In his gospel book, St. John has narrated some conversations which the Lord Jesus had with scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem prior to His bitter Passion. These passages illuminate the tension and controversy that eventually led to Jesus’ arrest on Holy Thursday night and His summary execution on Good Friday.
The decisive moment came when the Lord answered the High Priest’s question about being the Son of God. On the level of the human drama, the unforgivable act which Christ committed was this: He bore witness to the truth about Himself.
John 8 puts us in the middle of one of the conversations which led up to the events of Holy Week. Perhaps we can consider this conversation as a debate about the basic identity of the people involved. In our own way, we are involved in this discussion, too.
The deepest desire of the Pharisee, the deepest desire of the Jew—indeed, the deepest desire of every man—is to be righteous. We aspire above all to please the great judge.
Perhaps the most important lesson of the Old Testament is: Abraham pleased God. In John 8, the Lord Jesus was talking with those who held the idea that they too pleased God by virtue of being Abraham’s people.
The Lord Jesus came and declared that He Himself is the pleasure of God. Yes, Christ is a descendant of Abraham. But the eternal Son also smiled upon Abraham and was pleased by Abraham’s obedience. In other words, Christ has come to be both the pleaser and the pleased, because that is what He is from all eternity.
The Pharisees betrayed their infidelity to Abraham by rejecting the truth of God’s Incarnation. This exposed them as children not of Abraham—who loves Christ—but of the devil, who hates Christ.
So the Lord said the hardest possible word to the Pharisees. He said the word that no human being wants to hear. He told them: “Your basic identity is not that of righteous children. You are not upright; you are not just. You, my children, are sinners. You are sinners.”
Christ came to forgive sins; He came to give His righteousness as a gift. The only way to receive this gift, the only way truly to be just—with the righteousness of Christ—the only way to imitate Abraham, is to hear these words of Christ’s and accept them as the most basic of all truths about who we naturally are.
He spoke to the Pharisees; He speaks to us: “You, my children, are sinners. I love you. I love sinners. I am God, and I die in My flesh for My children, who are sinners.”