Read John 8:37-47.
The Unwelcome Prince
The castle at the center of the kingdom was magnificent. It was situated on a hilltop with rows of terraced vineyards in the foreground and a stunning view of the remote valley beyond. By all appearances the people who lived there were respectable. They dressed well, they seemed polite enough, and they kept things looking neat and clean. But they were only managing the place temporarily while their king was away in another country. The king provided them with his castle and the surrounding lands in exchange for a portion of the harvest each year. This sounded like a good arrangement to the people living there, at least at first. But after enjoying the castle and the lands for a time, the people began to think of the kingdom as their own. After the harvest, when the king sent his servant to collect his portion, the people mistreated him and refused to make payment. The servant, who was conscientious and loyal to the king, insisted. The people beat that servant and sent him away.
So the king sent another servant. But the people treated him the same.
So he sent a third servant, and they wounded him also.
Finally the king sent his son, the prince, who was good and powerful and full of gladness. But the people didn’t welcome the prince either. Instead they plotted to inherit the kingdom for themselves. Of course to execute their plan they had to kill the rightful heir. So they threw the prince off the castle wall and killed him. (See Luke 20:9-18 and Luke 19:11-27)
The Pharisees’ Father
In our last post on the book of John, the Pharisees are arguing with Jesus and during that argument they make a point of saying they’re the offspring of Abraham. In our text today Jesus acknowledges they’re Abraham’s offspring followed by these words: “. . . yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
The Pharisees reply, “Abraham is our father.”
To which Jesus says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”
The Pharisees: “We weren’t born out of wedlock. We have one Father–even God.”
Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:37-47)
So while Jesus acknowledges that the Pharisees are the biological offspring of Abraham, he points out that at the same time, they’re not Abraham’s children, spiritually speaking. Commentators write that the Pharisees aren’t Abraham’s children in spirit because of the way their response to God’s messenger Jesus contrasts with how Abraham received God’s disguised messengers.
In Genesis chapter 18 we see the three messengers arrive, and just as soon as they did Abraham ran to meet them. He bowed to the earth. And he said, “Oh Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, don’t pass by your servant. Let me bring water so you can wash your feet, and rest in the shade while I bring you some food so you can refresh yourselves.”
Then he told his wife Sarah to make cakes, quickly. And he ran to his herd and selected one of his best calves to be prepared for these messengers of God.
And there were other additional ways Abraham welcomed and extended hospitality to God’s messengers. Also, during this meeting Abraham listened to God’s messengers and took what they said to heart.
Abraham was God’s child because of the way Abraham warmly welcomed God. In fact the way he responded to God’s messengers that day was celebrated in Jewish tradition.
And yet these offspring of Abraham are not responding to Jesus, God’s own Son, God’s ultimate messenger, like children of Abraham. Instead they’re responding as children of the great enemy of God.
God’s Enemy, You, And Me
The idea that the way the Pharisees responded to Jesus reveals who their father is, makes me profoundly uncomfortable. God’s great enemy is described in Isaiah chapter 14 and he is someone who is very much about his own will. What he said in his own heart is revealed to us beginning in verse 13.
“I will ascend to heaven,” he said.
“I will set my throne on high,” he said.
“I will sit on the mount of assembly,” he said.
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,” he said.
“I will make myself like the Most High,” he said. (see Isaiah 14:12-16)
“I will . . .,” he said. Five times he said, “I will.” What disturbs me about this is how I have found myself saying the same. “I will do this,” or “I will do that.”
I’m all about how “I will.”
I’m all about my will.
I’m like the people temporarily managing the kingdom. I’ve enjoyed what my King has blessed me with, but the problem is, like the people in that story, I think of it as my own. And my flesh wants it for myself. I don’t want to give my King what belongs to my King. I don’t want to give God what is God’s. I don’t want to hand anything over to His Son the Prince of Life. Even when I manage to not want everything for myself, I still want to hold back some of it for myself. (Acts 3:15)
But to be a child of God we have to respond like Abraham. We have to provide a warm welcome for Him, and for His messengers, and for His Son Jesus. We have to listen, really listen, and take what he says to heart.
Responding To Jesus (Who’s Your Father?)
So how will you respond? How will I respond? What kind of welcome will we provide God, God’s messengers, and God’s Son Jesus?
When I’m all about my will at the exclusion of His will, I’m not a child of Abraham. When I schedule myself to the point where I have no time for Jesus, I’m not a child of Abraham.
And how about when I fill myself? When my mind is so filled with other interests that I have no room for Jesus, I’m like the man who fills himself with McDonald’s and then has no room for the vastly superior home cooked meal. When I fill myself that way, I’m not a child of Abraham.
I’ve been guilty of living in sin in these ways. Maybe you have too. I don’t know how you feel about it but that’s why I’m so disturbed, troubled, and distressed by the way Jesus identified the Pharisees as children of the great enemy of God. Only those who welcome Jesus the way Abraham welcomed God’s messengers are children of Abraham.
God have mercy on me.
God have mercy on you too.
“Father send Your Spirit to us to help us to love You so much that we’re about Your will and not our own. Help us to give all of ourselves over to You, holding nothing back. Help us to leave room for You, plenty of room for You, in our lives. Father, help us to live lives that are welcoming and receptive to You even as Abraham did.
Have mercy on us.
Send Your Spirit to help us.
In Jesus’ name.”
[Michelangelo Abstract Image via Pixabay PublicDomainPictures]