Berean Bible Study Notes
This is a very interesting chapter in John that doesn't really fit well with our Sunday School picture of meek and mild Jesus. He tells it like it is in this chapter. Let's review the last bit of chapter 7:
John 7:37 The Promise of the Holy Spirit
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
40 Who Is He?
Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet." 41 Others said, "This is the Christ."
But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
45 Rejected by the Authorities
Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?"
46 The officers answered,"No man ever spoke like this Man!"
47 Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."
50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"
52 They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."
OK, Jesus has spoken on the last day of the feast, the Great Day, the seventh day, of the coming Holy Spirit. Then, the scene shifts to the officers who go back to the Pharisees and report. Jesus is not with them. Now, supposedly, according to the NIV, the "earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11." The footnote in the NASB says, "Later manuscripts add the story of the adulterous woman, numbering it as John 7:53 - 8:11." Those "earliest and most reliable manuscripts" it refers to are the Codex Vaticanus, from 325-350 AD, the Codex Sinaiticus from 350 AD and the Codex Alexandrinus from 400 AD. Now, the Syrian Didascalia (a document called the "teaching of the apostles") quoted the story of the adulterous woman in the third century (the 200's AD), and Eusebius (the church historian who wrote in 325 AD) wrote that Papias quoted the story (he died in 130 AD, so someone must have been remarkably clairvoyant to have foreseen what was supposed to have been added centuries later.
You can see for yourself that it makes no sense to leave it out. If it was gone, the next verse would be:
John 8:12 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."
Who is the "them?" Jesus is not present when the Pharisees are speaking to the officers and to Nicodemus. The NIV says, 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." However, that word "when" is better "then," or "therefore" in the Greek, and that's the way most word for word versions translate it.
The story of the adulterous woman is in 900 manuscripts. Some scholars believe they know what happened. There is an early manuscript that is missing two leaves of its parchment. It's not "left out;" it's literally missing, and this story is within those missing leaves. When scribes then used that manuscript to copy from, they left a space, showing that something was missing. In fact, more than one of the manuscripts that leave out John 7:53 to 8:11 actually do have that space intact, although there are no words there. Then, when those manuscripts were copied, the space was omitted. Augustine, writing in 430 AD, has a different idea of why this story is missing in some manuscripts, in this article:
Saint Augustine (430 AD) makes an astounding statement concerning the authenticity of this passage. After citing the forgiving phrase from Christ, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more," Augustine writes:
This proceeding, however, shocks the minds of some weak believers, or rather unbelievers and enemies of the Christian faith: inasmuch that, after (I suppose) of its giving their wives impunity of sinning, they struck out from their copies of the Gospel this that our Lord did in pardoning the woman taken in adultery: as if He granted leave of sinning, Who said, Go and sin no more! (Saint Augustine, De Conjug. Adult., II:6.).
The story is necessary, because nothing is in Scripture "just because." I believe the Holy Spirit had John include it because it perfectly sets up the later discourse that Jesus had with the Pharisees.
John 7:53 (NKJV) An Adulteress Faces the Light of the World
And everyone went to his own house.
John 8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
Interesting contrast! Why?
John 8:2 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. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" 6 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.
In that culture, the one who "sat down" to teach was one who had authority to teach. Now the scribes and Pharisees (not all of them, as we'll see in a bit) have come up with what they believe is a perfect trap for Jesus. They interrupt His teaching and bring Him this woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. They are completely right in saying that Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned:
Leviticus 20:10 "'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. 27(b) You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.'"
Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1995. Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary.. T. Nelson: Nashville
STONING — the usual method of capital punishment in ancient Israel. People who broke specific statutes of the law of Moses were put to death by stoning.
Deuteronomy 22:22 If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
Jesus knew it was a set-up, though. If it was in the "very act," where is the man? They were both supposed to be stoned. This shows that the Pharisees don't really want to stone the woman - they want to have a reason to stone Jesus! (Which, of course, they don't have the legal right to do, which is why Jesus was crucified by the Romans rather than stoned by the Jewish leadership)
So, the Pharisees think they have Jesus caught between two impossible choices. Will He uphold the Law, and prove false His many earlier words, such as, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17) and show that He was not the friend of sinners after all, and that worse yet, He was a liar? Or, would He pardon the woman and break the law, which would also be a sin?
