John 8 – The Light of the World
A. A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus for judgment.
1. (7:53-8:2) Jesus teaches at the temple.
And everyone went to his own house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.
a. Everyone went to his own house: The sense in the text as we have it is that Jesus confounded His opponents as He preached at the temple and then they went their own ways. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to sleep.
i. As a matter of the original text, this is a section (John 7:53-8:11) of some debate and controversy. From manuscript current evidence, it seems unlikely that this portion was part of the original text of John’s gospel, or at least in this place.
· Most of the earliest ancient Greek manuscripts omit this section.
· Many later manuscripts mark this section with asterisks.
· One group of manuscripts inserts this section after Luke 21:38.
· A few manuscripts have this section after John 21:24, and one has it after John 7:36.
· “All this evidence suggests that scribes were often ignorant of its exact position, though anxious to retain it as part of the four Gospels.” (Tasker) They knew it belonged, but they didn’t exactly know where.
ii. Some ancient Christians (such as Augustine and Ambrose) omitted this story, not so much because of the textual evidence but because they thought it made Jesus appear to approve of sexual immorality, or at least not regard it as serious.
iii. At the same time, the character of the story makes it seem obvious that it is genuine, and many scholars note that it is historical and factual. Early Christian writers mention this account as soon as the early second century (a.d. 100). We have good reason to believe that this actually happened, and that John really wrote this. There is some debate as to where it belongs in the Gospel accounts, but there is good reason to believe it belongs.
iv. “If not John’s it was a very early interpolation: it may possibly have had the sanction of Simeon or Jude (early 2nd century), the second and third bishops of Jerusalem, ‘brethren’ of our Lord, the last survivors of the Apostolic age. These two seem to have been connected with the editing of this gospel, for they are probably the ‘we’ of John 21:24 and the two unnamed disciples of John 21:2.” (Trench)
v. “If we cannot feel that this is part of John’s Gospel we can feel that the story is true to the character of Jesus.” (Morris)
b. He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them: If we take the chronology of the Gospel of John in its current composition, Jesus remained in Jerusalem for a few days after the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37). Though the religious authorities wanted to silence and arrest Him, He still boldly taught large crowds in the most public place in Jerusalem – the temple.
2. (3-5) The woman is brought to Jesus, caught in the act of adultery.
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
a. Brought to Him a woman caught in adultery: They did this as Jesus publically taught in the temple courts. They wanted to make this as public as possible, to embarrass both the woman and Jesus.
i. “All the indications are that her accusers had some special vindictiveness against her. This is shown also in the fact that they brought the woman along publicly…There was no need for this. She might have been kept in custody while the case was referred to Jesus.” (Morris)
ii. The verb caught is in the perfect tense. “The perfect indicates a meaning like ‘taken with her shame upon her’. It points to her continuing character as an adulteress.” (Morris)
b. This woman was caught in adultery, in the very act: The religious leaders brought this woman to Jesus in shame-filled, humiliating circumstances. She was held against her will, a prisoner under the custody of the religious police who caught her involved with a man not her husband, in the very act of adultery.
i. To mention the obvious, there was also a man involved in this very act of adultery – yet the guilty man was not brought before Jesus for judgment. It also meant that there were pre-arranged spies sent to witness this affair, and they carefully noted the sordid details.
ii. Morris points out that legally speaking, the standard of evidence was very high for this crime. There had to be two witnesses and they had to agree perfectly. They had to see the sexual act take place; it wasn’t enough to see the pair leaving the same room together or even lying on the same bed together. “The actual physical movements of the couple must have been capable of no other explanation…. conditions were so stringent that they could have been met only on rare occasions.” (Morris)
iii. “Under these conditions the obtaining of evidence in adultery would be almost impossible were the situation not a setup.” (Boice)
c. Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned: It is true that adultery was a capital offense under Jewish law, but the rules for evidence in capital cases were extremely strict. The actual act had to be observed by multiple witnesses who agreed exactly in their testimony. As a practical matter, virtually no one was executed for adultery, since this was a relatively private sin.
i. “It appears that by the first century ad the full rigour of the law was no longer applied as a general rule, in urban communities at any rate.” (Bruce)
ii. “From the reference to the law in verse 5 it might seem that she was liable to this particular punishment because she had sinned during the period of betrothal, fornication during that time being regarded as adultery.” (Tasker)
d. But what do You say? They set a trap for Jesus. If Jesus said, “Let her go,” then He would seem to break the Law of Moses. If He said, “Execute her for the crime of adultery,” then Jesus would seem harsh and perhaps cruel. Also, He would break Roman law, because the Romans had taken the right of official execution for religious offenses away from the Jews.
i. This was a similar dilemma as posed by the question to Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22).
3. (6) Jesus ignores the accusers, as if He never heard them.
