In our study through John chapter 8 we come to an interesting verse that would be very easy to read past. We are going to pick up at verse 27. If you read the previous verses you will get a feel for the participants, and the general audience of this conversational exchange. Let’s look at the verse.
John 8:27 They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. (NKJV)
Verse 27 seems straightforward enough. What can we glean from this verse? Simple enough, they did not understand what He was talking about, right? Let’s take a look.
Who is the word they referring to at the beginning of the verse? We can deeply enrich our study of the Bible if we recognize our habit of making assumptions as we read. It can be very rewarding when we explore our assumptions in an attempt to prove or disprove them. This verse is a great case in point. Backing up to verse 22 we identify the antecedent as the Jews. It’s the same group of people Jesus has been addressing.
Who is He referring to in this verse? Most Bible translations give us hints by capitalizing the words He and Him when the antecedent is a reference to Jesus or God the Father. If we are proving assumptions, we do not need to rely on translation helps. In this case backing up to verse twenty five gives us the textual evidence we seek. It says, “And Jesus said to them…”.
Who is the Father referring to in the text? My translation capitalized the word, which suggests to us the noun is God. But to concretely identify the pronoun Father in this verse is a little tricker. Most of the time we discover the corresponding noun for an antecedent by backing up in the text. Sometimes the antecedent is not directly identified – the reader is simply expected to understand the reference. Other times, as in this case, the antecedent is identified by keeping the text in context and reading ahead. When we peek ahead to verse 42, keeping the whole conversation in context, we discover that God is indeed the Father referenced in verse 27.
It tells us the following.
John 8:42 “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.“ (NKJV)
Jesus use the word Father 5 times between verse 27 and verse 42. At times the antecedent is God the Father, other times Abraham, and still other times it refers to the devil. Look yourself and see if you can identify the correct noun each time the word father is used.
Why does the author tell us that they did not understand? Let’s look at the verse just before the one (verse 27) where we are told the Jews didn’t understand that Jesus was talking about God the Father.
Verse 26 says,
John 8:26 “I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” (NKJV)
We could say that the Jews did not understand who He and Him were when Jesus used the pronouns. So again, why did the author take the time to tells us this? I believe this verse is designed to set our expectation for what follows. Jesus recognized that the Jews were not comprehending His narrative. He laboriously attempted to reveal to the Jews, and the others listening, who He was by demonstrating His association with God the Father. The Jews weren’t getting it. How would we expect a loving Jesus to respond to their lack of understanding? In His loving grace Jesus will attempt to lead them to a correct understanding.
Let’s consider the next three verses together.
28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.
29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. (NKJV)
In verses 28 and 29 Jesus speaks to the audience of His unique relationship with the heavenly Father. Verse thirty records the result of Jesus clearly communicating truth. “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.”
In the verses that follow Jesus continues the discussion about His relationship with God the Father, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Jesus is uniquely qualified to solve the sin problem that separates us from God. Because He is the son of God, Jesus is the one and only perfect sacrifice for our sin. He is the only one who can restore us back into fellowship with God the Father.