The Woman Caught in Adultery (8:1-11)
1 After Jesus had finished teaching in the temple, He went to the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem for the night. This was His usual custom when He was in Jerusalem (Luke 21:37).64
2-6 The next day, the Jewish leaders brought before Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. According to the Jewish law, Moses commanded65 that both the man and the woman caught in adultery were to be executed (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-23). So the Jewish leaders asked Jesus what should be done to the woman. They asked this in order to trap Him (see Mark 12:13-17 and comment). If Jesus said to stone her, He would appear unmercif ul. Also the Roman authorities would oppose Him, because it was against Roman law for the Jews to execute anyone. But if Jesus said not to stone her, He would be disobeying the Jewish law, and thus the Jews would be able to accuse Him of breaking the law. So whatever He answered, Jesus would be contradicting one law or another, thereby bringing discredit upon Himself.
Jesus didn’t answer at once. He bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. It is not known what He wrote.
7-8 Jesus did not fall into their trap. Jesus said, in effect: “Let her be stoned; she has sinned. But those who throw the stones must be without sin themselves.”66
Jesus meant that their motives, their purpose, in stoning the woman should be completely pure. No judge is without sin, yet he must still judge. But he must judge with pure motives. He must judge justly and according to law. These Jewish leaders were accusing this woman for evil reasons. It is even possible that the woman had been unlawfully seized. If the Jews stoned the woman illegally, they too could be punished for murder.
9-10 All the woman’s accusers left. The older ones left first, because they understood Jesus’ meaning the quickest. But every one knew in his heart that he was unworthy to cast a stone at the woman.
There is a great lesson in this story for all of us. How quick we are to pick up “stones” to throw at our brother or sister! Such stones are things like evil talk, slander, false witness, murmuring. Let us look first to ourselves, and we shall see that we are not worthy to throw “stones” at anyone but ourselves (see Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 2:1; 2 Corinthians 11:31 and comments).
11 Jesus did not condemn the woman. But He condemned her sin. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” We must not think from this story that Jesus ignores our sin. Jesus never ignores sin. On the final day of judgment we will not receive mercy; on that day we will be judged according to our works. But in this life, if a person truly repents, he has the chance to obtain mercy and forgiveness.
Notice that according to what is written, Jesus did not forgive the woman of her sin. That is because she had not yet repented. She had not yet asked for forgiveness. To receive forgiveness, one must repent.
The Light of the World (8:12-20)
12 Jesus said to the people:67 “I am the light of the world” (see John 9:5; 12:46). Jesus’ light is God’s light. God is light (1 John 1:5). Light is a sign of righteousness and truth and knowledge. It is also a sign of life. In him (in Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men (see John 1:4 and comment). Jesus fills a man’s entire life with light. Jesus gives light to every man (John 1:9), just as the sun gives light to every man. Some men are blind and cannot see the sun. Some men close their eyes and refuse to see the sun. But the sun is there. It shines whether men see it or not. So it is with Christ.
Whoever follows me … will have the light of life. Only those who believe in Jesus and follow Him can receive His light. Only those who follow Jesus are delivered from the darkness of the world. Here “darkness” is a sign of sin, of spiritual ignorance, of spiritual death. Those who follow Christ will never walk in darkness. They are like men walking on a path at night carrying a bright lantern before them.
Those who follow Jesus also become lights themselves (see Matthew 5:14 and comment). But their light is not their own light; it is the light of Jesus shining in their lives. Jesus is the source of all light coming into the world (see John 1:9 and comment).
13 The Pharisees did not accept Jesus’ testimony about Himself. In a court, the judge does not fully trust a man’s testimony about himself, because a man usually says only what is good about himself and does not speak the full truth. Therefore, according to the Old Testament, in order to establish the truth of someone’s testimony, at least two witnesses are necessary (Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17). But Jesus was only one witness. Therefore, in the opinion of the Jews, Jesus’ witness could not be considered valid68 or reliable (see John 5:31 and comment).
The Pharisees refused to see Jesus’ light. They said, “Where is your other witness? We don’t believe you.” But light does not need a witness. It gives its own witness by shining. The man who says, “There is no light,” does not condemn the light—he condemns himself! He is blind!
14 Jesus said, “My testimony is valid. It does not stand alone. God is my other witness” (verse 18). Further, Jesus said that He was qualified to testify about Himself. He knew who He was. He knew He came from God, and He knew He would return to God. But the Pharisees did not know who Jesus was. How, therefore, could they oppose Jesus’ testimony?
15 The Pharisees only judged by human standards. They only knew about what they could see with their eyes and hear with their ears; they knew nothing of spiritual things.
Jesus did not judge in the way the Pharisees judged. He did not come to earth to judge; that was not His main purpose in coming. While Jesus was on earth, He did not make Himself a judge of men (Luke 12:13-14; John 8:11).
