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12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh;
Jesus applies the high calling of Biblical Israel to himself. He calls himself the Light of the world! (vs.12) While this may seem usual to us, it must have sounded very strange to the original hearers. The Pharisees, having disavowed every witness that came to them about Jesus, level the charge that Jesus had no witnesses! (vs.13) They meant that, for the most part, the Sanhedrin had not accepted Jesus and therefore their view of Jesus was generally negative. Jesus, however, responded that they as a body had no authority to judge Him because they were not qualified enough to do so (vs.14-15a).
I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.
Jesus’ authority comes from his father. By implication, the hoi Ioudaioi (in this case the Pharisees) simply did not possess this authority. They were therefore rendered powerless to judge.
17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”
Jesus will use this argument more than once. The Pharisees claimed to be experts in Torah knowledge and interpretation. They accused the Christ-following Jewish crowds of lack of knowledge of Torah (John 7:49) Jesus told them that since they denied the testimony of witnesses for Jesus; this disqualified any opinions they might have about Him. His own testimony and that of the Father (signs/miracles) were sufficient. In this passage, Jesus does not juxtapose “your law” vs. “my law or our law,” but instead calls the Pharisee’s view to consistency.
19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?”
A often happens in court when a witness is presented; the opposite side seeks to discredit the power of the witness by attacking the witness’ person. The phrase “who is your father” likely referred to an early historical reference of a false accusation that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Joseph and Mary. Having said that, it is also possible that they were simply asking why Joseph (his father) was not appearing with Jesus to give his testimony. While the second scenario is possible, I think the first one is more likely.
Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
The reason John mentions that Jesus said this while he was in the treasury area was to show that Jesus was in close proximity to all the Temple officials and guards. The conversation has moved from Galilee to Judea, from Judea to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem’s streets to the Jerusalem Temple, from the Jerusalem Temple grounds to the symbol of the Temple authority – the treasury unit.
21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”
We have already heard similar clueless responses to Jesus’ statements. This Gospel continues to portray the Jerusalem Temple authorities as unfit to rule, unaware of simple things of the spirit, and in no condition to judge Jesus – the Son of the Living God.
23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
There is a wonderful play on words here. When we read that Jesus says to his opponents that he is from above and they are from bellow, there is more here than meets the eye. The Gospel of John from the beginning portrays Jesus to be divine Logos/Memra of God. As such preincarnate Jesus has always existed with his father in Heaven above. Jesus makes a reference to that divine and heavenly origin. But there is more here. You see, whenever the scripture says that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem it always says that he “went up” to Jerusalem. Getting to Jerusalem was and still is a physical ascent to the topographically higher ground!
The simplicity that is recovered when we translate the Greek back into the Hebrew original is striking. Remember that as Jesus arrives from Galilee, the topographically lower country to Judea, he comes to Jerusalem which is the topographically higher place. There he turns things upside down by confronting Israel’s leaders. So if Jesus had this conversation in ancient Hebrew, and there are some very serious arguments that he did, he probably used simple words like “Lemala” (up) and “Lemata” (down), which literally mean “high” and “low”. “You think you are high up because of your Jerusalem location?!” says Jesus. “No, you are actually from down below – because you belong to this fallen world, and I belong to the redeemed world to come!”