He doesn't go either way, but instead, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. The "as though He did not hear" is not in the Greek. What did He write? We don't know. We do know that there are possibly three other times that something was written by the finger of God. Two times He wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone. The first tablets were broken, in the incident with the golden calf. The possible third time was in the palace of Belshazzar, when the hand wrote MENE , MENE , TEKEL, PARSIN on the wall.
Daniel 5:26 "This is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27 Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
You could argue that all of these times involve God's justice and certainly His law. The law condemns us. Did Jesus begin writing the Ten Commandments? Did He write specific sins of the Pharisees? We don't know. All we know is that when they continued asking Him for His decision, He wrote on the ground a second time (as the Ten Commandments were written twice?):
John 8:7 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." 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
J. Vernon McGee says this (McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible Commentary Series: John, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1991):
What did He write? Of course we don't know, but I can make a suggestion. Turning back to the prophets, we pick up something quite interesting: "O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters" (jer. 17:13). Now, who had forsaken the Lord? This woman? Yes, she had. The religious rulers? Yes, they had. Their names shall be written in the earth. This is what I think He wrote, linking their names with sins of their past. Perhaps He wrote the name of a woman living in Rome. One old pious Pharisee had had an affair in Rome when he was a young fellow. His wife didn't know about it; no one in Jerusalem knew about it; but our Lord knew that old rascal. As He just wrote the name of the woman, the old Pharisee came over and saw it - and suddenly remembered that he had another appointment. Perhaps one of the scribes made regular trips to Ephesus, a great sinning place, to a certain address over there which Jesus wrote in the sand. The scribe looked at it and said, "Oh, my gracious!" He left hurriedly. Another scribe may have left a girl in Galilee who was pregnant. He didn't marry her, and he didn't think anyone knew. Our Lord wrote the name of the girl and the scribe's name with it.
"Thou has set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance" (Ps. 90:8). Secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven.
Whatever He was writing, it caused the Pharisees to recognize their sin:
John 8:9 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. 10 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?"
11 She said, "No one, Lord." (This is from the NKJV, but the NASB also translates it this way)
And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
Notice how she calls Him "Lord." Has she become a believer? If so, perhaps that's part of what Jesus means when He says, Neither do I condemn you. He will set His cross between her sin and God. Remember, too, that the accusers have left:
Numbers 35:30(b) No one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.
The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in a perfect trap. They could not see how justice and mercy could be harmonized. God IS just, and He demands a payment for sin. Yet, God gets His payment, when Jesus is raised up on the cross. (I don't think John's wording here is an accident).
John 8:12 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."
Who's the "them" now? Those that He was teaching before this interruption. This is the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles season. The previous day was the Hashanna Rabba or the Great Hosanna, the last, great day of the feast, which had the special water ceremony where Jesus had stood up and said:
John 7:37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Another article to remind you of the events of the Feast of Tabernacles: The Festival of Sukkot
On the nights of the Feast of Tabernacles (a seven day feast), there were special light ceremonies in the Temple. Four huge lampstands were lit in the Court of the Women, and were said to be so bright that they could be seen for miles. (The Temple was on an elevation). Plus, there was a torchlight parade, with people following behind priests carrying bright torches. This light ceremony would have taken place for the last time just the evening before Jesus is speaking, so it would still be fresh in everyone's mind.