16 But in another way, Jesus was a judge (see John 3:17 and comment). He is our judge now. And He will be our judge at the end of the world (John 5:22,27). And if Jesus judges us, we can be sure that His decisions are right, because Jesus is not alone. He judges only according to what He hears from God (see John 5:30 and comment). He does not judge according to human standards.
In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus seemed alone in the world. But God was with Him. Jesus did nothing on His own (see John 5:19; 8:29).
17-18 If the testimony of two men is valid according to the Old Testament law, then certainly the testimony of God and His Son must be valid (see John 8:13-14 and comment).
19 Jesus had just told the Pharisees that the Father was His witness (verse 18). The Pharisees then asked mockingly, “Where is your father?” They meant Jesus’ human father.
But Jesus’ answer was about His heavenly Father, whom the Pharisees did not know. Jesus told them, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” A man who does not know Christ cannot have a full and true knowledge of God (see John 1:18 and comment).
20 See John 7:30,44 and comment.
Warning of the Coming Judgment (8:21-30)
21 Jesus here repeats the thought of John 7:33-34. But He adds here: “… you will die in your sin.” The Jewish leaders who oppose Jesus will not be able to go with Jesus to heaven, because they refuse to repent of their sins.
The Jews will look for Jesus after He dies. Some will look for His body, so that they might prove He did not rise from the dead (see Matthew 27:64; 28:12-13). Others will realize after His death who Jesus really was (verse 28), but then it will be too late; their hearts will be hardened. They had been given the opportunity to repent and follow Jesus, but they had refused to do so. And when He dies, that opportunity will be gone forever. They will look for Him in vain69 (see John 7:33-34 and comment). Therefore, let them repent and follow Jesus, while there was yet time (see verse 24).
22 The Jewish leaders realized that Jesus was talking about His death. But even though they themselves were plotting to kill Him (John 5:18), they thought He was talking about killing Himself!
23 The Jews were from below, that is, from the world. Jesus was from above, that is, from heaven (see John 3:31 and comment).
24 Jesus said that only by believing in Him could the Jews escape from this world of sin and darkness and enter into the kingdom of heaven. They must believe that Jesus is who He said He was—that is, the Son of God, the Messiah. Otherwise, they would indeed die in [their] sins; that is, they would die without repenting and without receiving forgiveness. To die “in one’s sins” is to spend eternity in hell.
It is not enough for us only to believe that Jesus is a great man, a great teacher, a great prophet. We must believe that He is God’s Son, the Savior of the world. If we do not believe that He is our Lord and Savior, He cannot save us.
Jesus says to everyone: “… if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be70 (that is, the Son of God), you will indeed die in your sins.”
25 When Jesus told the Jews that they must believe that “I am the one I claim to be,” they didn’t understand Him. They asked, “Who are you?”
Jesus answered, “Just what I have been claiming all along. That is, I am what I have said I am. I am the bread of life (John 6:35). I am the light of the world (verse 12). I am the Messiah” (John 4:25-26).
26 In this verse Jesus returns to the subject of judgment, which He had mentioned earlier in verse 24. He had already twice told the Jews that they would die in their sins. Now He tells them He has much more concerning which He will judge them. They may question His judgment and His authority. But God has sent Him into the world, and the words He speaks are true because they have come from God Himself (see John 5:30; 8:16 and comments).
27-30 When the Jewish leaders have lifted up the Son of Man—that is, when they have lifted Jesus up on the cross to kill Him—then they will know who He is. Because He will rise from the dead. And on the day of judgment, they will all have to stand before His judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10).
In the second part of verse 28 and in verse 29, Jesus repeats the thoughts of John 5:30; 8:16,26.
Further Discussion With the Jews (8:31-47)
31 Many ordinary Jews did put their faith in Jesus (verse 30). To these Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you will be my disciples.” Jesus knew that their faith was weak. He taught them that true faith means to “hold to my teaching”—that is, to heed it, to obey it. They must continue in His teaching (see Matthew 7:21; Mark 4:1617; 13:13; Luke 9:62; John 15:7; 2 John 9 and comments). Only if they do this will they be true disciples.
32 The person who “holds” to Christ’s teaching will know the truth. Christ’s teachings are true. … grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). But not only that, the man who holds to Christ’s teaching will be set free. The truth of Christ will set him free from the bondage of ignorance and sin. God sent Jesus into the world to proclaim freedom for the prisoners (Luke 4:18). To be free from sin means to be saved.
Most people are not aware that spiritually they are in bondage. The Jews supposed that they were “free” (verse 33). But, in fact, they were in bondage to sin. They were in bondage to their law. They were condemned to death by their law. It was only the truth of Jesus that could set them free (see Romans 8:1-2; Galatians 5:1 and comments).
