top of page
  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Rejoice with Abraham, Jesus is Here


Note from the author: Whilst Abraham had many sons by the time he died (not mentioned in this message), recorded in Genesis 25 (see verses 1-4 & 6), the two that are referred to exclusively in the New Testament are Ishmael and Isaac. Both are sons of promise (Genesis 17:17-21), but Isaac is Abraham's heir and the son through whom the covenantal promises to Abraham come to fruition.


Very truly I tell you,”Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” John 8:58-59

Last week we considered how God saw fit to choose a man called Abram - later to be called Abraham - and upon that one man to pour out his blessing.

God made promises to him beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. And then he confirmed them with a covenant - an unbreakable agreement and solemn oath - made on his own terms and made entirely dependent upon his own performance.

At the time that Abraham received the promises - not based on anymerit of his own - he had no children, and so a servant in his own house was going to be his heir. But, God told him that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.

What’s more, God promised Abraham these things knowing that his wife Sarai was barren and could not conceive. He did it that way to show that nothing is too hard for him to do.

Part of the profound and precious promise he made to Abraham was that, through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That means that all the nations of the world would be the beneficiaries of God’s kindness in some way, shape or form, which is very significant, given that, at the time these promises were made, all the peoples of the earth had gone astray from God.

By the time Abraham dies in Genesis 25, he has one true Son, who was his heir, by his wife Sarah - his name was Isaac.

The promise of descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky remained a possibility therefore – namely, through Abraham’s son Isaac. But what that blessing would be that would come on the nations of the world through Abraham, remained a mystery. And, what it would look like remained a mystery too.

What we do know about Abraham, is that God counted him righteous in his sight. Genesis 15:6, which we didn’t touch on last time, is all-crucial for understanding the significance of the covenant that God made with Abraham.

That verse says that Abraham believed the Lord - believed the outlandish promises he had made; believed he would be good to his word; believed that God could do what he had promised despite his wife’s inability to conceive – in spite of all the obstacles, he believedGod. And then the text says, God credited that belief to Abraham as righteousness.

What does that mean? It means that Abraham who had no positive standing with God before hand - no grounds for a relationship with his maker - was considered by God to be upright and good and perfect in his sight.

In other words, because Abraham believed God and took him at his word, and didn’t doubt his credentials, God imputed, or added, to Abraham’s account moral credibility, and adopted him into his family forever.

Now, just in case you’re wondering why I’m saying that Abraham was adopted into God’s family forever, when Genesis 15 says nothing of the sort, it is for this reason: picking up on this very event by quoting verse 6 of chapter 15, the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us in Romans 4 that Abraham became an heir of God. So, because Abraham was counted righteous he was considered a Son of God, byGod, and therefore an heir of God.

Whilst all the promises to Abraham looked like they were pointing to blessings he would receive through his own heirs, the greatest blessing of all, to Abraham himself, came by virtue of faith; came by righteousness credited; and came by adoption into the family of God. In that order – faith, righteousness, adoption, blessing.

And it must be eternal blessing because Abraham dies in chapter 25 – and that with just one son of promise. In fact, the Apostle Paul following his train of thought through into chapter 5 of Romans says nothing less than, righteousness brings eternal life.

Verse 6, therefore, may be one of the most important verses in the bible. God is telling us how a morally corrupt and unrighteousness human being can be counted an heir of God and belong to the household of God.

He’s showing us that the way that that transformation comes about - from enemy of God to child of God - is through the exercise of faith in the promise of God.

And, out of this, what we need to know is, if that could happen for Abraham, could it happen for us? And, if he believed in the promise of God, what might that look like for us?

So, I want us to explore that in 2 ways. One way this morning and then another in 2 weeks’ time. This morning we are heading to John 8 to see what Jesus does with Abraham. And then in two weeks’ time, we’re going, God willing, to Galatians 3 to see what Paul does with Abraham.

From verse 12 of chapter 8, Jesus is engaged in a dispute with some of Abraham’s descendants - Jews. Remember he, like them, was a descendent of Abraham. Isaac was his forefather, just as he was theirforefather.

If they had gone on the hit BBC show ‘Who do you think you are?’, all of them would have found out they had one very important common ancestor – Abraham. And their line to Abraham was not through Ishmael it was through Isaac – Abraham’s true son.

But none of these Jews would have needed a TV programme to tell them that – they would all have been taught that from earliest childhood.

