37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. (For better viewing click HERE)
When Jews (John means by “the Jews” something different that we mean today. Read about is of hoi Ioudaioi in John’s Gospel) heard Jesus speaking to those who believed in Him about true status of freedom in the Kingdom of God, they objected that they were not really slaves since they traced their heritage to Abraham. (Read also Freedom in the Roman world during Pax Romana) Jesus affirmed the fact that they were indeed the offspring of Abraham, but he argued that the hoi Ioudaioi who opposed him to the death were not at all his spiritual children. In Jesus’ mind, there were two reasons for this. First, his teaching was fully unwelcome among them and second, their opposition to him was final and ultimate (they sought to kill him).
38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Jesus charges his opponents with obedience to the wrong father, while also saying that he obeys His Father and not theirs. The nature of humans is such that they are not able not to believe and not to obey. It is only a question of who exactly will earn full allegiance and obedience. Will it be the right master? Who can give true freedom? Or will it be someone else?
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 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.
It is interesting that while John sets forth Jesus as the divine logos/memra of Israel’s God, Jesus addresses himself as “a man” who told them the truth. There is no mistake here. According to John, Jesus is not only the divine logos, he is also fully human. Therefore, John describes the interrelationship without apparent contradiction between Jesus’ full humanity and the divine description of him found in the prologue to John’s Gospel.
41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “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. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
Once again the reference is likely referring to stories that had been circulating about Jesus – that he had been born from an illicit union. The hoi Ioudaioi were making a reference to this precisely because they simply did not believe the true stories of God’s incredible intervention in human history (the virgin birth). This was enough to prove that they only believed the lies of the devil and Jesus’ word had no place in their minds and hearts.
44 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. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
In the mind of Jesus, the evil shepherds of God’s people Israel (we will discuss this connection later) are joined with the devil and his servants/slaves. They do not love truth because all truth is antithetical to them. When they testify falsely against Jesus, they simply act in accordance with their nature and the lying nature of their father.
46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Jesus is saying that those who oppose him do not in reality have any excuse. None of them were able to show any wrongdoing on Jesus’ part. The very simple reason for them not to hear the voice of the Great Shepherd of Israel was because they (hoi Ioudaioi) did not belong to Israel’s God.