The ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:50

6. Jesus the Light of life, 8:12-10:42

ii] Jesus' passion encapsulates his testimony


Jesus continues his teaching ministry in the temple at the feast of Tabernacles, and again his teaching is challenged by "the Jews" (Israel's religious establishment). Jesus' messianic testimony covers issues already debated: his divine origin, his return to heaven, and his unity with God the Father. "The Jews'" failure to believe in Jesus stokes their confusion.


The apostolic kerugma (the gospel = the proclamation of Jesus' lifting up / glorification = crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, enthronement) encapsulates Jesus' messianic claims.


i] Context: See 8:12-20.


ii] Structure: Jesus' passion encapsulates his testimony:

The issue of Jesus' departure, v21-22;

"Where I go you cannot come."

Jesus' united testimony with the Father, v23-27;

"What I have heard from him I tell the world."

Jesus' glorification, v28-30;

"When you have lifted up the Son of Man

then you will know that I am he."


iii] Interpretation:

With an eye to his coming crucifixion, Jesus makes the point that he is not long for this world; he is going away and his protagonists ("the Jews" = the Jewish religious establishment - Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, ........ / unbelieving Israel) will look for him, but not find him. Through his lifting up / glorification Jesus will return to the Father, and sadly, his protagonists will not be able to follow, they will be left to die in their state of sin. The failure of "the Jews" to believe in Christ's messianic claims leaves them facing judgment. Faith leads to sight, but "the Jews", devoid of faith, are left to wonder whether Jesus is planning suicide. They are picking up on the ominous hints in Jesus' words, but are left confused, v21-22.

Jesus goes on to confront his protagonists with the reality of their spiritual condition; the meaning they have given to life is totally different to that of Jesus, v23. Consequently, they will die in their sins if they don't trust Jesus' messianic claims - doom awaits them if they do not believe that Jesus is God's I AM, oJti egw eimi, v24. For "the Jews", the claim is outrageous and so they fire back: "Who do you think you are?" Jesus, frustrated by their lack of faith, responds "Why am I still speaking to you at all?", v25. Jesus can only testify to the revelation he has from God the Father, and sadly he has no alternative other than to proclaim even harsher judgments on those who fail to heed his words, v26. His protagonists don't get the point, v27.

Of course, the day is coming when "the Jews" will understand the full implication of Jesus' testimony, ie., the day of his lifting up, the day when they hold him to account for blasphemy, v28. Jesus is speaking of his glorification, his lifting up on the cross. This messianic testimony of Jesus is not his own, it is a revelation in accord with God the Father, v29. Many of those who hear Jesus' messianic claim come to believe in him, v30.


As Barrett notes, the argument in this passage focuses on "the origin and destiny of Jesus. Unlike other men, he is not of this world, not from below, but from above, that is, from God. Whither he goes none can follow, for he goes to a death and to a glory neither of which can be shared by other men." John conveys this information cryptically and with his usual touch of irony. The Jews think that Jesus' going-away involves going to "the Greeks", and through the gospel he does go to "the Greeks", so also his going-away is by suicide, and the cross is a suicide of sorts. Yet, how Jesus departs is not the issue, it's all about who he departs to, and thus, who he came from - he is God's Christ, the Messiah, God's great I AM, and we had better believe it.

Text - 8:21

Jesus' passion encapsulates his testimony, v21-30: i] The issue of Jesus' departure, v21-22. The messiah's coming to Israel is but for a moment and then he returns to the Father. Israel's religious establishment, having rejected Jesus' messianic claims, can only wait in vain, lost to the realization of God's covenant promises.

oun "-" - therefore. Here best treated as transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

autoiV dat. pro. "[said] to them" - [again he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

egw pro. "I [am going away]" - i [go away]. The personal pronoun is emphatic by position and use. The present tense "go away" may be futuristic; "I will go away."

zhthsete (zhtew) fut. "you will look for [me]" - [and] you will seek, inquire after [me]. Barclay views the action "you will seek" as conative, "you will try to find me." This zhtew, "to search", may refer to the search-and-destroy mission of "the Jews" which continued after Jesus' death and entailed the persecution of Jesus' disciples. On the other hand, it may refer to Israel's continued fruitless search for their messiah, or possibly "that their moment of insight will come too late. Only after they have crucified Him will they realize who He is. Then their seeking of Him will be in vain", Morris.

kai "and" - Probably best treated as adversative; "but you will die in your sins", REB.

en + dat. "in [your sin]" - [you will die] in [the sin of you]. The preposition here is probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "with all of your sins", TH, or causal, "because of your sin", or temporal, "while you continue in your state of sin", but it is usually translated as local, space / metaphorical, "in your state of sin (ie., "in bondage to sin"), Harris. "Sin" here is singular, probably indicating that the sin in mind is that of rejecting Jesus' messianic testimony, ie., the sin of unbelief; "the cardinal sin of rejecting Jesus", Barrett. "You are missing God in this and are headed for a dead end", Peterson.

oJpou conj. "where [I go]" - where [i go away]. Local conjunction.