So, you might be thinking, if Jesus and these Jews have common ancestry, then why are they arguing? They are family are they not?

They are. And in a very straightforward sense they are part of the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham – descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. By now the Jews were an ancientnation – albeit a Roman occupied one, but ancient nonetheless.

Jesus and the Jews get engaged in a dispute here in chapter 8, because of a claim that Jesus makes in verse 12. He says, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’.

Now this might land on you this morning like it landed on the Jews who were hearing it. It is quite a claim to say that the world exists in darkness, for one. To claim that it needs light, two. Both those things are implied in what Jesus says. And, to present yourself as the light of the world, three.

But that’s not all. Jesus is also saying, that following him is the way to have that light and that by having him as your light you will have life.

That’s either, a crazy man talking - someone who is off-the-scaleegotistical – or, someone who’s quite sane but a sensational liar, or he’s telling the truth.

The Jews agree. Verse 13, they say, ‘your testimony isn’t valid because there’s no one you can turn to justify your claim’. And they’re notwrong, the scriptures themselves say that. Deuteronomy 19:15, ‘A matter must be established by two or three witnesses’. And Jesus knows it too, he reminds them of it in verse 17. So that’s what they’re looking for.

Jesus, then tells them that he’s not alone in his claim as they suspect. Verse 16, he says, ‘he stands with the Father’ who sent him. And in verse 18 he says, ‘my other witness is the Father who sent me’.

So, Jesus is saying that his claim fulfills the requirements of the law for two witnesses and therefore his claim to be the light of the world and the light of life is a true claim.

Even as Jesus spoke these things many of the Jews believed in him according to verse 30, and to them he said, that if they ‘held to his teaching they would be his disciples and they would know the truth and the truth would set them free’.

Now, when you read the full sweep of this account, you can’t help but notice that this is a massive red flag to the Jews. Out of this onestatement – ‘if you hold to my teaching then you will know the truth and it will set you free’ - ensues one huge dispute. And the way they object to Jesus is very revealing.

Here’s what they say, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been the slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?

Jesus knows that they are Abraham’s descendants, and yet in his mind they are captives. And they know they are Abraham’s descendants, and in their minds, they are slaves of no one. So, what has Jesus got in mind and why does he discount their Abrahamic lineage when theyseem to think it counts for so much?

Jesus tells us the answer in the very next verse. ‘Jesus replied, “very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever”’.

So now we can understand why the dispute is so hot between these Jews and Jesus. Jesus views them as slaves because of their sin. What he means is, that their very nature is characterised by sin and thereforethey are salves to sin - sin is their native language so to speak.

But that’s not all, Jesus also considers that their slavery makes them illegitimate and not heirs at all. Their slavery according to Jesus puts them out of the family of God.

Clearly, no one likes being called a sinner or being passed off as a low-life slave - that’s obvious. So, Jesus’ words are already offensive. But they are even more offensive because these Jews think that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, and the promises God made to their forefather, that they are sons of God. That is obvious from verse 41, ‘We are not illegitimate children’ they say, ‘The only Father we have is Godhimself’.

But just watch how different Jesus’ conception of who their father is, is from their own.

Verse 38, ‘I’m telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence’ – that’s God the Father – ‘and you are doing what you have heard from your father’.

Verse 39, ‘Abraham is our Father’.

Verse 40, ‘If you were Abraham’s children you’d do what Abraham did…you are doing the works of your own father’.

Verse 42, ‘If God were your father you would love me…you belong to your father, the devil’.

Verse 44, ‘You want to carry out your father’s desires’.

Verse 53, ‘Are you greater than our father Abraham?

Verse 56, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day’.

This is immensely revealing about the promises God made to Abraham. For thousands of years up until Jesus came on the scene, Jews traced their descent from Abraham. They recognized that the twelve tribes of Israel had come from the 12 sons of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the legitimate son of Abraham, who was the one man to whom God had made covenant-binding promises at the time – including the promise to make him into a great a nation.

They were that nation. God had demonstrated, through their history, how special they were to him – more special than all the other nations of the earth. And all because of the promises he made to Abraham their forefather which he ratified with an oath. This is how every generation of Jewish children had grown up being taught and thinking.

