John 8:21
Then said Jesus again to them, I go my way, and you shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: where I go, you cannot come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
[(b) Jesus is Light (continued).

(β)His return to the Father misunderstood by the Jews, and explained by Him (John 8:21-29).]

(21) Then said Jesus again unto them.—The best MSS. omit the word “Jesus,” and read, He said, therefore, again unto them. The word “therefore” connects the discourse which follows with something which has gone before, probably with the fact that no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come. He is still free to address the multitude, and after an interval does so. This interval is marked by the word “again,” but is not necessarily more than a short break in the discourse. We shall find reason for believing (see Note on John 9:14) that the whole of the teaching and work which is included between John 7:37; John 10:21, is probably to be placed on the last and great day of the feast. The persons addressed are the people assembled round Him in the Temple. Some of the officials take part in the discussion, for it is “the Jews” who reply in the next verse. We have to think, it may be, of men gathered together in small groups discussing what He had before said. Some are really inquiring with earnest hearts about Him. The rulers are trying to suppress the growing conviction of the multitude. There are thus two currents of thought and feeling. One is found in the honest hearts of the untutored multitude; they know little of argument, and dare not interpret the Scriptures for themselves, but in their rough-and-ready way they are grasping the truth; the heart of man is bowing before the presence of its God. The other is found in the priests and rulers to whom, as a holy and learned caste, the representatives of God to man and the interpreters of their Sacred Books, the people are in intellectual and moral bondage. They seek to bind with their fetters hearts that are finding their way to the truth. Some of these groups have moved on, it may be, and others have taken their place. Seeing a new audience near Him, Jesus speaks to them again; for it is not probable that the words of John 8:27 apply wholly to the same persons as those in John 8:19.

I go my way.—The rendering is a little tinged by the following thought. The Greek word is the same as in John 8:14, where it is rendered “I go.” There, as here, I go away is better. It was, let us again remind ourselves, the last day of the feast, and now its closing hours have come. That thronging multitude would be before the close of another day, leaving Jerusalem to spread itself through all the extent of Palestine and the Dispersion. He also is going away. Many of them will never see Him again. Before another Feast of Tabernacles He will, in a deeper sense, be going away. They will seek Him, but it will be too late. There is in all the discourse the solemn feeling that these are the last words for many who hear Him.

Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.—Comp. Notes on John 7:34; John 7:36. But here the result of the seeking and not finding is declared in the sadness of its fatal issue. “In your sins” is not quite exact, and is, perhaps, somewhat misleading. The Greek has the singular not the plural, and should be rendered “in your sin.” It points out the state of sin, rather than actual transgressions. This latter thought is expressed where the words are repeated in John 8:24.

John 8:21. Then said Jesus again — Probably in the same place where the preceding discourse was pronounced; and still confiding in the protection of Divine Providence; I go my way — That is, I shall speedily go away from among you; and ye shall seek me — Shall inquire after the Messiah; and shall die in your sins — Impenitent and unbelieving, and therefore unpardoned. Or, ye shall die, suffering the punishment of your sins: you shall perish for your unbelief and rejection of me, by a singular stroke of divine vengeance. The threatening, thus explained, conveys a prediction of the destruction of their city and state, in which probably some, that were now our Lord’s hearers, afterward perished. Whither I go ye cannot come — Either to molest me, or to secure yourselves. Though you should be ever so desirous of being admitted into my presence, the favour will not be granted you. He repeats what he had said to them in a former discourse, (see on John 7:33-34,) that it might make the deeper impression upon them. “He meant, that after his ascension into heaven, when the Roman armies were spreading desolation and death in every corner of the land, they would earnestly desire the coming of the Messiah, in expectation of deliverance, but should perish for their sins, and under the guilt of them, without any Saviour whatsoever, and be excluded for ever from heaven.” Some think, that in saying this, our Lord opposed a common error of the Jews, who imagined, that by death they made atonement for all their sins.8:21-29 Those that live in unbelief, are for ever undone, if they die in unbelief. The Jews belonged to this present evil world, but Jesus was of a heavenly and Divine nature, so that his doctrine, kingdom, and blessings, would not suit their taste. But the curse of the law is done away to all that submit to the grace of the gospel. Nothing but the doctrine of Christ's grace will be an argument powerful enough, and none but the Spirit of Christ's grace will be an agent powerful enough, to turn us from sin to God; and that Spirit is given, and that doctrine is given, to work upon those only who believe in Christ. Some say, Who is this Jesus? They allow him to have been a Prophet, an excellent Teacher, and even more than a creature; but cannot acknowledge him as over all, God blessed for evermore. Will not this suffice? Jesus here answers the question. Is this to honour him as the Father? Does this admit his being the Light of the world, and the Life of men, one with the Father? All shall know by their conversion, or in their condemnation, that he always spake and did what pleased the Father, even when he claimed the highest honours to himself.I go my way - See the notes at John 7:33.