33 Along with the Jews who believed, there were other Jews present who had not put their faith in Jesus. Some of these Jews said, “We are Abraham’s71 descendants.” It is very common for unrighteous children to boast of the righteousness of their parents. They rely on their family name, but at the same time they bring dishonor upon it. The unbelieving Jews were like that.
The Jews were Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh. “We are sons of Abraham, not slaves,” the Jews insisted. “We have never been slaves of anyone.” But they were wrong in two ways. First, even at that very time they were, in a worldly sense, the slaves of the Romans. And second, in a spiritual sense, they were slaves of sin.
34 They were slaves of sin because they lived in sin. Jesus told them: “… everyone who sins72 is a slave to sin.” The slave of sin cannot free himself from sin. He has no power in himself to stop sinning. He needs a power greater than his own (see Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19 and comments).
35 The Jews supposed that they were sons of Abraham and had the rights of sons. But the Jews were not true sons of Abraham spiritually (Romans 2:28-29). They were like slaves instead.
Jesus says here: “A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” A son remains a son. We ourselves are sons of God through faith in Christ (see John 1:12; Galatians 4:47 and comments). But Jesus is here talking in particular about Himself. He is the one and only Son of God. He is a son forever (1 Chronicles 17:13-14).
36 Because Jesus is the eternal Son and heir of God, He has the power and authority to set us free (see Galatians 5:1). We cannot free ourselves from slavery to sin. But He can free us. He not only frees us from the power of sin, but He also frees us from the punishment for sin. He freed us from the punishment for sin once and for all when He took our punishment upon Himself on the cross (see Mark 10:45 and comment).
37 Jesus acknowledged that the Jews were Abraham’s fleshly descendants. But they didn’t act as Abraham would have acted (verses 39-40). They were trying to kill Jesus. They were trying to kill Jesus because they had no room for His word. That is, they refused to “make room” for His word—they refused to accept His teaching. To reject Jesus’ word is the same as to reject Jesus.
38 Then Jesus told the Jews, “I do what I have heard from my Father, but you do what you have heard from your father.” Jesus meant that their father was the devil (verse 44).
39-40 The Jews said that Abraham was their father. But Jesus said that they were not true descendants of Abraham, because they didn’t act as Abraham did. Abraham was righteous. But these Jews were unrighteous. They were trying to kill Jesus (see Matthew 3:9 and comment).
41 Again, Jesus said that the Jews were doing the things that their own father the devil did (see verse 44).
Then the Jews said, “We are not illegitimate children.” This statement can have two meanings. First, the Jews may have been thinking that Jesus Himself was illegitimate. They may have heard about Mary’s becoming pregnant before she was married (Matthew 1:18). Thus they could have been saying: “We are not illegitimate like you are.”
Or second, they may simply have been saying, “We have remained faithful to God.” In the Old Testament, Jews who forsook God were called adulterers, whose children would then have been “illegitimate.” The Jews’ meaning would then be: “We are not like that.”
42-43 The Jews said, “The only Father we have is God himself” (verse 41). But Jesus denied that. God was not their Father. If God was their Father, they would have loved Christ, because Christ was God’s Son. Only those who love Christ can call God their Father.
44 But these Jews were trying to murder Christ. Therefore, their father was the devil, SATAN, who was a murderer from the beginning. Satan caused Cain to murder his brother Abel, the first murder in history (Genesis 4:4-8; 1 John 3:12). But more than that, Satan caused sin to enter mankind, and because of that, all men are condemned to death because of him (see Romans 5:12 and comment). Thus Satan can, in a spiritual sense, be called the “murderer” of all men.
Not only is Satan a murderer; he is also a liar. (Notice that if we let just one sin—like murder—master us, there will always be other sins—like lying—that join it!) All lies come from Satan, even the smallest falsehood. He is the father of lies—and the father of liars. Just as there is no falsehood in God, so there is no truth in Satan. Satan’s main method of attacking men is by deceiving them (Genesis 3:4-5). He calls good evil, and evil good. He calls truth falsehood, and falsehood truth. He makes men slaves, but says they are free!
45 The Jews couldn’t believe Jesus, because they believed the lies of Satan instead. Jesus spoke the truth, but they believed only lies. Satan had closed their minds and hardened their hearts. The truth of Christ was speaking, but they could not hear it. The light of Christ was shining, but they could not see it. Such is Satan’s effect upon men.
46 Jesus said to the Jews, “Show me a sin that I have committed.” What other man would ever dare to say that? Only Jesus could have said it, because only Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5).
If the Jews could prove that Jesus was a sinner, then let them not believe His words. But if He was indeed without sin, if He was telling them the truth, then let them believe Him.