The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Chapter 14, The Feast of Tabernacles
Significance of the Illumination
It seems clear that this illumination of the Temple was regarded as forming part of, and having the same symbolical meaning as, 'the pouring out of water.' The light shining out of the Temple into the darkness around, and lighting up every court in Jerusalem, must have been intended as a symbol not only of the Shechinah which once filled the Temple, but of that 'great light' which 'the people that walked in darkness' were to see, and which was to shine 'upon them that dwell in the land of the shadow of death' (Isa 9:2). May it not be, that such prophecies as Isaiah 9 and 60 were connected with this symbolism? At any rate, it seems most probable that Jesus had referred to this ceremony in the words spoken by Him in the Temple at that very Feast of Tabernacles: 'I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life' (John 8:12).
Succoth, The Feast of Tabernacles (link no longer active)
The Torchlight Parade
The celebration of the Water Ceremony was preceded during the evenings of the feast by an impressive light ceremony in the Temple. . . In the center of the court stood four towering menorahs [lampstands], each with four branches of oil lamps. Their wicks were manufactured from the worn-out linen garments of the priests. Each menorah had four long ladders leading up to the lamps which were periodically refilled by young priests carrying large pitchers of olive oil.
The Feast of Tabernacles began in the middle of the lunar month when the harvest moon was full and the autumn sky clear of rain. The outline of the surrounding Judean hills was clearly visible in the moonlight. Against this backdrop the light of the Temple celebration was breathtaking. All night long, elders of the Sanhedrin performed impressive torch dances, while the steady yellow flames of the menorah oil lamps flooded the Temple and the streets of Jerusalem with brilliant light.
The Levites then gathered in the Inner Courtyard, the Court of the Israelites. They formed a group and moved to the top of the steps leading to the Court of the Women to the sound of Temple flutes, trumpets, harps, and other stringed instruments. As they sang the fifteen Psalms of Degrees [Ps 120-134], they moved down one step toward the people, one step for each Psalm. This celebration was repeated every night from the second night to the final night as a prelude to the Water Drawing Ceremony in the morning. Nothing in Israel compared to the light and celebration of The Feast of Tabernacles. It was so spectacular, that anyone who had not seen it was deemed not to have experienced the best of life. This celebration was reminiscent of the Shekinah glory that covered the Temple of Solomon from the day he consecrated it until just before Babylon conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple.
So, now it's the next morning, the eighth day, called the Simchat Torah, the special Sabbath considered to be the time of the fulfillment of the Law.
Messiahmas? On the Birth Date of Jesus of Nazareth
If the day of Jesus' birth was the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, then the day of his circumcision would be the eighth day after the Feast of Tabernacles which, in accordance with the Law is also day of sacred assembly. (Leviticus 23:39). On this day, called "Shemini Atzeret," or "the Eighth day of Solemn Assembly" and later called "Simchat Torah" or "Rejoicing in the Law," the Jews complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Genesis. It is considered to be a time of "fulfillment" of the Law and also a new beginning for it, since the Law is never abandoned. This indeed would seem to be a fitting holiday for Jesus' circumcision and dedication before God, since He came to set the Law on a firm foundation by correctly interpreting it and fulfilling it (i.e., becoming the goal to which the Law and the Prophets pointed), thereby making a way to renew the Law in all our lives. (Matthew. 5:17-19).
Here are more articles on that eighth day. The first one is Jewish, not Christian.
On the Assembly on the Eighth Day (Leviticus 23:39), Shemini Atzeret or Atseret, and its symbolism
So, that is the setting when Jesus says this:
John 8:12 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."
This statement is the second of the seven "I am" metaphorical statements in John. It begins a long discourse with Jesus and the Pharisees. Every one of the seven long discourses is preceded by some kind of event that relates, in this case, the story of the adulterous woman. The Pharisees and scribes bringing her to Jesus walked in darkness. Jesus had brought their hidden sins into the light:
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God.
Here are a tiny selection of verses that speak of God and light:
Genesis 1:3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Job 12:22 He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light .
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 43:3 Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.
Psalm 104:2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent
Isaiah 10:17 The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers.
Isaiah 49:6 he says: "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 you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
Isaiah 60:19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Revelation 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light , and the Lamb is its lamp.
Revelation 22:5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light . And they will reign for ever and ever.