Ye shall die in your sins - That is, you will seek the Messiah; you will desire his coming, but the Messiah that you expect will not come; and, as you have rejected me, and there is no other Saviour, you must die in your sins. You will die unpardoned, and as you did not seek me where you might find me, you cannot come where I shall be. Observe:

1. All those who reject the Lord Jesus must die unforgiven. There is no way of pardon but by him. See the notes at Acts 4:12.

2. There will be a time when sinners will seek for a Saviour but will find none. Often this is done too late, in a dying moment, and in the future world they may seek a deliverer, but not be able to find one.

3. Those who reject the Lord Jesus must perish. Where he is they cannot come. Where he is is heaven. Where he is not, with his favor and mercy, there is hell; and the sinner that has no Savior must be wretched forever.

21-25. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, &c.—(See on [1808]Joh 7:33). The greatest part of what is said here, was said by our Saviour before, John 7:34; (see the explication of it there); only here, instead of ye shall not find me, is,

ye shall die in your sins; a phrase we shall find in Ezekiel 3:18,19, which doubtless signifieth, in the guilt of your sins, not removed from you; and is a threatening of eternal death, as well as temporal in the destruction of Jerusalem: and those who do so, cannot come into heaven, where Christ is. Then said Jesus again unto them,.... It may be, immediately after he had said the above words; or rather some time after, it may be on the same day:

I go my way; meaning, the way of all flesh, or that he should die: the way of speaking shows, that his death was certain, a determined thing; which must be, and yet was voluntary: he was not driven, nor forced, but went freely; this being the path, the way, through which he must enter into his kingdom and glory:

and ye shall seek me; that is, shall seek the Messiah, as their deliverer and Saviour, when in distress; and whom he calls himself, because he was the true Messiah, and the only Saviour and Redeemer of his people, in a spiritual sense; otherwise they would not, nor did they seek Jesus of Nazareth:

and shall die in your sins; or "in your sin"; so it is in the Greek text, and in the Vulgate Latin, and Persic versions: meaning, in their sin of unbelief, and rejection of him the true Messiah: the sense is, that in the midst of their calamities, which should come upon them, for their sin against him, they should in vain seek for the Messiah, as a temporal deliverer of them; for their nation, city, and temple, and they therein should utterly perish, for their iniquity; and their ruin would not only be temporal, but eternal: since it follows,

whither I, go ye cannot come, signifying, that whereas he was going to his Father, to heaven and glory; to enjoy eternal happiness at his Father's right hand, in the human nature; they should never come there, but whilst many sat down in the kingdom of heaven, with their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who should come from afar, they would be shut out, and not suffered to enter in.

{8} Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

(8) Because men naturally abhor heavenly things, no man can be a fit disciple of Christ unless the Spirit of God makes him so: in the meantime nonetheless, the world must necessarily perish, because it refuses the life that is offered unto it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 8:21. A new scene here opens, as in John 8:12, and is therefore, after the analogy of John 8:12, to be placed in one of the following days (so also Ewald; and in opposition to Origen and the common supposition).

The connecting word, with which the further discussion on this occasion (it is different in John 8:12) takes its rise, is a word of grave threatening, more punitive than even John 7:34.

οὖν] As no one had laid hand on Him, comp. John 8:12.

πάλιν, as in John 8:12, indicating the delivery of a second discourse, not a repetition of John 7:34.

αὐτοῖς] to the Jews who were present in the temple, John 8:20; John 8:22.

ζητήσετέ με] namely, as a deliverer from the misfortunes that are coming upon you, as in John 7:34. But instead of the clause there added, καὶ οὐχ εὑρήσετε, here we have the far more tragical and positive declaration, κ. ἐν τ. ἁμαρτ. ὑμ. ἀποθ.: and (not reconciled and sanctified, but) in your sin (still laden with it and your unatoned guilt, John 9:34; 1 Corinthians 15:17) ye shall die, namely, in the universal misfortunes amid which you will lose your lives. Accordingly, ἐν is the state wherein, and not the cause whereby (Hengstenberg) they die. The text does not require us to understand eternal death, although that is the consequence of dying in this state. Ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ὑμῶν, however, is to be taken in a collective sense (see John 8:24; John 1:29; John 9:41), and not as merely referring to the sin of unbelief; though being itself sin (John 16:9), it is the ground of the non-extinction and increase of their sin. Between ζητήσετέ με, finally, and the dying in sin, there is no contradiction; for the seeking in question is not the seeking of faith, but merely that seeking of desperation whose object is merely deliverance from external afflictions. The futility of that search, so fearfully expressed by the words καὶ

ἀποθαν., is further explained by ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω, etc., for they cannot ascend into heaven, in order to find Jesus as a deliverer, and to bring Him down (to this view John 13:33 is not opposed). Accordingly, these words are to be taken quite as in John 7:34, not as referring to the hell into which they would come through death; for Jesus speaks, not of their condition after, but up to, their death.John 8:21-30. Further conversation with the Jews, in which Jesus warns them that He will not be long with them, and that unless they believe they will die in their sins. They will know that His witness is true after they have crucified Him.21. Then said Jesus again unto them] The name ‘Jesus’ should be omitted both here and in the preceding verse (see on John 6:14), and ‘then’ should be therefore (see on John 6:45; John 6:53; John 6:68, John 7:15; John 7:30; John 7:33; John 7:35; John 7:45). He said, therefore, again to them. The ‘therefore’ does not compel us to place what follows on the same day with what precedes; ‘therefore’ merely signifies that, as no one laid hands on Him, He was able to address them again. ‘Again’ shews that there is some interval, but whether of minutes, hours, or days, we have no means of determining. There is no distinct mark of time between John 7:37 (the close of the Feast of Tabernacles) and John 10:22 (the Feast of the Dedication), an interval of two months. See introductory note to chap. 6.

