The Priority of Behavior Over Blood
John chapter eight is packed with action. The action documented had a violent conclusion. The last verse in the chapter says, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him…” What happened? What was said that prompted wicked men to such violence?
The Jews who opposed Jesus suffered with a carnal predisposition to justify themselves by claims of their blood connection with Abraham. When, for example, the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John’s baptism, John called for them to repent, warning them not to rely on their bloodline (Matt. 3:9). Paul gave instruction directed to this fleshly propensity when he wrote: “…he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God,” (Rom. 2:28,29; see also Phil. 3:1-11).
This was a massive stumbling block for many Jews, justifying themselves, excusing themselves and denying the need to be saved, based on claims of kinship with Abraham.
The issue was (as expressed by Jesus), their attitude and behavior was obviously unlike the character of their claimed father, Abraham.
Jesus said to them: “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” (Jno. 8:37). They were descendants of Abraham by blood, but not by behavior! Jesus spoke divine truth to these fleshly descendants of Abraham, and gave evidence of His deity and integrity. Yet, they believed Him not and their answer was: “Abraham is our father,” (Jno. 8:39).
Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham,” (Jno. 8:39). They were Abraham’s children by blood, but not behavior. This tells us a very simple thing: Blood is never an excuse for misbehavior. Unbelief and sin cannot be defended by claims of blood, genealogy or family origin. If a paraphrase be permitted, Jesus is saying: I know who you are; I want to talk about what you are doing, your behavior. You are seeking to kill me, because My Word has no place in you!
“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!” These Jews were plotting the downfall and death of mankind’s greatest Benefactor. The Messiah who came to save them was now in the sights of their malicious intent. They had the blood of Abraham, but not his heart.
The privilege of good heritage can be repudiated and lost by our ill-advised moral choices. It doesn’t matter how good the people were we came from, if we fail to respond to God’s Word and pursue godly character! Who we are is known by what we do, not the genealogy we claim! The good work of God’s Word, the influence of Abraham and the person and work of Christ was all obstructed and resisted by the carnal, party spirit and sinful willfulness of these men who sought to kill Christ. Their choices predominated over their heritage.
Next, Jesus said to them: You are doing the deeds of your father, but your father (as evidenced by behavior) is not Abraham; he is the devil!
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. 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. You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father-God.
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. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:39-47)
What an act of courage, for Jesus to speak to his enemies with such boldness. He told them they were corrupt, because though their blood was Abraham’s, their character was the devil’s!
Our conduct says more about who we are related to than our blood! The genuine test is – what do we think and do. Paternity is shown by practice. And “He who is of God hears God’s words!”
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 10.10; October, 2003