Let's go on. Watch what Jesus says:
John 8:13 The Pharisees therefore said to Him," You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."
14 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. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. 17 It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."
19 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."
20 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.
This is not the first time that Jesus tells them who He is, where He has come from and who has sent Him. He is not defending Himself; He's giving them another chance to believe. Of course they don't - they just get angry. But, they could not hurt Jesus because His hour had not yet come.
John 8:21 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."
22 So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"
Where is Jesus going? Ultimately, He is going to His Father, right? That "you will seek Me" probably means seek to kill Him, as in verse 40, and that will be the "sin" (singular) that causes them to be completely unable to follow Jesus to heaven. The killing itself isn't the sin - it's the rejection of Him as their Savior, and specifically, rejecting Him as God, as we'll see further into the conversation. That "cannot" is in the absolute negative.
The Jews' (Jewish leadership, that is) reaction might seem a bit odd, but the Rabbis taught that a person who killed himself went directly to hell. That's the only place they can conceive of that they absolutely could not follow Jesus to.
John 8:23 And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 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."
That "He" is not in the Greek. The NIV says:
John 8:24 (NIV) I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins."
The part in brackets is not in the Greek. What is Jesus saying? He is calling Himself the "I am." He is claiming to be the voice of the burning bush - Jehovah or Yahweh of the Old Testament, YHWH - the I am that I am. Even with the inserted words, it still says the same thing. Who did Jesus claim to be?
Jon Courson says of this section (Courson, J. 2003. Jon Courson's Application Commentary . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN):
The word "he" is italicized in your Bible because the original manuscript reads "for if ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins." The singular issue of salvation is one of believing that Jesus is I AM, that Jesus is God. It’s not enough to believe Jesus is a good guy, a great guru, or even the Son of God. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Moonies and cults down the line are all damned in their teachings because they deny this most essential, basic truth of salvation in denying that Jesus is God.
"Here’s the fire, and here’s the wood, but where’s the sacrifice?" Isaac asked Abraham on Mount Moriah, which today is known as Calvary.
"God shall provide Himself a lamb," Abraham answered prophetically (see Genesis 22:8).
Abraham didn’t say, "God shall provide for Himself a lamb." He said, "God will Himself be the Lamb." Therefore, if I say God did not Himself become a Lamb, if God Himself did not take on my sin but instead created a Son to die, I diminish what God did for me. And this is the great hinge of salvation that separates us from the cults. Every single cult robs Jesus Christ of deity. Some will say He’s God’s Son. Some will say He died for the sins of the world. Some will even say He rose again. But look a cultist in the eye and ask him if Jesus Christ is God, and he’ll say, "He’s God’s Son," at best. And in so doing, he destroys what God did redemptively on his behalf.
What was the significance of the burning bush? Here's the story:
Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush . Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up."
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush , "Moses ! Moses !"
And Moses said, "Here I am."
5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."
13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Why was Moses amazed? What drew him to the bush? It was burning, but did not burn up. What is fire a symbol of in the Bible? Judgment. So, what would a bush that burned but did not burn up symbolize? It would be a visual picture of the Gospel - justice coexisting with mercy. How was such a thing possible? Only through Jesus. And, here, Jesus is claiming to be that voice that spoke from the burning bush. Do you see why the story of the adulterous woman is the perfect prelude to this discourse?
John 8:25 Then they said to Him, "Who are You?" (There are a number of expressive ways you might picture them saying this!)
And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. At least one scholar says that this would be more properly translated "I am the beginning." 26 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."
27 They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.
28 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. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.
Jesus is speaking of His crucifixion, and probably of the many events that happen then - the darkness, the earthquake, the tearing of the curtain in the temple. Note that As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Jesus is speaking to a large number of people, and many of them DO come to believe in Him. The Jewish leadership does not. But, look at what Jesus says to those that believed in Him:
John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
33 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'?"
