In the first of these two sections we will look at verses which are not present in most of the oldest manuscript copies of John’s Gospel, although they were present by the time the Latin translation (the Vulgate) was produced in the 4th century AD. Some compilers have inserted this passage after John 7:36; one puts it after 7:44. Some have it after Luke 21:3. It has been suggested that very early copyists simply left this passage out as it seems to condone the act of adultery; others say that it intrudes into the action at the feast of Tabernacles and truly belongs elsewhere.
However, most modern scholars accept that this is a valid piece of scripture, and it seems to be written in the style of John. All current versions of the Bible include it here, so I’ll go along with that!
Read John 8:1-
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them.
That was the usual way for a Rabbi to address his disciples.
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.
Scripture tells us that this was a trap, but it was obvious; it was also another example of the way that the Pharisees manipulated the Law for their own purposes.
The Temple guards had not found anything on which to base a charge, so the Pharisees contrived this whole episode. In order to do so they needed to know where to find a woman committing adultery, and it needed to be that same night, so she could be taken ‘in the very act’ as some versions add.
The simplest way was for them to set it up using a local prostitute; with either one of their own number, or at least a man they could trust. They would have told him it would be alright, he would not be arrested.
This would be encouraging an act that was directly opposed to the word of God (Exodus 20:14), and in verse 5 they misquoted the law which actually commands ‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife – with the wife of his neighbour – both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.’ (Leviticus 20:10)
The law here seems to emphasise the guilt of the man – yet it was only the woman who was brought to Jesus
Before we move on we need to look briefly at the psychology of conversation!
Without realising it, we are often forced into a way of responding, depending on how a conversation starts. For example: an office manager has mislaid his diary. He says ‘Oh dear, I can’t find my diary’ that is a bit childish and provokes a parent response ‘Don’t worry, I’ll look for it for you’. As a manager he should have said ‘My diary is missing – find it for me will you’ and the response is then ‘yes certainly’, the response of a junior.
Speaking with an air of authority is usually intended to provoke a respectful response, if it also comes with the threat of possible arrest, it may also encourage a fearful response.
Look again at verses 3-
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?’
Quite a large group of Law-
6(b) But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
Jesus knew exactly what they were doing and immediately set about deflating their authority and changing the dynamics. He was not going to be trapped into responding in his defence, like a potential suspect. Jesus was seated, they were standing; he simply looked down, writing in the sand, and ignored them.
They tried again to gain the upper hand, but now they were more like Rabbi’s disciples, asking him more questions; and he responded as a Rabbi – with wisdom.
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.
He now indicated that the meeting was ended and refused to meet their gaze, simply waiting for the Spirit to work in their consciences.
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.
The men had spent many years working together in close proximity. They knew each other’s faults. There was no longer any chance for cover-
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.’
Some have suggested that this passage condones sin, but Jesus never does that. Always his command is for the sinner to stop sinning. But contrary to the Law-
(We covered Judgement in John 5d).
Remember John 3:17-
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Now for our second passage: Read John 8:12-
Remember that this is now towards the end of the festival. It has been suggested that each evening there was a light show when priests with torches would dance.
Also a version (Babylonian) of the Jewish Talmud (Mas. Sukkah 51a v43-
‘43 there were there golden candlesticks with four golden bowls on the top of each of them and four ladders 44 to each, and four youths drawn from the priestly stock in whose hands were held jars of oil containing one hundred and twenty log which they poured into the bowls. 45 From the worn-
Whatever was going on, it may well have prompted Jesus’ next words:
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.’
It’s a shame the Pharisees did not remember Isaiah 9:1-
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan – 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Would someone like to expand on verse 12?
(An opportunity for people to perhaps share their own testimony)
This is the second of the great ‘I am’ statements in the book of John (The first was ‘I am the bread of life’ John 6: 35, 48. There is a list of the others at the end of this study)
What is Jesus actually claiming here?
Again Jesus introduces a spiritual level. The lights of the festival illuminated the whole area, but the light Jesus brings illuminates the soul.
The World can be a very dark place. Without Jesus people struggle to make any sense of what is going on. Only when they come to Jesus can they say ‘I’ve seen the light’. Jesus also made two promises: ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’
When we turn towards the light, the shadows are always behind us. As we follow Jesus he will continually lead us away from sin.
Living things need light to grow. Now we have the ‘light of life’ living in us we will naturally grow towards the things of God – the opposite direction to the way we had previously been heading.
13 The Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.’
The Pharisees were spiritually blind (John 9:39-
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.
They themselves had already mentioned one of the ‘tests’ of the messiah: ‘when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from’ (John 7:27) but still they could not understand.
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.’
There were many in the crowd who did believe who Jesus claimed to be, yet the ultra-
19 Then they asked him, ‘Where is your father?’
The last time Joseph, Mary’s husband, was mentioned in the New Testament, Jesus was twelve years old. Most commentators assume that as an older man, he would probably have died by now. But of course Joseph wasn’t his father.
Did the Pharisees not understand who Jesus was speaking about? The last time Jesus was at the Temple we read ‘For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ (John 5:18).
Probably they were again trying to get Jesus to state plainly who he claimed to be so that they could be justified in arresting him for blasphemy. But this time they would be disappointed.
‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’
They prided themselves as being the ones who knew everything about God; they were the ones people went to for answers. But here Jesus challenges them: they might know about God, but they did not know God.
What is the difference between knowing about God, and knowing God?
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.
This was effectively their Harvest Festival, and was also known as the ‘Festival of Ingathering’: It was generally the time when everyone brought their offerings to the Temple. John explains that Jesus was not hiding in some corner of the Temple Courts – by standing ‘near the place where the offerings were put’ he was at the one spot where everybody would see him. We could imagine that that itself would make it more difficult to arrest Jesus, but we are told that actually Jesus was in complete control: he wouldn’t be arrested yet ‘because his hour had not yet come’.
The crowd too would be constantly moving and the group round Jesus constantly changing. It would consist of ordinary people who could accept what Jesus was saying at face value, and others (the Jews) who were used to questioning and interpreting, trying to force everything into the framework of laws that they had constructed. Possibly there had been a short interlude before Jesus spoke again:
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.’
We have already been told that this took place on the last day of the feast (John 7:37), and everyone would shortly be going home. They would leave him, he would leave them. He offered salvation to those who would simply believe him by faith, but those who turned from him now would be doing so for eternity.
22 This made the Jews ask, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, “Where I go, you cannot come”?’
The Jews had murderous thoughts towards Jesus and may well have been asking in their hearts ‘does he know we are going to kill him?’ but they covered that up by asking ‘Will he kill himself?’. Jesus was not going to be side-
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.’
Jesus disregarded their attempt to trap him and spoke directly to them as individuals. Each was in serious danger of going to a lost eternity. Sin cannot be ignored, nor can it be covered up with ‘good deeds’. It is only by believing in Jesus, the ‘I am’ (v24 – there is no ‘he’ in the original), that their sins would be removed. They were threatening him with death, not realising that Jesus could offer them life.
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.’
They wanted Jesus to unambiguously claim to be the Son of God – clearly an arrestable offence. But Jesus was still not going to be trapped. But more than that, he told them that it would be them that would have to face judgement.
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.
‘There’s none so deaf as those that will not hear; none so blind as those that will not see’. Those in authority had already closed their minds to the claims of Jesus, whatever he said would make no difference.
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.
Again, there is no ‘he’ in verse 28 in the original Greek. Jesus said ‘you will know that I AM’. The reason that ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does,’ (7:46) was that his words came direct from Father God. To our way of thinking and speaking today, Jesus’ words may seem ambiguous; to the ordinary Jews in Jesus’ day, they were the words of life and ‘as he spoke, many believed in him.’
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: did they not hear? Of course they did
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
People complain that we are condemned because of the wrong choice made by Adam and Eve; actually we are offered the same choice: do we want to obey God? Do we want his rule in our hearts? Do we want the salvation Jesus offers us?
If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Jesus said: I am
John 6: 35, 48 I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 I am the light of the world
John 8: 58 Before Abraham was, I am
John 10:9 I am the door
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 15:1 I am the true vine
If you would like to PRINT or copy this study, click HERE for the PDF version, then Rt Click, and select ‘Print’, or ‘Save as’