But what Jesus has done here in chapter 8 of John is destabilise that whole idea. The very people who have every right to call themselves the children of Abraham – Jesus acknowledges it in verse 37, ‘you are Abraham’s descendants’ and in verse 56, ‘Your father Abraham’ – to those very people, Jesus says they are illegitimate, slaves, not of the nature of Abraham, and misled by their true father who is Satan himself!

How is this possible? Hasn’t Jesus heard the promises God made to Abraham? Hasn’t he comprehended who the Jews are?

He has. But he is conceiving of the children of Abraham in a differentway to these Jews – in a different way to pretty much all the Jews up to this point.

What is clear from what Jesus is saying is that he considers the world – verse 12 and verse 26 - to be under the slavery of sin. And he includes the Jews in that, in spite of their impressive lineage. He includes us in that, in spite of our privileged backgrounds too.

In his conception, the whole world is in bondage to sin and is in needof setting free. And, by his own declaration, he is the one to do it. He is the one who has the power to liberate people from slavery to sin. Heis the living embodiment of truth and therefore of righteousness. And righteousness is the very thing that God credited to Abraham’s account when he believed God.

This is why in verse 36, Jesus says, ‘if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’. Jesus is the legitimate Son of God – precious, perfect, obedient, and true. God’s very own heir. And when he sets a person free they are not set free from mere earthly slavery, they are set free from the slavery of death itself. That is why he declared himself in verse 12, the ‘light of life’. In him, and through him, death is conquered and eternal life is won.

Verse 51 confirms it, ‘whoever obeys my word will never see death’. Death is conquered for that person. Life is theirs. To enjoy. Forever. Oh, what a promise this is. And that’s exactly what it is. Jesus is presenting himself to the world with the promise of eternal life.

It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?

‘You mean Jesus, that you have eternal life to give – that you can defeat in me, sin and death – and what, you’re just going to give it to me?’

Yes. There’s no price to pay. He himself is the payment. Verse 28, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he[the messiah – the promised savior]. That cross was the cost of yourfreedom from sin – of your eternal life.

That is how it comes to you freely.

But whilst it’s right to say it is free, it is not right to say it is unconditional. There is something you must do. Here’s how Jesus puts it:

Verse 12, ‘whoever follows me will have the light of life’.

Verse 24, ‘I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins’.

And here’s how he chastises the Jews for failing to do it:

Verse 37, ‘You have no room for my word’.

Verse 43, ‘Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say’.

Verse 45, ‘Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

Verse 46, ‘Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth why don’t you believe me?

The condition that you have to fulfil is this: to believe. Believe on the one God has sent. And if you ask, what does that look like? Jesus furnishes us with the premium example: verse 56, ‘Abraham rejoicedat the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad’.

Abraham’s faith must be our faith, if we are to attain to the fullness of the promise of Jesus. His promise to us, like God’s to Abraham of old, is a promise that has its fulfillment in the future.

So, Jesus demands faith. That through his own shed blood - not the shed blood of butchered animals this time, but his very own blood - we believe that we shall take hold of eternal life. If we have faith like that of Abraham, then, like in the case of Abraham, God will credit to our account righteousness and adopt us into his family, making us heirsof eternal life.

What Jesus is teaching us is, that to be a physical heir of Abraham counts for nothing of lasting value. The Jews he was disputing with, he fully expected to live as heirs of Abraham and to die as children of Satan and follow him to hell.

He fully expects, that if we, though we may not be physical heirs of Abraham, in this life exercise the faith of Abraham in Jesus, we will be counted sons of Abraham and heirs of the Abrahamic promises untoeternal life itself.

You might ask yourself, how does Jesus have the credentials to deliveron his promise? Remember that God ratified the covenant with Abraham by himself because his nature and his character are unchangeable.

So, it is with Jesus also, and he confirms the fact with the last word of the chapter.

Verse 58, ‘Before Abraham was I AM’.

Some time after Abraham, came Moses. And when Moses asked God who he should say was sending him to the Israelites, when they were captive slaves in Egypt, this is the answer God gave him: ‘I AM who I AM, tell them I AM has sent you’.

God Almighty is so self-sufficient and so uncreated, he referred to himself as nothing less than I AM. Jesus is telling us that he is the very same.

He is telling the Jews and us that he is the great I AM – God Almighty. Which is why he can legitimately say he was before Abraham.

If this is so, these are the credentials that make him fit to fulfil his promise – he is I AM, and therefore all his promises are yes and Amen.


bottom of page