing to, recognized I was superior and the priority. He rejoiced to see My day. Now we could talk about what that means. There's a whole lot of debate. When and how did Abraham ever see Jesus and see the day of Jesus and get to rejoice in that? There's a lot of speculations and it fills the pages of many commentaries. I've read at least 6 different viewpoints. I just want you to know that's really not the issue. That's a sidetrack issue. The real issue is what He says about Himself in verse 58: "Before Abraham was, I AM." Another translation puts it this way: Before Abraham ever came into existence, I AM. Why did He say I AM? Because that was what God said to Moses when Moses, in Exodus 3, was sent to the children of Israel as their deliverer and Moses said, so God, what do I tell these people when they say who sent me? God's answer was simple: I AM that I AM. You tell them I AM sent you. So He uses that name of God, that self-disclosed name of God. Before Abraham ever existed, I AM. This is a direct claim to deity. Some people, every now and then I'll meet a person who'll say well Jesus never claimed to be God, other people made Him God later on and churches did that and I always ask them what Bible are you reading? He said it over and over and over again and that is the premise of John in this whole Gospel, is that Jesus always said it and now it's the most direct way of saying it: before Abraham was, I AM. Ego emi. I AM.
Up till now we have seen that He claimed several things about Himself. This is just the Gospel of John. So far He's said He was the quencher of human thirst. He was the satisfier of all hunger. He was the light of the world. That He came from heaven not from earth. That if you believe in Him you will never see death and now that He predates even Abraham. Now if you were to say that, I'd say you're nuts. If I were to say that, you'd say I'm nuts. For anybody to make these claims, they would be nuts! Unless they're God. The eternal Creator. Later on, by the way, you'll see it, Thomas, the doubting disciple, comes to believe Jesus and he says something that Jesus does not correct, but He accepts. Thomas says My Lord and My God! If Jesus is not God, folks, He deserves an Academy Award, because He sure acted like it and He sure claimed that He was over and over again. And the crowd knew that's what He meant. That's why in verse 59 they took up stones, because that was the punishment for blasphemy.
Now either this was blasphemy or it wasn't blasphemy, would you concede that point? Those are the only two possibilities. It either was or it wasn't. If Jesus said what He said and He's not God, then He is a blasphemer. Those are words of blasphemy. But if Jesus is God, then that's not blasphemy what He said. If it's true, it's not blasphemy. In fact, if Jesus is God then this crowd and their refusal to accept Him and their pushing Him away and in their hardness of heart not to receive Him, they're the ones committing blasphemy--not Jesus. They're the ones committing blasphemy. Let's apply that to us. If Jesus Christ is who He claims to be, what should our response to Jesus Christ be? That question is answered by Paul the apostle. You can write this down and look at it later: Colossians chapter 1. I'll tell you about it and I'll quote the verse. Colossians chapter 1, Paul says here's Jesus Christ. He's the Redeemer, forgiving us of our sins. He's the Creator, calling everything into existence and upholding it by His hand, everything consists in Him. He's the regulator of the universe, the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the world. He's also the head of the church, that's us, and then he says that in all things He might have the preeminence. That's Colossians 1 verse 18. That in all things Jesus Christ might have the preeminence. What that means is first place. What Paul is saying is because Jesus is who He said He was and did what He did, He deserves first place. Does He have first place? Does He have first place in your family, in your marriage, in your relationships, in your business acquaintances, in your downtime, on your vacations? Does He have preeminence in your education and in your intellectual pursuits? Does He have first place in all these areas of your life? What you watch, what you hear, what you do when nobody's looking? Because if Jesus Christ is God the Creator and the Sustainer, if all that is true, then He deserves all of our worship. And I just submit to you as we close--that's how we should live our lives, considering Him and looking to Him and pointing to Him.
I've a lot of friends, including a brother who was a carpenter, used to build homes, and I've always marveled that really good carpenters can take these long honking nails and with one hit drive it all the way into a piece of wood. It's like they hold it up and then they release it for just a split second as the hammer's coming down and when their thumb and finger leave, the head of the hammer hits the nail. Boom! Driven all the way in. So I asked a carpenter: what's the secret? He smiled and he said it's easy. Keep your eye on the nail, not on the thumb. Because if you, if you look at your thumb and finger and you think I'm not gonna hit that, if you're looking at it, you'll hit it. You hit what you watch. You hit what you aim. What are you aiming for? What's number one? What's the most important priority in your life? Moreover, what thumbs and fingers are getting in the way that maybe you need to deal with and I need to deal with?