Lesson 68

John 8:31–59

“Lesson 68: John 8:31–59,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

The Savior continued teaching at the temple following the Feast of Tabernacles. He taught about freedom from sin. When Jesus Christ proclaimed He was the great Jehovah, the Jews tried to stone Him.

Suggestions for Teaching

John 8:31–36

Jesus teaches about freedom from sin

To help students remember what they learned in the previous lesson, hold up a small stone. Invite students to briefly summarize how the Savior responded when some scribes and Pharisees brought Him a woman taken in adultery and what He taught afterward (see John 8:1–30). (The Savior did not condemn the woman and told her to “sin no more” [verse 11]. Afterward Jesus taught that He is the “light of the world” [verse 12] and that as we believe in Him and obey His teachings, we come to know the Father.)

  • According to John 8:30, how did Jesus’s actions and words affect many of the Jews?

Point out that although many of the Jews believed in Jesus, some Jews continued to challenge Him as He taught the people about discipleship, truth, and freedom versus bondage.

Draw the following diagram on the board:

diagram, blanks to freedom

Invite a student to read John 8:31–32 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus said we need to do in order to be free.

Invite students to come to the board and fill in the blanks based on what Jesus said we need to do in order to be free. The completed diagram should look similar to the following:

completed diagram, freedom
  • What does it mean to “continue in [Christ’s] word”? (verse 31).

  • How would you summarize as a principle statement Jesus Christ’s teachings recorded in verses 31–32? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that if we continue in Jesus Christ’s word, then we will be His disciples and know the truth, which will make us free. Consider writing this principle on the board. You may also want to point out that John 8:36 emphasizes that it is because of Jesus Christ that we can be made free.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for what we can be free from if we live according to the Savior’s word:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

“Free from the damning power of false doctrine; free from the bondage of appetite and lust; free from the shackles of sin; free from every evil and corrupt influence and from every restraining and curtailing power; free to go on to the unlimited freedom enjoyed in its fulness only by exalted beings” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:456–57).

Invite a student to read John 8:33 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Jews believed made them free.

  • What did the Jews believe would make them free? (They mistakenly believed that simply being descendants of Abraham and heirs to the Abrahamic covenant entitled them to spiritual freedom.)

Invite a student to read John 8:34–36 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jesus indicated the people needed to be freed from.

  • According to verse 34, what did the Savior indicate the people needed to be freed from?

Point out that the Greek verb translated as “committeth” in verse 34 suggests the idea of continuing in sin rather than repenting.

  • What principle can we learn from verse 34? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we commit sin and do not repent, then we become the servants of sin.)

  • What does it mean to be a “servant of sin”? (You may want to point out that the word translated as “servant” may also be rendered as “slave.”)

To help students visualize the relationship between the two principles they have identified, draw the following diagram on the board:

diagram, choice and consequences
  • Why might some people today confuse these truths by believing that following the Savior places us in bondage, while committing sin results in freedom?

To help the class further understand the two principles they identified, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

“Yielding to [Satan’s] temptations leads to a narrower and narrower range of choices until none remains and to addictions that leave us powerless to resist. …

“… The world looks at things through Korihor’s lens, considering obedience to God’s laws and ordinances to be ‘bondage’ (Alma 30:24, 27). …

“… Does anyone doubt that, as a consequence of possessing all light and truth, God possesses ultimate freedom to be and to do?

“Likewise, as our understanding of gospel doctrine and principles grows, our agency expands. First, we have more choices and can achieve more and receive greater blessings because we have more laws that we can obey. … Second, with added understanding we can make more intelligent choices because we see more clearly not only the alternatives but also their potential outcomes” (“Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 49, 50–51).

Divide students into pairs. Invite each pair to study an assigned section of For the Strength of Youth (booklet, 2011). Ask students to draw the following chart in their class notebooks or scripture study journals (you may want to draw it on the board). Invite each pair to read together their assigned section of For the Strength of Youth and fill out the chart.

Standard discussed in For the Strength of Youth:

In what ways can living this standard bring freedom?

In what ways can failing to live this standard bring bondage?

     

After sufficient time, invite each pair to switch partners with another pair and teach what they learned about the standard they studied. After sufficient time, invite a few students to report what they learned to the class.

  • What freedoms promised in For the Strength of Youth have you personally experienced?

Invite students to write down a specific way they will seek to be free by living according to the Savior’s word.

John 8:37–59

Jesus testifies of His divinity

Invite students to briefly respond to the following question:

  • Whom do you know who is very similar to his or her father?

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from John 8:37–40, 44–45. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Jewish leaders who opposed the Lord were different from the great Old Testament prophet Abraham, whom they claimed as their father.

  • According to verse 39, what did the Savior say they would do if they were the children of Abraham?

  • According to verse 40, what were they seeking to do that Abraham would never have done?

  • According to verses 44–45, who did Jesus say was their father? (The devil.) In what ways did they follow the devil?