34 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Who are the "they?" Those that believed? The Jewish leadership? This part is a bit confusing. And, what exactly do they mean by "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone"? What Bible were they reading? Do they not know their own history? Even as they speak these words, they are under the control of Rome, with a puppet king who isn't even Jewish. What does it mean that "the truth shall make you free?" Do you have that freedom in your life - that comes from knowing that God will work all things for your good? That basically, there is nothing you can do to screw up God's plan? Do you have the freedom that walking with the Spirit can give you? Of course, none of us walk perfectly, but when we walk with the Spirit, doing the will of God comes automatically. We will constantly struggle against our "old man" all through this life, but if you are seeking always to strengthen your "new man," that struggle will not be as difficult as it used to be.
John 8:37 "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."
39 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. 40 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. 41 You do the deeds of your father."
Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father — God."
There is a difference between being Abraham's seed or descendants and Abraham's children:
Romans 4:11 And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
In verse 41, you can see that when they asked earlier, "Where is Your Father?" that they were referring to the apparent illegitimacy of His birth. It seemed to be common knowledge that Jesus was born before Joseph and Mary were married. They don't understand the truth of Jesus' birth and seek to slander Mary. Jesus explains the relationship between them (obviously speaking to the Jewish leadership at this point) and their real father a little more clearly:
John 8:42 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. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 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. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."
48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"
49 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."
Jesus says, "if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." What does that mean? The word "keeps" means to guard, hold, preserve, stand fast. The "never" is really "never never ever." It doesn't get any stronger than that. How do you keep Jesus' word? What does that mean? If you trust in what He has promised, trust in who He says He is, you will never, never, ever see the death that is eternal separation from God. For you, "death" will just be the temporary separation of your soul from your physical body. It will be the doorway that ushers you into the Father's presence. He says the same thing later:
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Of course, the Jewish leadership doesn't react well to that:
John 8:52 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.' 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?"
They don't get it at all, do they? Matthew Henry says of this in his commentary:
[1.] They understood Christ of an immortality in this world, and this was a mistake. In the sense that Christ spoke, it was not true that Abraham and the prophets were dead, for God is still the God of Abraham and the God of the holy prophets (Rev 22:6); now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; therefore Abraham and the prophets are still alive, and, as Christ meant it, they had not seen nor tasted death.
[2.] They thought none could be greater than Abraham and the prophets, whereas they could not but know that the Messiah would be greater than Abraham or any of the prophets; they did virtuously, but he excelled them all; nay, they borrowed their greatness from him. It was the honour of Abraham that he was the Father of the Messiah, and the honour of the prophets that they testified beforehand concerning him: so that he certainly obtained a far more excellent name than they. Therefore, instead of inferring from Christ's making himself greater than Abraham that he had a devil, they should have inferred from his proving himself so (by doing the works which neither Abraham nor the prophets ever did) that he was the Christ; but their eyes were blinded. They scornfully asked, Whom makest thou thyself? As if he had been guilty of pride and vain-glory; whereas he was so far from making himself greater than he was that he now drew a veil over his own glory, emptied himself, and made himself less than he was, and was the greatest example of humility that ever was.
John 8:54 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. 55 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. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
What does that mean? It means that Abraham understood a lot of things, perhaps a lot more than we realize. We're told that he understood the Gospel and what that meant for the Gentiles:
Galatians 3:6 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
The following verse, combined with verse 56, implies to me that Abraham understood that the future Messiah would be God, and yet would come from his own line:
John 8:57 Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"
58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
59 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.
Why did they pick up stones? They finally fully understood all that He was saying in this discourse, that He WAS God - and they rejected it. Still, it was not yet His time, so He hid Himself and walked away. How did He do that? We don't know. It's not the first time that He did it:
Luke 4:29 They got up, drove him (Jesus) out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Jesus was in full control of the timing of His death - and it was not time. Nor was stoning the manner in which He intended to die. It had been prophesied that He would die by crucifixion, not stoning.
All of this happened on that eighth day, the day that the Jews celebrate the fulfillment of the Law - the day that seems to represent eternity.
The Berean Bible Study of the Gospel of John
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11
© 2012 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 3/6/2012. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.
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