I. (7.53-8.11) The Woman Caught In Adultery
Then they all went home, 1 Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Of interesting note, your Bible probably has some sort of editorial note concerning this pericope. The oldest manuscripts of John we have discovered do not contain these verses. So, what do we do with this narrative?
Should we consider it as valid, authoritative and applicable to our lives?
Some commentators omit this passage altogether, assuming it to be invalid. In short, it is probably not original to the 4th gospel, but was probably an actual event which occurred in the life and ministry of Jesus.
The story appears in the writings of church fathers around 350AD. When Jerome was working on translating the Latin Vulgate, he found the story in many Greek and Latin texts, so he included it into the Vulgate and it was solidified in the biblical text as we find it today.
It’s placement is a bit odd. Jesus is with a crowd in 7.52, alone in 8.9, and back with the crowd in 8.12. Omitting the story altogether, the biblical text flows nicely from 7.52 to 8.12.
Many originate the story from the writings of Luke. 8.2 stylistically resembles Luke more than it does the writing of John.
However, the story does resemble other conflict stories in the synoptic gospels and probably stems from the same pool as the stories we find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. With the heightened emphasis on the severity of sexual sins in early church life, we find at least one reason why the story may have struggled to find a home in the gospels.
8.5 – The teachers work from the basic assumption that from the Law of Moses, such an act was punishable by stoning. Ironically, we do not know what happened to the man involved in this incident. In the Torah, Deut. 22.23-24, stoning was the punishment for a breach of one’s engagement, where the man and woman were to be stoned. In the case of marital infidelity, the woman and guilty man were to be put to death, but stoning is not specifically mentioned.
8.5 – “Now what do you say?” – The teachers seek to entrap Jesus by making mercy and justice contrast with one another. If Jesus answers that she should be stoned, he can be accused of being unmerciful. If he says that she shouldn’t be stoned, then he, as a teacher has no regard for God’s law. The former would put him in danger of breaking Roman law, the latter would have him in danger of breaking Jewish law.
8.6 – What did Jesus write? Although it has been said in many sermons that he was writing down the faults of her accusers, we cannot know this for sure. Yet it does preach well. Anything we guess can be pure speculation.
8.7 –“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – Jesus ups the conditions for their accusation. The Law determined that the actual witness were to be the first to throw the stones. Jesus says that the accusers themselves not be subject to accusations.
3 Factors surrounding Jesus’ statement:
- Jesus is not saying we cannot evaluate sin critically.
- He is in a context of self-righteousness.
- All have sinned.
“Jesus saw through their pseudo righteousness and judged it for what it was…The point is that Jesus can accuse accusers.” – Borchert, NAC: John 1-11, p. 374-5.
8.11 – “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” – Many uses this quote seeking a pass for immoral behavior, or freedom from judgment for doing such. However, it must be noted, that this is not a statement of her innocence, but it is a charge to live differently now that she has not been condemned to death.
This statement of Jesus resonates in the depths of it’s readers. Perhaps this is why the story of this woman lingered in the early church long enough to find a home here in John.
3 Points of Application in a twisted sexual society:
- Understand we are dealing with individuals.
- Proclaim the reality and magnitude of God’s forgiveness.
- Encourage obedience to God’s Word.
Paul stated a similar thought in Romans 8.1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” His conclusion, much like Jesus, is “12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Perhaps this story is placed here with the Johanine text because the same themes are mentioned again in 8.15-17.
II. (8.12-59) The Feast of Tabernacles – part 2
A. (8.12-20) I Am The Light of the World
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.
Verse 20 supplies us with the exact location for these verses. He was “near the place where the offerings were put.” This was located in the Court of Women inside the temple. During this point in the Feast of Booths, 16 large torches would’ve been lit as part of the celebration ceremonies. These bowls were located in the Court of Women. It has been said that during this part of the festival, these torches would’ve provided light to the entire city. So, as Jesus stands under these blazing bowls, He declares, “I am the light of the world.”
The Old Testament references to God’s revelation to and saving work in his people as light are too numerous to list here. May just one verse suffice for our purposes here.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isa. 49.6.
8.13 –“Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” – Jesus said the same in John 5.31, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.” However, in John 5, Jesus cites two witnesses to validate his authority, John the Baptist, and the works the Father sent him to do. In John 8, we see Jesus answer the question regarding his authenticity a bit differently. His two witnesses are himself and the Father. He operates under the direct authority of God the Father.
8.15 – “You judge by human standards” – The pharisees understood Jesus to be, at best, a teacher from God, but they viewed him with a human understanding, not from an understanding of belief. Thus, they did not understand Jesus’ true nature or his true mission.
21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” 23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” 25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” 27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
Jesus statement in verse 21 is not grasped by the religious authority. Jesus, as the incarnate word would only be visible for a short while. Refusing to look to him with the eyes of faith would cause them to die without having their sins removed. Jesus had said something similar earlier (7.33), but he adds the consequence of unbelief here in this passage. Sin separates us from God (7.21).
Jesus notes that the religious leaders contrast to him in their character and concerns. Jesus is divine in character (I am not of this world, l always do what pleases him). They are human in character (sinful). Jesus is concerned about the mission of the Father (what I have heard from him I tell the world). They are concerned with the world.
C. (8.31-47) Authentic Discipleship
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
8.31 -“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” – In John’s gospel, the believer who is committed to or remains in Jesus’ teaching is proven to be authentic in his faith.
8.32 – knowing the truth brings with it the benefit of freedom. The reference to truth should be understood as knowing Jesus personally (John 14.6). Knowing him personally brings freedom.
8.34 – freedom from a legalistic form of worship for sure, but more specifically, Jesus refers to freedom from sin. The power and penalty for sin is broken for all those who are Jesus’ disciples.
8.35 – Emancipation from sin, Adoption as sons. Followers of Jesus also receive a change in their status before God.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Ro. 8.158.37-46 –
Even though the religious leaders were biological descendants from Abraham, their unbelief and refusal to hear the words of Jesus actually demonstrated that they belong not to God, but the Devil. We are hard-pressed to find a greater condemnation of the religious leaders any where else in scripture.
As unbelievers, the religious leaders were in active rebellion against God by seeking to kill Jesus. They were also unable to hear/comprehend him, because they did not belong to God (John 6).
Jesus describes Satan as a liar and a murderer in these verses. The religious leaders to both of these to try to silence Jesus. Proving that he is indeed speaking the truth.
D. (8.48-59) The Divinity of Jesus
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” 49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” 52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
8.48 – The inference would be that Jesus was a heretic, controlled by Satan.
8.49, 50 – Jesus responds by saying that the Father would sit in judgment over them because He was not self-seeking as they were. He desired to bring honor to the Father.
8.51 – What a glorious promise for believers, but the religious leaders saw this as proof that he was delusional. Since Abraham and the prophets died, this statement would seem absurd. Jesus couldn’t be greater than Abraham! This leads into a further discussion where Jesus makes direct divine claims.
8.56 – Jesus states that Abraham himself acknowledged the superiority and priority of Jesus and not the reverse.
“he saw it” – How did Abraham see Jesus? Jesus wasn’t even 50 years old! See Gen. 18.
8.58 – Jesus says it is possible because he existed before Abraham. A claim of divinity the Jews could not tolerate. (John 1.1).