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "[you cannot] come" - [you are not able] to come. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "to be able." Jesus may be making the point that due to their unbelief "the Jews" are unable to come with him to heaven. Even believers will "not be able to follow him - not yet, at least, for in fact he is going to prepare a place for them so that they may be where he is", Bruce, so also Morris, Kostenberger, Carson, Fenton, .... Of course, this assumes that heavenly time relates to earthly time - a rather big assumption, cf., Ps.90:4, 2Pet.3:8. All believers may well come with the Son of Man to the Ancient of Days as angels / messengers in the clouds, Dan.7:13. "The Jews" are not able to come with Jesus to the Father, but believers may well attend him on the day of his coming to the Father. On the other hand, Jesus may be saying that no human is able to "go" the way he is about to go, namely, through his lifting up / glorification - Christ's sacrifice on the cross, his resurrection, ascension and glorious enthronement. Only Jesus can make this journey, although we may journey with him if we identify with him / are united to him / are in him, through faith. None-the-less, as is often the case in John's gospel, it is very easy to over-read a statement. Jesus may be saying nothing more then that he will be soon well away from this pesky lot of pietists and then they won't be able to pester him anymore.


The response of "the Jews" serves as another example of Johannine irony, if not humor. If the statement "Where I go, you cannot come" means little more than "I'm off soon and then you'll be out of my hair", then the response of "the Jews" is nothing more than a sarcastic "What's he think he's going to do to escape us, kill himself?" The irony lies in the answer to the question. Rather than the expected answer "no", the answer is a kind of "yes" - for those of us in the know.

oun "[This made the Jews ask]" - therefore [the jews were saying]. Inferential, establishing a logical connection; "So the Jews said", ESV. The use of the durative imperfect "were saying" may indicate ongoing discussion, but it could just indicate narrative transition - the description of Jesus speaking, aorist, v20, to Jesus actually speaking, imperfect, v21.

mhti "-" - not [he will kill himself]. This emphatic interrogative negation (mh + tiV) may be used in a question expecting a negative answer. "Given that he says it is impossible for us to go where he is going, he's obviously not suggesting that he is going to kill himself is he?", but see above. As Novakovic notes, it can also be used in a question where "there is doubt concerning the answer"; "Does he mean to kill himself when he says that he is going where we cannot come?", Rieu.

oJti "is that why" - because [he says, where i go away]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the question is being asked. ; "because he said ..."

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "[you cannot] come" - [you are not able] to come. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "to be able."


ii] Jesus' united testimony with the Father, v23-27. The problem "the Jews" have with Jesus' testimony is that they are flesh, of the realm of sin and death, and Jesus is spirit, and as such, unless they believe in Jesus they will remain part of the realm of flesh, blind to the reality standing before them, and so die in their sins. They have to believe that Jesus is God's "I AM", God's righthand man, the Messiah. "The Jews" respond with an aggressive "Who do you think you are?" In a show of frustration Jesus replies "Why do I bother speaking to you at all?", but of course, he will continue to speak to them, and this in words of judgment. These are not Jesus' words, but are God's words to a rebellious people.

elegen (legw) imperf. "he continued" - [and he was saying]. The use of the imperfect may serve to accentuate the progressive nature of Jesus claim, so Kostenberger, but it may just indicate narrative transition, here a step in the dialogue, as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to them. Dative of indirect object.

ek + gen. "[you are] from [below]" - [you are] from [the things below, i am] from [the things above]. Here, and in the rest of the verse, this preposition expresses origin; "denoting a member of a certain class", Zerwick #134. Note that the article twn serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb katw, "below", and anw, "above", into nouns, "the things below", "the things above"; "you belong to the world (realm) below ..... I belong to the world above", Barclay. Note also, the pronoun uJmeiV, "you", is emphatic by position and use. The idea of two realms, one material, one spiritual, is often viewed as Hellenistic, but it is also Semitic, if not universal. None-the-less, John's dualism here is probably more in the terms of his flesh and spirit contrast in 3:31."You're tied down to the mundane; I'm in touch with what is beyond your horizons", Peterson.