This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
a. This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him: The religious leaders – wretched men as they were – used this woman as a weapon against Jesus. They presented her as a sinner before Jesus, but ignored their own sin in the matter.
i. They cared nothing for true righteousness, for it was evident that they carefully arranged both the adulterous act and her arrest. They claimed that this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act – yet they did not bring the guilty man before Jesus. It’s possible that the man was one of them, and they simply used the woman as a weapon or pawn in their conflict against Jesus.
ii. “Adultery is not the kind of offence that can be committed by one person in solitude; if she was caught red-handed, how was her guilty partner allowed to escape?” (Bruce)
iii. “They were not looking on this woman as a person at all; they were looking on her only as a thing, an instrument whereby they could formulate a charge against Jesus.” (Barclay)
b. Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger: This was a careful and deliberate response from Jesus. Instead of making an immediate verbal response He stooped down. Then He wrote on the ground with His finger, presumably in the dirt on the ground.
i. Stooped down indicates humility. Jesus didn’t react with anger or immediate outrage. He didn’t scream at the woman or those who brought the woman. Jesus paused and stooped down.
ii. Stooped down is a low posture, identifying with the humiliation of the woman. Jesus did what He could to identify with, care for, and ease the embarrassment of this woman. One may say this story illustrates the great problem: how can God show love and grace to the sinner without being unjust, without breaking His own law? He does it by first identifying with the sinner in their low condition.
iii. Wrote on the ground means that Jesus could write, and that He wrote in the presence of the woman and these men. What Jesus wrote has been an endless source of speculation for teachers, preachers, and commentators.
· Some think that Jesus simply doodled in the dirt. The verb translated wrote could also mean, “to draw.” (Morris)
· Some think Jesus simply stalled for time.
· Some think that Jesus wrote the passage in the law that condemned the adulterous woman.
· Some think Jesus wrote out a passage like Exodus 23:1: Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
· Some think that Jesus wrote the names of the accusers.
· Some think that Jesus the sins of the accusers.
· Some think that Jesus followed Roman judicial practice and wrote out His sentence before He said it.
iv. “The normal Greek word for to write is graphein; but here the word used is katagrapheini, which can mean to write down a record against someone.” (Barclay)
c. As though He did not hear: As Jesus stooped down and wrote, He acted as if He did not even hear the accusation against the woman. Perhaps Jesus ignored them because He despised their wicked work. Perhaps Jesus ignored them because He was embarrassed for the woman’s sake.
i. Paul made reference to the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:1) – this is what we see on display here.
4. (7-8) Jesus passes sentence upon the accusers.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
a. So when they continued asking Him: Jesus stooped down, wrote on the ground, and acted as if He did not hear the accusers of the woman taken in adultery. The men who brought the woman didn’t stop asking Jesus what should be done with her – they continued asking Him.
b. He raised Himself up and said to them: Jesus said this directly to the accusers of the woman, standing up to make eye contact with them.
c. He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first: In Jewish law, witnesses to the capital crime began the stoning. Jesus really said, “We may execute her, but we must do it correctly. One of the witnesses must begin her execution. So who among you is the one who witnessed this crime, and only brought to Me the woman, not the man? Who designed the humiliation of this poor woman?”
i. Instead of passing a sentence upon the woman, Jesus passed a sentence upon His accusers. He didn’t say, “Don’t execute her.” He simply demanded that justice be fairly and righteously applied.
ii. Without sin among you: It wasn’t that these men had sinned once or twice before, and so had no right to be concerned about the woman’s sin. It’s that they orchestrated and plotted her sin, her shame, using her as a weapon against Jesus. In this direct incident they had a greater sin and a greater guilt.
iii. In this Jesus exposed a common sin: a desire to punish the sins of others, while ignoring our own sin. King David was an example of this when Nathan the Prophet told him the story of a man who stole and killed the pet lamb of another man (2 Samuel 12:1-10).
iv. If we must look at the sins of others, we must be aware that we have also sinned. There is still a place for exposing and rebuking and directly dealing with the sins of others in God’s family, but it must always be done with a heart that recognizes itself as a forgiven sinner. When done right, confronting sin is done more often with tears and a broken heart than with anger and condemnation.
d. Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground: Jesus seemed to do everything He could to calm the excitement and tension at the scene, probably out of concern for the woman’s dignity and safety. Again, Jesus wrote on the ground.
i. He didn’t stare down the accusing men in an act of intimidation. Jesus did everything in this situation to make things less tense, not more tense. He did not try to change them through intimidation.
ii. Jesus continued to care about the shame of the woman and did what He could to ease it. Shame may serve a helpful purpose, but God never intended it to be a permanent condition.
5. (9) The accusers respond by leaving.
Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
a. Being convicted by their conscience: They were convicted by what they heard from Jesus. Seemingly it wasn’t what Jesus wrote (though that may have had something to do with it). More so, it was what Jesus said that convicted their conscience.
i. It spoke well of these men that their conscience was not dead or burned over. They still could be convicted by their conscience. They were now more aware of their own sin than the sin of the woman.
b. Went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last: We understand why they left; they were convicted by their conscience. It’s not immediately clear why they left in order; the oldest even to the last. Perhaps the oldest left first because they most easily understood that Jesus was talking about them.
i. “The continuous tense in this last verb gives the thought of something like a procession. They kept on going out.” (Morris)
ii. Some speculate that Jesus wrote on the ground an account of their own sins, beginning from the oldest to the youngest – explaining the order of their departure.
c. The woman standing in the midst: This is the only reference in the account to the physical posture of the woman. It is possible that the religious leaders who brought her to Jesus forced her to stand through the ordeal. Yet human nature and the repeated stooping posture of Jesus suggests that the woman, for all or some of this ordeal, was in a low posture on the ground.
i. The ancient Greek word translated standing (histemi) often means “to stand,” but is sometimes understood in a figurative sense – such as to set or to place, as in Matthew 4:5 and 18:2. The phrase standing in the midst doesn’t demand that the woman was actually standing upon her feet.
6. (10-11) Jesus challenges the woman to sin no more.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
a. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman: The accusers left as Jesus was bowed down to the ground, writing in the dirt.
b. Where are those accusers of yours?Has no one condemned you? With her accusers gone, there was no one left to condemn the woman, and Jesus Himself did not condemn her.
c. She said, “No one, Lord”: The woman – guilty of sin, and a great sin – knew the goodness of having no condemnation. She passed from sin and a death sentence to forgiveness and life.
d. Neither do I condemn you: In a sense, Jesus took her guilt upon Himself, especially as He so demonstrably stooped down. He alone was without sin among them. Knowing all things, He had the right to cast the first stone – but He did not. The woman found refuge in connection to Jesus.
i. “They knew the thrill of exercising power to condemn; Jesus knew the thrill of exercising the power to forgive.” (Barclay)
ii. In a sense, Jesus here modeled the great truth of Romans 8:1: That there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
e. Go and sin no more: Jesus sent her away with a call to stop her sin, and to continue stopped in regard to that sin. He sent her away without ever approving of or accepting her sin.
i. “The form of the command implies a ceasing to commit an action already started: ‘Stop your sinful habit’. And the ‘no more’ points to the thought of no return.” (Morris)
ii. Jesus did several things with these powerful words.
· He recognized that what the woman had done was sin, because He told her to stop sinning.
· He told her to repent, and to not continue her sin.
· He gave her hope that her life could go on in freedom from sexual sin.
· He gave her a word of hope to speak against the shame that would later likely threaten to overwhelm her life.
iii. The woman needed hope because the consequences of her sin would be severe enough. After this she would likely be shunned by her community, and rejected by her husband, perhaps even divorced (assuming she was married or betrothed).
B. The Light of the World answers opposition at the temple.
1. (12) Jesus, the light of the world.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
a. Jesus spoke to them again: If we take the arrangement of the Gospel of John as it is in the common text, the incident of the woman caught in adultery interrupted Jesus as He taught at the temple courts in the days immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles. Now, He resumed His teaching.
b. I am the light of the world: Light was an important symbol in the Feast of Tabernacles. During the feast, many emblems and ceremonies remembered the pillar of fire that gave light to Israel during the Exodus. Now, Jesus took this important symbol and simply applied it to Himself: I am the light of the world.
i. Barclay and several others connects the light of the world sayings with a ceremony associated with the Feast of Tabernacles known as The Illumination of the Temple. “It was the custom during the first night, if not during every night, of the feast of tabernacles, to light up two large golden chandeliers in the court of the women, the light of which illuminated all Jerusalem. All that nigh they held a festal dance by the light.” (Alford)
ii. This was a strong and eloquent contrast to the darkness of those opposing Jesus, those who just brought to Him the woman caught in adultery.
iii. ” ‘I am’ is emphatic. It is the very style of deity which we have seen employed before in this Gospel.” (Morris)
c. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness: Jesus, being the light of the world, brings light to those who follow Him. When we follow Him, we stay in the light and do not walk in darkness.
i. He who follows Me: “If a man could travel so fast as always to follow the sun, of course he would always be in the light. If the day should ever come when the speed of the railway shall be equal to the speed of the world’s motion, then a man may so live as to never lose the light. Now he that follows Christ shall never walk in darkness.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The Hebrew Scriptures often spoke of God’s Word as light.
· Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).
· Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me (Psalm 43:3).
iii. Since Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), it makes perfect sense that He is also the light.
2. (13-16) The first witness to Jesus: Jesus Himself.
