The Expository Files

“You Judge According To The Flesh”

John 8:12-20

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” Jno. 8:12-20, ESV

The scene is, Jesus had been teaching the people and the class was interrupted by his enemies who threw before Him a woman taken in the act of adultery. They wanted to put Jesus in an impossible situation, and garner further evidence to accuse Him. He handled the matter with perfect wisdom – not condoning her adultery, but not letting these unqualified executioners have their way (against the “due process” of Mosaic Law).

As the defeated men walked away, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” One can escape the darkness of sin, guilt and punishment in only one way – by stepping into the light of Christ and abiding there. He was and is the source of illumination regarding spiritual matters and of the everlasting salvation. Yet, those who were determined to walk in darkness continued to hit Jesus with their impulsively crafted accusations and questions.

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; Your testimony is not true.” They wanted the people to think that when Jesus said who He was, He was just boasting; that He was one of many rogue pretenders who had nothing to offer in evidence of his claims. “Jesus answered, ‘Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going’.” Regardless of their limited, prejudiced perception of Jesus, He knew the truth about His person and work. He knew where He came from, and where He was going – and the truth of this wasn’t somehow cancelled by their hostile unbelief. “In corroboration of the true character of his own testimony, as contrasted with the false character of Pharisaic assertions, the Lord points to: a. his heavenly origin and destination (verse 14b); b. his intimate union with the Father (verses 15, 16); and c. the perfect agreement between his own testimony and that of the Father (verses 17, 18).” (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 1-2: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to John. New Testament Commentary (Jn 8:59). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)

Then Jesus said to them, “you judge according to the flesh.” Sound, objective judgment occurs – when you apply your mind to the evidence, without letting prejudices, party loyalties and personal interests to keep you from whatever the evidence demands. Objective judgment, therefore, is a moral challenge, requiring that we let nothing but the evidence lead us where it leads, without the intrusion of the irrelevant. Anything that is short of this is judging according to the flesh.

Of course, these hostile unbelievers – in their denial of Jesus – were not acting as objective students of evidence. They were making their determination without wise contact with evidence – and with all the ground-level loyalties, prejudices and traditional approaches spiritual things.

Next, Jesus wanted them to understand His unity with the Father, which included the Father’s testimony of the Son’s authenticity. “I am with the Father who sent Me,” Jesus said. Then He reminded them, by the standards of their own law, “the testimony of two men is true.”

Their response, “Where is Your Father” is quite instructive, helping us understand the twisted mind-set of these enemies of Christ.

“These words were probably accompanied with a gesture of disdain. They clearly indicate that Christ’s teaching with reference to the Father had fallen on deaf ears. The Pharisees were engaged in the most dangerous activity found among men: they were hardening their hearts! Such hardening results in total blindness and ignorance. Hence, Jesus answered, You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also. The one and only way to the Father is the Son; cf. 5:38; 14:7, 9; Matt. 11:27.” (Hendrickson, as cited)

Here, in this area where people contributed money (the Treasury), Jesus wisely responds to these men – who were likely not sincere contributors to anything but their own causes and purposes. Thoroughly hostile, but unable to lay their hands on Jesus, because “His hour had not yet come.”

From this exchange in John 8 – I want to highlight one statement for our present learning: “you judge according to the flesh.” Judgment, as it should occur, is not about our first emotional response to something; it is not about measuring public opinion or seeing what will be the easy way. Judgment, as it should be practiced in this sense, is about receiving evidence in your mind and using the mind God gave you to draw a conclusion.

This we must learn to do – the earlier the better – so that we can discern good and evil, believe what is right, reject was is wrong and not walk in darkness. Prejudice is a common device of the devil, to keep people from fairly weighing evidence. The devil used it with some limited, temporal success in the case of the enemies of Jesus.
And the devil wants us to be consumed with subtle prejudices, that can keep us in the dark. Remember what Jesus said every day. “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The truth shall make you free.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.3; March 2012