toutou gen. pro. "[You are of] this [world]" - [you are from] this [world, i am not] from [this world]. Close demonstrative pronoun. The term "this world" is most often used to express the natural human state of a world apart from God, sometimes with the focus on its sinful state, but certainly its condition of spiritual death. This is the state of Jesus' opponents, and ultimately of all humanity. Jesus' existence is of another state, namely, the spiritual reality of eternal life. Jesus' task as messiah is to reveal this state, and the means by which it may be possessed, namely faith (Jesus' faith / faithfulness + our faith response). "You live in terms of what you see and touch. I'm living on other terms", Peterson.


oun "-" - therefore. Probably inferential, establishing a logical connection,"so, consequently, accordingly", or drawing a logical conclusion, "That is why I said you would die in your sins", Rieu.

oJti "that" - that [you will die in the sins of you]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus said. Note that aJmartiaiV, "sins", is plural. In v21 "sin" is singular = the sin of unbelief. Here it is the sins left uncovered by unbelief = all sin.

gar "-" - for. Here more reason than cause; introducing an explanation of the dependent statement, "for", Barclay, but possibly just emphatic, "indeed, ...", Cassirer.

ean + subj. "if [you do not believe]" - if [you do not believe]. "if, as may be the case, [you do not believe that I AM, then you will die in your sins." Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true. Harris suggests that the aorist verb "to believe" is ingressive, "come to believe / make an act of faith."

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what must be believed, namely, "I am."

egw eimi "I am he" - i am. Personal pronoun + the verb to-be, minus a predicate. The present tense of the verb to-be is durative and this is particularly evident in 8:58 where "I AM" implies no predicate; "I eternally was, as now I am, and ever continue to be", Barrett. It is evident in 8:58 that Jesus is claiming that he is I AM forever - "before Abraham was I AM". Here in 8:24, 28, a predicate is implied, "I AM he / the one I claim to be." When Jesus claims "I AM", it is not clear whether he is claiming deity, or whether he is claiming a deified messianic status (either way, he is God with us). In the context, the statement relates to v21 (so Ridderbos) and Jesus' claim that his opponents would die in their sin unless they believe that "I am God's messiah, the savior of Israel." Many commentators see the words as a divine claim; "I am Yahweh; eg., Brown." Yet, John does not align Jesus / the Word / Son of God with God. Jesus is God the Father's man, eternal in being, divine in quality; a man can only claim to be I AM "if he speaks as the Word that had been with God in the beginning and was now incarnate on the earth", Bruce. So, Jesus' claim is "I am the revelation of God. I am the place of the divine presence and revelation in history", Blank. Jesus uses the "I AM" statement to allude to the Old Testament "I AM" used to indicate the divine presence, cf., Ex.3:13-14, Isa.43:10. This is not a claim to deity, but rather a claim to be God's eternal messiah, his representative / revelation / Word, one who exists in close association / identification with the Father. As the Light of the World, Jesus "testifies that he is the eschatological helper and savior who turns darkness into light and wants to bring every human being into the light of life", Beasley-Murray, cf., Schnackenburg. So, Jesus is God's great "I AM", the Light of the World, the Messiah, the Word who was "in God's presence and what God was, the Word was", Jn.1:1, If "the Jews" can accept Jesus' testimony that he is God's man, revealer and redeemer, then the promised covenant blessings are theirs, namely, eschatological salvation.

en + dat. "in [your sins]" - [you will die] in [the sins of you]. The preposition is probably adverbial here, modal, expressing the manner of dying, namely, "with your sins unforgiven", CEV, or possibly cause, "because of your sins."


The two clauses making up this verse are not easily translated. The first clause is usually treated as a genuine question, "So they said to him, 'Who are you?'" Yet, Jesus has just made a rather presumptuous claim, aligning himself with the great "I AM" - he claims formidable messianic credentials. So, the chances are that the response of "the Jews" is an explosive rhetorical question, cf., 5:17-18. The use of the pronoun su, "you", is emphatic, possibly giving us something like "Who do YOU think you are?" The second clause consists of Jesus' response, and at this point most scholars just give up trying to make any sense of the Greek, cf., Bultmann, who classifies it as a non liquet. In the end, context will shape Jesus' response, and so it's likely that we have a rhetorical question expressing his frustration, eg., "Why am I still speaking to you at all?", Bultman. This approach is used in the NEB, REB mg, TEV mg. Jesus does go on to speak with "the Jews", but that doesn't conflict with what is primarily an expression of frustration. Many a tradesman has used a similar expression with a struggling apprentice - "Why do I bother trying to explain this to you over and over again?"