The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.
a. You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true: Jesus just proclaimed that He was the light of the world, but the Pharisees couldn’t see it. They couldn’t see His light, but it was because they were blind, not because the light of Jesus failed to shine.
i. A seeing man doesn’t need someone to prove the light; he simply sees it. “Light establishes its claim. It does so, not by arguments, but by shining. Light must always be accepted for itself, and that notwithstanding the objections of the blind.” (Morris)
ii. The Pharisees couldn’t prove that Jesus was not the Messiah that He claimed to be. They hoped to change the argument, saying that Jesus couldn’t prove Himself to be Messiah and God, that He didn’t have the witnesses to prove the claim.
iii. If they couldn’t kill Jesus the witness, they hoped to intimidate Him. If they couldn’t intimidate Him, they hoped to show that He was an unreliable, untrustworthy witness.
b. Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true: Jesus would agree that under normal circumstances, a man’s testimony regarding Himself could not be established as true. Nevertheless, Jesus pointed out the He was qualified to give testimony about Himself.
i. Jesus can testify about Himself because He (and not they) had a view of eternity: I know where I came from and where I am going.
ii. Jesus can testify about Himself because He (and not they) judged righteously: You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. “They had constituted themselves His judges, and the decided against Him, because ‘according to the flesh’ He was born in Galilee.” (Dods)
iii. Jesus can testify about Himself because His testimony was fully supported by God the Father: My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.
iv. “He must give witness about Himself: no one else is qualified to give witness about His nature and about His essential work.” (Trench)
c. I am with the Father who sent Me: Though the religious leaders protested, Jesus was absolutely settled and secure in His identity, despite all the voices that told Him otherwise. This place of being settled and secure in one’s identity is a wonderful pattern for believers today.
3. (17-18) The second witness to Jesus: God the Father.
It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”
a. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true: Jesus believed that His testimony was enough. Yet to accommodate them, He also brought another testimony.
i. “If the Jews then demand two witnesses in order to satisfy the Jewish law of evidence, those two witness exist; they are Jesus and His Father.” (Tasker)
b. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me: God the Father also testified that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son.
i. “Our Lord speaks here exactly in the character of an ambassador. Such a person does not bring a second with him to vouch his truth; his credentials from his king ascertain his character: he represents the king’s person. So our Lord represents the Father as bearing witness with him.” (Clarke)
4. (19-20) Jesus knows His Father; the Pharisees did not.
Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.
a. Where is Your father? The Pharisees probably intended this as a deeply cutting insult to Jesus. They referred to the controversy around His virgin birth, and to the rumors that it was not a miraculous conception, but an impure one.
i. “In the East, to question a man’s paternity is definite slur on his legitimacy.” (Tenney)
b. You know neither Me nor My Father: In referring to Jesus’ parentage, the Pharisees thought they had some damaging or scandalous information on Him. They must have thought, “Watch how He reacts when we reveal what we know about Him.” In response, Jesus made it clear that they did not know anything about Him or His Father.
i. “They prided themselves on their knowledge of their God. Jesus tells them that they have no knowledge of Him at all.” (Morris)
c. These words He spoke in the treasury: John reminds us that Jesus had this debate with His opponents in the most public place in Jerusalem – right on the temple mount. Still, no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.
5. (21-22) Jesus tells of His coming departure; the religious leaders insult Him.
Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?”
a. I am going away . . . Where I go you cannot come: Jesus knew He was going to heaven. Because of their hatred against Him, Jesus could say that His accusers were not going to heaven. Where He was going, they could not follow.
i. If we follow Jesus on earth, we will follow Him to heaven. If we express no desire to follow Him on earth, what would make us think we would follow Him to heaven?
b. Will He kill Himself? This was another insult against Jesus. The Jews of Jesus’ time taught that the lowest levels of Hades were for those who committed suicide. Here the Pharisees tried to twist Jesus’ words to imply that He will commit suicide and therefore be damned.
i. “According to Jewish thought, the depths of hell were reserved for those who took their own lives.” (Barclay)
6. (23-24) Two destinies: Jesus will go to glory; on their present course they will die in their sins.
And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
a. You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world: The Pharisees opposing Jesus implied that He would go to hell as a suicide (according to their teaching). Jesus answered that they did have different destinies, just not as they thought.
b. If you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins: These men were religious leaders, yet lived in darkness that filled their mind and their deeds. The darkness remained because they rejected (do not believe) the light. Jesus gave them a serious warning; the day of grace would not last forever. Death would make their sinful darkness permanent.
i. People are born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and if we hold on to our sin, and do not deal with it, we will die in our sins. Since all sin must be dealt with, those who die in their sins will have to pay for their sins in hell. But if we have our sins dealt with now, on this side of death, by trusting in whom Jesus is and what He did to save us, we can avoid dying in our sins.
ii. “The plural ‘sins’ is used in verse 24, as against the singular ‘sin’ in verse 21; if the singular expresses the root sin of unbelief, the plural expresses those particular attitudes, words and actions which make up its fruit.” (Bruce)
c. If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins: Jesus called them to believe that I am. The “He” is rightly in italics and added by the translators. The title “I am” is a claim to deity, and if the Pharisees will be saved from dying in their sins, they must believe in Jesus and in who He really is – God the Son.
i. “We should probably understand it along the lines of the similar expression in LXX, which is the style of deity …The same Greek expression occurs in 6:20, 18:6, neither of which is difficult to understand.” (Morris)
7. (25-27) Jesus tells of His dependence on God the Father for all He said.
Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.
a. Who are You? This is a wonderful question to ask with a sincere heart. Yet this question of the Pharisees came from a combination of willful confusion and contempt. Though Jesus told them again and again who He was, they continued to ask, always hoping for an answer they could use to trap and condemn Him.
i. Some questions aren’t used to discover the truth; they are used to resist the truth and justify a refusal to believe. The religious leaders asked many hostile questions:
· Where is Your Father? (John 8:19)
· Will He kill Himself? (John 8:22)
· Who are You? (John 8:25)
ii. “The question ‘Who are you, anyway?’ shows the Pharisees’ exasperation with Jesus’ hints and seeming extravagant claims.” (Tenney)
b. Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning: Jesus didn’t have a new answer for them. He would repeat the truths and themes He spoke to them many times before.
i. I have many things to say and to judge concerning you: “I could speedily expose all your iniquities-your pride and ambition, your hypocrisy and irreligion, your hatred to the light, and your malice against the truth, together with the present obstinate unbelief of your hearts, and show that these are the reasons why I say you will die in your sins.” (Clarke)
c. I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him: Jesus emphasized the point again, that His words were from God the Father. Therefore if the Pharisees opposed Jesus, they really opposed God the Father.
8. (28-30) Jesus tells of His dependence on God the Father for all He does.
Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.
c. When you lift up the Son of Man: The “lifting up” Jesus described had nothing to do with “exalting” Jesus in ways we normally think. It wasn’t about getting Him applause and celebrity. Instead, it had to do with “lifting up” Jesus off the ground on a cross. When Jesus was crucified, they would see the perfect obedience of the Son to the Father. They would see that truly, I do nothing of Myself.
i. “His ‘lifting up’ would be his vindication: then it would be manifest that he had acted and spoken throughout by the Father’s authority.” (Bruce)
b. The Father has not left Me alone: The unity between the Father and the Son continued and will continue. Despite the accusations of the Pharisees, Jesus was as close to His Father as ever.
c. I always to the things that please Him: Jesus was bold enough to say these words to His adversaries – essentially challenging His enemies to find some thing the He did or does that is not pleasing to God the Father. In response, His enemies were silent. This was a remarkable testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus.
i. I always do those things that please Him: It is easy to say, “I always do the will of the Father” when you only debate theological points. It is another thing entirely to “always do the will of the Father” when it means going to the cross. The cross would prove the perfect obedience of Jesus.
d. As He spoke these words, many believed in Him: When the Pharisees heard Jesus speak they became more opposed to Him. Yet there were many who heard the same words and believed in Him. They believed despite the evident opposition of the religious leaders.
i. Jesus’ message of His unity with the Father was so well received by some because His life was consistent with the message. Unlike the Pharisees, one could see that Jesus was close to God. The Pharisees cultivated an image of intimacy with God, but it was evident they were not actually close to God.
9. (31-32) Jesus offers discipleship and freedom to those believing in Him.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
a. Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him: The previous verse tells us that many believed in Him (John 8:30). Jesus spoke to those who had that beginning of belief, telling them what they needed to continue in belief.
i. “This section of the discourse is addressed to those who believe, and yet do not believe. Clearly they were inclined to think that what Jesus said was true. But they were not prepared to yield Him the far-reaching allegiance that real trust in Him implies. This is a most dangerous spiritual state.” (Morris)
b. If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed: If we will be Jesus’ disciples, we must abide in His word. There is no other way. To be a follower of Jesus – the Word made flesh – is to abide (to live in, to dwell in, to make your home in) His word.
i. If you abide in My word: “To those who have just been described as believing on Him Jesus went on to say, ‘If you’ – emphasized in distinction from those who had not believed – ‘abide in my word’ – not content with making the first step towards faith and obedience – ‘then’ – but not till then – ‘are ye really my disciples.'” (Dods)
ii. Tasker described what it means to abide in His word: “Welcoming it, being at home with it, and living with it so continuously that it becomes part of the believer’s life, a permanent influence and stimulus in every fresh advance in goodness and holiness.” (Tasker)
iii. This too is another statement reflecting the unity between the Father and the Son. Jesus called men to abide in His word. In the mouth of anyone other than Jesus, these words would be absurd.
iv. “Our treatment of our Lord’s words discriminates us: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, is he that loveth Me.” (Meyer)
c. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free: This is the result of abiding in the word of Jesus. We prove ourselves to be His disciples and we know the truth, and God works His freedom in our life through His truth. The freedom Jesus spoke of doesn’t come from just an academic pursuit of truth in general; but from abiding in His word and being His disciple.
i. There is nothing like the freedom we can have in Jesus. No money can buy it, no status can obtain it, no works can earn it, and nothing can match it. It is tragic that not every Christian experiences this freedom, which can never be found except by abiding in God’s word and being Jesus’ disciple.