Summarize John 8:46–50 by explaining that the Savior taught that those who are of God receive His word. The Jewish leaders tried to insult Jesus by calling Him a Samaritan (as Samaritans were generally despised by the Jews) and claiming He was possessed by a devil.

Invite a student to read John 8:51–53 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the question the Jewish leaders asked Jesus.

  • What question did they ask Jesus? (You may want to invite students to mark the question “Art thou greater than our father Abraham?” in verse 53.)

Invite a student to read John 8:56–58 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Jesus’s response to the Jews’ question.

  • What was Jesus’s response to the question “Art thou greater than our father Abraham?” (You may want to invite students to mark the phrase “before Abraham was, I am” in verse 58.)

Invite students to read John 8:58, footnote b silently, looking for the meaning of the term “I am.” Then ask the following questions:

  • What does the term “I am” mean? (The term identifies Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; you may also need to explain that the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. You may want to invite students to write in their scriptures the following truth: Jesus Christ is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament.)

  • Based on your study of verse 58, what was Jesus’s response to the question about whether He was greater than Abraham?

Three Men in the Fiery Furnace Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Display several pictures from the Gospel Art Book ([2009]; see also LDS.org) that depict miracles recorded in the Old Testament (such as Three Men in the Fiery Furnace, no. 25; or Daniel in the Lion’s Den, no. 26).

  • If you had been standing before Jesus and had heard Him declare that He was the one who had wrought the miracles recorded in the Old Testament, how might you have responded to Him?

Invite a student to read John 8:59 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Jewish leaders responded to Jesus’s declaration that He was Jehovah. Invite students to report what they find.

  • Why do you feel it is important for us to know that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament?

Consider inviting a few students to share with the class their testimonies of Jesus Christ. You may want to conclude by sharing your own testimony as well.

scripture mastery iconScripture Mastery Review

Quizzes and tests give students opportunities to test their memory of scripture mastery passages. Clues could include key words or scripture references, quotations from passages, or scenarios that illustrate the truths taught in passages. Quizzes and tests could be given verbally, on the board, or on paper. After students have taken a quiz or test, consider pairing any students who are struggling with scripture mastery passages to work with high-scoring students. The higher-scoring student could act as a tutor to help the student with the lower score study and improve. (If you do this, make sure to do it in a manner that does not embarrass students who are struggling.)

Commentary and Background Information

John 8:33. “We be Abraham’s seed”

The declaration of the Jews that they are Abraham’s seed manifests a common misconception relating to the Abrahamic covenant and the doctrine of foreordination. The following explanation from the Bible Dictionary clarifies the promises made to and the responsibilities of Abraham’s seed:

“Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation). Then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase. Finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity (D&C 132:29–50; Abr. 2:6–11). … Abraham’s posterity would receive certain lands as an eternal inheritance (Gen. 17; 22:15–18; Gal. 3; Abr. 2). These promises taken together are called the Abrahamic covenant. …

“The portions of the covenant that pertain to personal salvation and eternal increase are renewed with each individual who receives the ordinance of celestial marriage (see D&C 132:29–33). Those of non-Israelite lineage, commonly known as gentiles, are adopted into the house of Israel, and become heirs of the covenant and the seed of Abraham, through the ordinances of the gospel (Gal. 3:26–29).

“Being an heir to the Abrahamic covenant does not make one a ‘chosen person’ per se but does signify that such are chosen to responsibly carry the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. Abraham’s seed have carried out the missionary activity in all the nations since Abraham’s day. (Matt. 3:9; Abr. 2:9–11)” (Bible Dictionary, “Abraham, Covenant of”).

John 8:58. What does the phrase “before Abraham was, I am” mean?

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the meaning and significance of the term “I am”:

“Jesus was Jehovah … (see Ex. 6:3; Ps. 83:18; Isa. 12:2; Isa. 26:4). The use of this holy name is also confirmed in modern scripture (see Moro. 10:34; D&C 109:68; D&C 110:3; D&C 128:9). Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew word hayah, which means ‘to be’ or ‘to exist.’ A form of the word hayah in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was translated as I AM (see Ex. 3:14).

“Remarkably, I AM was used by Jehovah as a name for Himself (see D&C 29:1; D&C 38:1; D&C 39:1). Read the following intriguing dialogue from the Old Testament. Moses had just received a divine appointment he did not seek, a commission to lead the children of Israel out of bondage. The scene takes place atop Mount Sinai:

“‘Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’

“No doubt Moses felt inadequate for his calling, even as you and I may when given a challenging assignment.

“‘And Moses said [again] unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

“‘And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

“‘And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever’ (Ex. 3:11, 13–15).

“Jehovah had thus revealed to Moses this very name that He had meekly and modestly chosen for His own premortal identification: ‘I AM’” (“Jesus the Christ: Our Master and More,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, 6–7).