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection, "So they said to him", ESV

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [they were saying] to him. As with autoiV and uJmin, Dative of direct object.

tiV pro. "who [are you]?" - Interrogative pronoun, here as a rhetorical question, as above.

oJ ti "-" - the which. This construction usually introduces an indirect question, here rhetorical - Jesus is not seeking an answer to the question; see above. Sometimes treated here as introducing a direct question, oJ ti = ti, "why", but this would be an unusual construction. Given that the original manuscripts would have no gap between oJ and ti, they are sometimes treated here as if oJti, "that"; see kai below.

kai "-" - and = even [should i speak to you]. Probably ascensive, "even", although Zerwick suggests that it may be inferential, establishing a logical connection, "and so." If we follow Zerwick then oJ ti would stand for oJti, "that", and the object thn archn, "the beginning", probably stands for apo archV, "from the beginning", so Moule; "Even so, that is what I have been telling you from the beginning", as NIV and most modern translations.

thn archn (h) acc. "the beginning" - the beginning / the realm, covering all. Following the above translation "Why am I still speaking to you at all?", the accusative articular noun "realm, covering all" is taken as adverbial modifying the verb "to say", so giving the sense "entirely = at all." "Why am I speaking to you at all?", Cassirer.


Jesus puts aside his frustration and tells "the Jews" that he is still intent on saying much more to them, namely / in particular (kai), words of judgment. Mind you (alla), these are not Jesus' words, they derive from the true judge; Jesus only proclaims what he has heard from the Father. Note: it is possible to read the verse as if Jesus is saying he could say much more to them, but won't, because he will only speak what he has heard from the Father, ie., ecw, "I have" = "I can, could", so Barrett.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to say [in judgment]" - [i have many things] to say [and to judge]. The infinitive, as with "to judge", is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to have." The accusative adjective, "many things", serves as the subject of the infinitives. "I have much to say about you and much to condemn", Cassirer.

kai "-" - and [to judge]. Probably coordinate, as Cassirer above. Yet, it may well be epexegetic here, specifying what he has "to say", namely, "words of judgement", as NIV. "I have much to say about you that condemns you."

peri + gen. "of [you]" - about [you]. Probably expressing reference / respect, "with respect to, concerning, about", but possibly interest, disadvantage, "against you."

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative. Jesus judges, "but" not by his own authority; he judges in accord with the Father's will, he who is the true judge.

oJ pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "he who sent [me]" - the one having sent [me]. The participle serves as a substantive.

alhqhV adj. "[is] trustworthy" - truthful, true, genuine, honest. If we take kai as epexegetic giving the sense "I have much to say that condemns / judges you", then it seems that the adjective is attributive, limiting an assumed "judge"; "he who sent me is the true judge", Rieu. Probably not "true witness", so Brown. Possibly, Jesus' judgment is the Father's judgment, and the Father's judgment is "nothing but the truth", Barclay.

kagw "and" - and i [what i heard]. Emphatic personal pronoun, kai + egw = kagw.

par (para) + gen. "from [him]" - from beside [him, these things]. Here expressing source / origin.

eiV "[I tell the world]" - [i speak] into [the world]. Used with the sense of proV, "toward", ie., "to" in the sense of motion toward. Often Jesus teaching mission is spoken of as en, "in the world" (en = eiV), so eiV, "toward", is unusual, but understandable in the context; "What I have heard from him I report to the world", REB; "I tell the world what he told me", Barclay.


"The Jews" again show their ignorance of the Father, probably in the sense that they "did not understand that Jesus had been sent from God", Barrett. cf., v19.

oJti "that" - [they did not know] that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they did not understand.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [he was speaking the father] to them. Dative of indirect object.

ton patera (hr roV) acc. "about [his] Father" - The verb legw, "to speak", + acc. expresses "to speak of someone / something"; "he had been speaking to them about the Father", ESV, as NIV.


iii] Jesus' glorification, v28-30. "The Jews' (Israel's religious establishment) are simply unable to understand Jesus' messianic claims, yet a day of full realization is coming for them. In that day when they set upon Jesus and crucify him; they will "lift up the Son of Man", God's I AM, and in doing so they will lift him up in glory and exaltation to the Father. In that day the unbelief of "the Jews" will be fully manifested. Yet, in all this Jesus makes not claims in his own right, but rather, he does nothing more than the Father's will.

oun "So" - therefore [jesus said to them]. Often taken as inferential, establishing a logical connection, "So Jesus resumed", Phillips, but possibly just transitional, indicating a step in the argument; "Jesus went on to say", CEV.

oJtan + subj. "when" - whenever. Introducing a indefinite temporal clause, although translated as definite.