10. (33-36) Jesus answers their protest that they are already free.
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
a. We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone: The reaction of the religious leaders wasn’t, “That’s wonderful! Tell us more about what it means to be free by trusting in Your word.” Instead they reacted, we don’t need this. We’re good.
i. This was a remarkable and unthinking statement. They Jewish people had been in bondage under Egypt and the Philistines; under Babylon, Persia, Syria, and Rome. “Was there not a Roman garrison looking down from the castle into the very Temple courts where this boastful falsehood was uttered?” (Maclaren)
ii. Yet, many Jewish people of that time had a strong sense of their own independence. “Josephus writes of the followers of Judas in Galilee who led a famous revolt against the Romans: ‘They have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and they say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord’ (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:1,6).” (Barclay)
iii. “The power of self-deception in the unconverted man is infinite.” (Ryle)
b. Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin: Sin in this passage is in a verb tense indicating a habitual, continual action. The person in habitual sin is a slave of sin.
i. “The participial construction ‘everyone who sins’ is in the present tense, which implies a continual habit of sinning rather than an occasional lapse.” (Tenney)
ii. “There is another kind of slavery than social or economic slavery. Sin is a slave-master, and it is possible even for people who think of themselves as free to be enslaved in sin.” (Bruce)
iii. “It is far commoner for man never to have done some given evil, never to have got drunk, never to have stolen, or the like, than to have done it only once.” (Maclaren)
iv. “We should not minimize the force of ‘bondservant’. It does not mean a person who is paid wages and who has a considerable area of freedom. It means a slave.” (Morris)
c. A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever: Slavery to sin is the worst kind of slavery, because there is no escape from our self. A Son must set us free, and the Son of God sets us free and brings us into the household of God.
i. “The slave has no permanent footing in the house; he may be dismissed or sold.” (Dods)
d. If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed: If we are set free from our slavery to sin – set free by a Son, and set free by abiding in Jesus’ word and being His disciple – then we are free indeed, having a true freedom that contrasts to the “freedom” the Pharisees blindly claimed in John 8:33.
i. The Son makes you free: “So the slave of sin cannot by himself change his status. He cannot convert himself, nor can he be converted by any fellow-sinner… The liberator from our bondage must come from outside the ranks of enslaved humanity.” (Tasker)
ii. “If we are slaves of Sin, then we may be transferred from its household and brought into our true home in our Father’s house. Here, then, is the blessed hope for us all.” (Maclaren)
iii. An 82 year-old Christian woman from Hong Kong told of her life in China, but still used much of the vocabulary that the Communists used in describing their revolution – they called it “the liberation.” She was asked, “When you were back in China, were you free to gather together with other Christians to worship?” “Oh no,” she answered. “Since the liberation no one is permitted to gather together for Christian services.” “But surely you were able to get together in small groups and discuss the Christian faith?” “No, we were not,” the woman replied. “Since the liberation all such meeting are forbidden.” “Were you free to read the Bible?” “Since the liberation, no one is free to read the Bible.”
iv. The point is clear: freedom does not consist in the word “freedom,” or in words, but in relationship to Jesus Christ, through abiding in His Word, and being His disciple.
11. (37-41a) They prove themselves to be unlike their father Abraham.
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”
a. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants: Jesus would admit that they are Abraham’s descendants in a genetic sense, but Abraham was not their father in a spiritual sense. When messengers from heaven came to Abraham, he received them (Genesis 18); but these genetic descendants of Abraham rejected and sought to kill the One sent from heaven.
i. “To cherish murderous intentions against someone who has imparted the truth of God to them is not the mark of the children of Abraham.” (Bruce)
b. Because My word has no place in you: Their rejection of the word of Jesus and Jesus the Word proved that they were not like Abraham, and that they did not have the freedom that comes from abiding in His word.
i. Spurgeon considered several ways that God’s word should have a place in the believer.
· The word of God ought to have an inward place
· The word of God ought to have a place of high honor
· The word of God ought to have a place of trust
· The word of God ought to have a place of rule
· The word of God ought to have a place of love
· The word of God ought to have a permanent place
c. I speak what I have seen with My Father: Jesus reminded them that what He did was consistent with His Father, and what they did was consistent with their father (you do what you have seen with your father). Jesus would soon clearly tell them who their father was.
d. Abraham is our father: The religious leaders protested that Abraham was their true father. This was true in a genetic sense, but not in a spiritual sense. Jesus agreed they were descendants (John 8:37) of Abraham, but not children of Abraham because they sought to kill Jesus, when Abraham embraced Him. They were doing the deeds of their father.
i. Jesus exposed the inconsistency in their life. They said they were children of Abraham, but didn’t act like it at all. “If their origin could be wholly traced to Abraham, then their conduct would resemble his.” (Dods)
ii. Jesus’ point was important. Our spiritual parentage is what determines our nature and our destiny. If we are born again, and have God as our Father, it will show in our nature and destiny. But if our father is Satan or Adam, it will also show in our nature and destiny – just as it shows in these adversaries of Jesus.