I go my way] There is no ‘my way’ in the Greek; the word is the same as for ‘I go’ in John 8:14 and John 7:33; but to avoid abruptness we may render, I go away. Possibly in all three passages there is a side reference to the Jews who were now leaving Jerusalem in great numbers, the Feast of Tabernacles being over.

shall seek me] See on John 7:33-34. Here Christ is more explicit; He does not say ‘shall not find Me,’ but ‘shall die in your sin.’ So far from finding Him and being delivered by Him, they will perish most miserably. In your sin shall ye die. ‘Sin’ is emphatic, and is singular, not plural, meaning ‘state of sin.’John 8:21. Πάλιν, again) For He had said so at ch. John 7:33, etc., “Ye shall seek Me, and not find Me; and where I am, thither ye cannot come,” when they had plotted against Him, as at this place.—ἀμαρτίᾳ, sin) The Singular: the whole of perdition is one, arising from unbelief, through which all sins flourish, John 8:24, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” [Plural]. In this place, the emphasis is on the word, sin, which in this verse comes first; afterwards [at John 8:24] on the verb ye shall die, which there comes first.—ἀποθανεῖσθε, ye shall die) by death of every kind [spiritual and eternal, of body and soul].—ὑπάγω, I go) John 8:22, ch. John 13:33; John 13:36. [to Simon Peter] “Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards;” John 14:4, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”Verse 21. - This verse introduces a new scene and place, and perhaps a new day. The audience may have greatly changed, even if it had within it some of the same bewildered and exasperated enemies. Again he said, therefore. The οϋν refers to the fact that his liberty had not been infringed. The providence of God, the fear of the people, the inadequacy or confusing nature of the reports of his speech which had been taken to the authorities, had for a while arrested the tragedy. "No one laid hands on him." In consequence of this circumstance he said unto them again (i.e. on a subsequent occasion), I go away, and ye shall seek me. So much he had said before to "the Jews," adding, "Ye shall not find me" (John 7:34). Thus also he spake, later on, to the disciples, adding, "Thither ye cannot come" (John 13:33). On all three occasions he was misunderstood. His departure was a mystery to the Jews, who thought, or at least said, that he, a pseudo-Messiah, might be contemplating a mission to the Greeks and to the Dispersion. His departure to the Father by a bloodstained pathway, by violent death, was unspeakably perplexing to his most intimate friends. The bare idea utterly conflicted with the current notion of the Christ; but it was in the last case (ch. 14.) modified by the promise that, though he was about to leave them and to return to his Father, yet he would come again - they should once more beheld him, and he would provide a place for them. Still, they would not be able for a while to follow him, even though willing to lay down their life for his sake (John 13:33, etc.). But in the face of a more bitter misunderstanding and an utter inability to perceive and know either him or the Father, Christ said not only, "Ye shall seek me," but ye shall die in your sin. The ἐν here indicates rather the condition in which they should die than the cause of their death. "In," not "of" (so Hengstenberg, Meyer, and Luthardt). He did not say, "perish by reason of this sin," but "die in this sin." They will die looking vaguely, hopelessly, for the Saviour whom they have, in such an hyperbole of spiritual dulness and of bitter malice alike, misunderstood and rejected. They will pass through the gate of death with no deliverance from sin secured. Knowing neither the Father nor the eternal life and light manifested in himself, they will seek and not find, they will die unsanctified, unatoned, unreconciled No gleam of light will play over the dark ness of the grave. Whither I go, ye cannot come. The eternal home of the Father's love will not open to such angry search. Such utter misunderstanding as they had evinced, such point blank refusal to walk in his light, will impede and block the way to the heart of the Father, whose perfect revelation and sufficient pleading they steadily resist. The language of this verse is probably the condensation and conclusion of s much longer debate. Then (οὖν)

Properly, therefore, connecting the fact of Jesus' continuing to speak with His freedom from arrest.

Said Jesus

Omit Jesus, and read, He said therefore.

Go away (ὑπάγω)

Withdraw myself from you; this sense being emphasized by the succeeding words, ye shall seek me. In expressing one's departure from men or from surrounding objects, we may emphasize merely the fact of removal, in which case ἀπέρχομαι, to go away, would be appropriate; or we may emphasize the removal as affecting some relation of the person to that from which he removes, as in John 6:67, where Jesus says to the disciples, "will ye also go away, or withdraw from me," in which case ὑπάγω is the proper word.

In your sin (ἐν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ὑμῶν)

See on Matthew 1:21. Note the singular, sin, not sins. It is used collectively to express the whole condition of estrangement from God.

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