uJywshte (uJyow) aor. subj. "you have lifted up" - you lift up. Here the second person plural "you" is obviously "the Jews" - it is at their hand that Jesus is lifted up, ie., they are responsible. The word is used in 3:14 of the Son of Man being lifted up as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert - obviously a divine passive, the ultimate responsibility lies with God. The imagery is of Jesus' crucifixion, and this entails his lifting up to the Father, and thus his glorification / exaltation, cf., 12:23, 32. As such, Jesus' lifting up is not just his death on the cross, but his resurrection, ascension and enthronement in glory.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - [the son] of man. See 1:51.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb, introducing a temporal clause.

ginwsesqe (ginwskw) fut. "you will know" - you will come to know. The context implies "the Jews" "will know", but as Barrett points out, John knows full well that "the Jews" did not come to believe in Jesus after his crucifixion. Barrett suggest that John is referring to his readers. So, John may be referring to the elect, the true Israel, God's true people; they will come to believe in God's I AM at the point of Jesus' lifting up / exaltation, glorification before the Father. Carson makes the point that Jesus' lifting up is the moment when his glory is most fully revealed. So maybe the point is that when Jesus is "lifted up", the Jews will then understand the meaning of Jesus' I AM claim, so Beasley-Murray; they may not believe, but they will get the point that Jesus' claims are messianic - from their perspective they will conclude that he is a blasphemer deserving of death.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they will understand when Jesus is lifted up / exalted.

egw eimi "I am he" - i am. "I am God's messiah"; see v24.

kai "and that" - and. Usually treated as coordinate, further expressing what "the Jews" will understand when Jesus is lifted up, as NIV. Yet it may just be epexegetic, introducing an explanation of why Jesus claims to be God's I AM; "I do nothing on my own authority, but in all I say I have been taught by my Father", REB. Claiming to be God's I AM is a serious claim, but Jesus does not make it on his own authority, rather, he does so at the Father's behest.

ap emautou "on my own" - from myself [i do nothing]. Idiomatic phrase; "on my own authority / initiative", cf., 5:30, 6:38.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "not ......... but ......"

kaqwV "just what" - [i speak these things] as, just as [the father taught me]. Here the comparative indicates a characteristic quality, "as / just as" = "exactly as"; "I'm not making this up, but speaking only what the Father has taught me", Peterson.


The epexegetic kai introduces a clarification of the statement in v28 that Jesus does not speak on his own accord, but only bears witness in accord with the Father; kai, "What this means is", Jesus is in union with the Father, a union evidenced by his obedience to him.

kai "-" - and. Here likely to be epexegetic, as above.

oJ pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "the one who sent [me]" - the one having sent [me]. The participle serves as a substantive.

met (meta) + gen. "[is] with [me]" - [is] present with [me]. Here expressing association / accompaniment.

monon adj. "alone" - [he did not leave, forsake, abandon, me] alone. Attributive adjective.

oJti "for" - that / for [i always do]. Usually taken to introduce a causal clause explaining why the Father has not left Jesus alone, "because I always do what pleases him", TEV, although Ridderbos suggests it is more consecutive than causal, "and as a consequence I always do the things that are pleasing to him." A causal oJti would be unusual. Morris is similarly uneasy with a causal sense suggesting that Jesus' doing what pleases the Father is but an evidence of the Father's presence with him. Morris suggests an elipsis, "I can say this because I do always ...." John will often use oJti to introduce an explanation (the epexegetic use of oJti) so we may have here an explanation of how we can know that Jesus is in union with the Father ("he has not left me alone") namely, because Jesus always does the Father's will.

autw/ dat. pro. "[what pleases] him" - [the things pleasing] to him. Dative complement of the substantive adjective "pleasing to" / interest, advantage.


Again John comments that polloi, "many", believed in him, cf., 2:23, 7:31, 10:42, 12:11, .... It seems unlikely that he has any particular group in mind, ether the Jewish religious establishment ("the Jews"), or onlookers ("the crowd"). Nor is he indicating whether the faith is genuine or not. A faith response to Jesus is significant, but may not be lasting. For John, a faith that perseveres, abides, is a saving faith. It is also important to note that John's comment is for the reader, the Hellenistic Jew who is reading about Jesus and his messianic claims. John is saying to the reader, many have believed in / responded positively to, Jesus' messianic claims, both then and now, so how about you!

lalountoV (lalew) gen. pres. part. "even as [he] spoke" - [he] saying [these things many believed into him]. The genitive participle, along with the genitive personal pronoun "he", forms a genitive absolute construction, usually treated as temporal; "And even while he said these words, many people believed in him", Phillips. Note again eiV, "into", indicating the direction of the action and arrival at, is used as if en, "believed in him."


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