12. (41b-43) The religious leaders again question the parentage of Jesus.
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father; God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.”
a. We were not born of fornication: As previously in John 8:19, they again insulted the parentage of Jesus, calling Him an illegitimate child. The implication was, “We were not born of fornication, but we don’t know about You, Jesus.”
i. “While John does not speak directly of the virgin birth, there may be hints that he knew of it and that some of the people knew that there was a mystery surrounding Jesus’ origin.” (Tenney)
b. If God were your Father, you would love Me: Jesus again made the remarkable claim that He and His Father were and are so close in nature that if one truly lives as if God is their Father, they would also love Jesus. There is no room left for the person who says, “I love God but reject Jesus.”
c. For I proceeded forth and came from God: Jesus here described His unity of nature and purpose and will with God the Father.
i. “Am come conveys the result of proceeded forth, which must be taken in its deeper theological meaning, of the proceeding forth of the Eternal Son from the essence of the Father.” (Alford)
ii. I proceeded forth and came from God: “That points to His earthly life as being the permanent result of an initial act, which was voluntary and His own, and behind which stretched on an indefinite existence.” (Maclaren)
iii. “So long as the Jews thought there was but One Person in the Godhead, it was impossible for them to believe aright in our Lord: hence His insistence to their theologians that He has a Father; that He is not The Father, but is The Son; that The Son, though He is not The Father, is for all that God.” (Trench)
d. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word: Jesus explained that the problem with their lack of understanding was rooted in their failure – even inability – to listen to His word. This reminds is that the ability to listen to His word is a gift that one should be grateful for.
i. “The impossibility was spiritual. Prejudices, jealousies, and antagonisms made the real Christ inaudible to them though His every syllable fell upon the ear.” (Morrison)
13. (44-47) Jesus reveals the identity of their true father.
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
a. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do: The religious leaders brought up the issue of parentage by insulting Jesus in John 8:41. Jesus replied by explaining their spiritual parentage – they were the spiritual children of the devil. This was evident in that their desires matched the devil’s desires: the desire to kill and deceive.
i. “This verse is one of the most decisive testimonies for the objective personality of the devil. It is quite impossible to suppose an accommodation to Jewish views, or a metaphorical form of speech, in so solemn and direct an assertion as this.” (Alford)
ii. He was a murderer from the beginning: “Cyril and some others think it is the first murder, that of Abel, that is in view (1 John 3:15), but far more probably it is the introduction of death through the first sin.” (Dods)
b. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources: Jesus gives us some insight into the character of Satan. The lie is core to the devil’s character, and he is the deceiver most dangerous of all – the deceiver who has deceived himself.
c. But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me: They rejected Jesus because He told them truth they did not want to hear. It was not because He spoke lies.
d. Which of you convicts Me of sin? Again, Jesus gave His enemies – who hated Him so badly they wanted to kill Him – an opportunity to declare some sin in Him – and they could not. This was another remarkable testimony to the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.
i. “We are often so interested in the fact that they found no charge to ay that we overlook that other fact that the really striking thing is the making of the challenge. It betokens a clear and serene conscience. Only one who was in the closest and most intimate communion with the Father could have spoken such words.” (Morris)
e. You do not hear, because you are not of God: Jesus pressed home the point of spiritual parentage, which was evident by their actions – notably their rejection of Jesus and His word.
14. (48-50) Jesus answers the charge that He is demon possessed.
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.”
a. Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon? The enemies of Jesus were frustrated and exasperated. They were unable to make Jesus look bad, and even more had believed on Him (John 8:30). So they launched their last attack: name-calling.
· You are a Samaritan (one of the most despised races to the Jews)
· And have a demon (saying that Jesus was demon possessed)
b. I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father: Jesus’ desire to honor God and His personal humility disproved any charge of demonic possession. Since those who have Satan as their spiritual parent will have some of the characteristics of Satan, they will have an evident pride and self-seeking – things that were and are absent in Jesus.
i. “No man can be said to have a devil who honors God; for the evil spirit from the beginning has been the enemy of all that glorifies the Father.” (Spurgeon)
15. (51-53) The great promise to those who accept Jesus and keep His word.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself out to be?”
a. If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death: This is another remarkable claim that only makes sense if Jesus is God, and is one with God the Father. Jesus promises eternal life to those who keep His word.
i. “To keep my word, as, ‘to continue in my word,’ verse 31, is not only outward obedience, but the endurance in, and obedience of faith.” (Alford)
ii. Never see death: “Our face is turned away from death…The Greek is not fully interpreted by the word ‘see’: it is an intenser word. According to Westcott, the sight here mentioned is that of ‘a long, steady, exhaustive vision, whereby we become slowly acquainted with the nature of the object to which it is directed.’…While unforgiven, I cannot help gazing upon it, and foreseeing it as my doom. When the gospel of the Lord Jesus comes to my soul, and I keep his saying by faith, I am turned completely round. My back is upon death, and my face is towards life eternal.” (Spurgeon)
b. Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead: The great claim of Jesus delighted the religious leaders; they believed they finally caught Him in a clearly blasphemous claim. They denied the claim Jesus made to grant eternal life.