But, in fact, the Jews could not prove that Jesus was guilty of any sin. Yet they still didn’t believe Him. It wasn’t because of any sin of Jesus that the Jews refused to believe in Him; it was because of their own sin (John 3:19-20).
47 Those who belong to God hear God. Those who do not belong to God can’t hear God; they can’t understand God (see John 8:23; 1 Corinthians 2:12,14; 1 John 4:6). Those who belong to God are those who have been reborn by the Holy Spirit. They can understand spiritual things. To teach spiritual things to unrepentant people is like trying to describe color to a man born blind or music to a man born deaf. It is in vain.
The Claims of Jesus About Himself (8:48-59)
48 The only answer the Jews could give Jesus was to abuse Him. They called Him a Samaritan, which in the Jews’ mind was a great insult. The Samaritans said that the Jews weren’t the only sons of Abraham; the Samaritans considered themselves sons of Abraham too (see John 4:8-9 and comment).
The Jews also called Jesus demon-possessed (see Mark 3:22,30; John 7:20; 8:52). It is easier to call a man names than to answer his arguments.
49 Jesus was not demon-possessed, because He honored God. Demon-possessed men never honor God; they are under the control of Satan.
Jesus honored God, but He was dishonored by men. God has promised that He Himself will honor those who honor Him, but He has never promised that they would be honored by other men.
50 Jesus did not care if men insulted Him. He was not seeking glory for Himself. But there is one who seeks glory, and that is God. He will in the end glorify the Son Christ, because when Christ is glorified, God also is glorified (see John 17:1).
God is also the judge. But God will turn the work of judgment over to Christ, so that all men will honor Christ (John 5:22-23). In this way, God will obtain glory, both for Himself and for His Son. And, through Christ, He will bring judgment on all those who dishonor Christ (verse 49).
Jesus did not have to fight back against the Jews. He did not have to defend His honor. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (see 1 Peter 2:2324 and comment).
51 But the person who keeps Christ’s word (see verse 31) will never see death; that is, his soul will never die. He will be saved from eternal punishment. Eternal punishment means to be separated from God in hell; it means to be dead spiritually. It means the opposite of eternal life (see John 3:15 and comment).
52-53 The Jews were of fended when Jesus said that whoever kept His word would not see death. “Who do you think you are?” they asked contemptuously. “Everyone dies. Abraham died, the prophets died, all the great people of history have died. Are you greater than they are? Can you prevent death in others when these great men couldn’t even prevent death in themselves?”
The Jews were wrong in their thinking in two ways. First, Abraham and the prophets were not dead. Their souls were alive (see Mark 12:26-27 and comment). Their second mistake was this. The Old Testament clearly taught that one greater than Abraham and the prophets would come, and that person would be the Messiah. Therefore, when Christ showed them that He was greater than Abraham (verse 58), they should have concluded that He was the Messiah. Instead, they concluded that He was demon-possessed!
54 To the question, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied: “I don’t need to answer that question. God will answer it. I don’t need to glorify myself (verse 50). My Father will glorify me. He is your God, but He is my Father.” The Jews could not claim to be God’s children, because they had rejected Christ, God’s one true Son. Only those who accept Christ are given the right to be children of God and to call God their “Father” (John 1:12).
55 But the Jews could not even rightly call Him “God,” because they did not know Him. Only Christ and those who believe in Christ truly know God (John 1:18; 7:28-29; 8:19).
56 Then Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day;73 he saw it and was glad.” My day means the time of Christ’s coming to earth. God had promised Abraham that in him shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:3). This promise was fulfilled in Christ. It is through Christ that all the people of the world have been blessed. Abraham saw it (Christ’s day) through the eye of faith, and was glad.
57 The Jews thought Jesus was saying that Abraham had actually seen Him with his own eyes. They asked Him mockingly, “Were you alive when Abraham was alive nearly two thousand years ago? You’re not even fifty years old.”74
58 But Jesus’ claim was even greater than they had supposed. He answered that He was alive not only during Abraham’s lifetime—He was alivebefore Abraham even existed! Jesus has always been alive. He has been with God from the beginning (John 1:1-2). “Before Abraham was born, I am,” said Jesus. Only God can use the words “I am.” In fact, “I Am” is the name God gave Himself. And He told the Jews to call Him by that name (Exodus 3:14). “I Am” means: “I have always been and always will be. I have no beginning and no end.”
Therefore, when Jesus spoke the words I am, He was saying, “I am God.”
59 The Jews immediately understood that Jesus had said, “I am God.” It was blasphemy for any man to call himself God (see John 5:18 and comment). So they at once picked up stones in order to stone Him to death, because according to the Jewish law, the punishment for blasphemy was death75 (Leviticus 24:16).
But Jesus disappeared from their sight. God hid Him, because it was not yet His time to die (see John 7:30).