i. We note that the religious leaders slightly twisted the words of Jesus. He said that the one who keeps His word would never stare death face to face; they claimed He said that this one would never taste death. The believer will indeed taste death, but is not terrorized by this defeated foe.
c. Are you greater than our father Abraham: They put the question plainly to Jesus. Hoping Jesus would be further caught in a trap, they asked “Whom do You make Yourself out to be?“
16. (54-55) The claim of Jesus to know God contrasted with the claim of the religious leaders.
Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.”
a. If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing: Before Jesus answered their question in John 8:53 He came back to the matter of spiritual parentage. Jesus was secure in knowing that God was His Father and it is My Father who honors Me.
i. “It is not difficult to honour oneself; it is easy enough – in fact, fatally easy – to bask in the sunshine of one’s own approval.” (Barclay)
b. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him: The religious leaders claimed that the Father in heaven was their God, but it was not a true claim. In truth, they did not know God, but Jesus did.
c. I do know Him and keep His word: Jesus could not lie and deny His true knowledge of God the Father, demonstrated by a life of obedience to God’s word.
17. (56-59) Jesus makes the great declaration, I am.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
a. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad: Jesus made another remarkable claim, answering their questions in John 8:53. Jesus claimed that not only was He greater than Abraham, but Abraham himself also acknowledged this.
i. “But when did he ‘exult’ to see the day of Christ? Perhaps when he said to Isaac on their way to the place of sacrifice, ‘God will provide himself with a lamb for the burnt-offering’ (Genesis 22:8).” (Bruce)
ii. “It is interesting also that the Hebrew expression in Genesis 24:1, which stated that Abraham ‘went into the days’ (an expression translated in our Bible ‘was well-stricken in age’) was taken by some Rabbis to mean that he saw into the distant future.” (Tasker)
b. You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? The remarkable statement that Abraham saw and acknowledged the greatness of Jesus was more than they could understand. They asked, “How could you know Abraham rejoiced in You? Were You there?”
i. “Perhaps the tensions of his life had aged him prematurely, yet he was obviously less than fifty years of age.” (Tenney)
ii. ” ‘Fifty years’ may be used as a round number, sufficiently exact for their purpose and with no intention to determine the age of Jesus.” (Dods)
iii. “Why fifty? That was the age at which the Levites retired from their service (Numbers 4:3). The Jews were saying to Jesus: ‘You are a young man, still in the prime of life, not even old enough to retire from service. How can you possibly have seen Abraham?'” (Barclay)
c. Before Abraham was, I Am: With this dramatic phrase Jesus told them that He was the eternal God, existing not only during the time of Abraham but before unto eternity past. Jesus claimed to be the great I Am, the voice of the covenant God of Israel revealed at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14).
i. I Am: This is the third time in this chapter Jesus uses the phrase I Am (John 8:24, 8:28), and here in John 8:58. The ancient Greek phrase is ego emi, which was the same term used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Jesus’ day to describe the Voice from the burning bush. “All the previous lightning flashes pale into significance before the blaze of this passage.” (Barclay)
ii. In using the phrase I Am (John 8:24, 8:58, 13:19) Jesus used a clear divine title belonging to Yahweh alone (Exodus 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 43:10) and was interpreted as such by Jesus’ listeners (John 8:58-59). “I AM was recognized by the Jews as a title of deity.” (Tenney)
iii. “Before Abraham came into existence I am, eternally existent… No stronger affirmation of pre-existence occurs.” (Dods)
iv. “If Jesus’ claim was not well founded, then his words were openly blasphemous: he was using language that only God could use.” (Bruce)
d. Then they took up stones to throw at Him: This demonstrates that the religious leaders understood perfectly what Jesus meant. He claimed to be eternal God, and they regarded that as blasphemy. They felt He was worthy of death and intended to carry it out at the moment.
i. “Their passions were aroused. They were incensed. So they took the law into their own hands.” (Morris)
ii. “The stones they picked up they would have found in the Court of the Gentiles: for the Temple (viz. its courts) was still building.” (Trench)
iii. “A stoning in the temple is mentioned by Josephus, Antiquities, 17.9,3.” (Dods)
e. Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them: They wanted to kill Jesus but could not because His hour had not yet come (John 7:30).
i. “There does not appear to be any miraculous escape intended here, although certainly the assumption of one is natural under the circumstances.” (Alford)
ii. Adam Clarke had an imaginative perspective on the escape of Jesus: “In all probability he rendered himself invisible-though some will have it that he conveyed himself away from those Jews who were his enemies, by mixing himself with the many who believed on him.” (Clarke)
©2015 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission