John 8. Jesus, Who Are You?
Key Notes: "Go and sin no more." Light of the World. Before Father Abraham? The truth shall set you free. I AM. Clues to the Trinity.
This chapter brings us to a climax of the narrative that began in John 5, with the Sabbath healing of the lame man. There are several lessons that can be used separately, making this chapter a rich and complex resource:
The woman taken in adultery. 8:1–1
Jesus’ proclamation: ” I am the Light of the World." (8:12–13)
Knowledge, truth and freedom. 8:31–36
Jesus and Abraham. 8:52–56
Jesus’ other name. 8:57–59
To study the chapter as a unit, however, will give us more because there are other messages imbedded in the text.
8:1–11 The episode of the woman taken in adultery is not found in the oldest manuscripts, but it is considered authentic, although coming from another source. Some think it belongs in Luke. Others prefer it here.
Jesus was baited by the scribes and Pharisees. They presented him with a woman caught in the act of adultery. Where was the man? He evidently got away. Why was this a trap?
He could not refuse a stoning without flouting the Law of Moses. (Deut.22:13–24). They had witnesses; she was guilty.
* If He consented that she be stoned, He could be accused of breaking Roman law. The Jews did not have the authority to carry out an execution. (Jn.18:31). But it would be done if they were sufficiently aroused; Steven was stoned to death. Acts 7:58
* He was the friend of tax-collectors and sinners, so forgiveness rather than condemnation would be His expected response, but the evidence of adultery was in front of Him. The adultery situation was immediate, unlike the serial marriages and adultery of the Woman at the Well. It required the wisdom of Solomon.
* Jesus was known for His kindness to women, contrary to the devout Jewish leaders, who would have nothing to do with women in public.
Jesus invoked the principle He taught in Matt.7:1–5. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."
The Law also said "The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him (the idolater) to put him to death..." Deut.17:7.
He suggested that she be stoned by the innocent (“without sin”) witnesses in the group. When He looked up, they were all gone. They were all guilty of adultery. He had exhibited the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus forgave her and warned her not to sin again.
8:12 Jesus spoke again: “I am the Light of the World”. He probably made this declaration in the evening as the Temple lamps were being lit, part of the Tabernacles celebration. It was a dramatic moment and one that would draw immediate attention.
8:13–20 He was challenged again for being His own advertisement. Jesus responded in words reminiscent of Jn. 5:30–47. The fact that they did not know Him (where He came from and where He was going) did not negate the truth of what He said. The Father, whom they did not know, witnessed to Him. He did not speak of the other witnesses that He referred to in John 5.
8:21–30 Jesus now turned to His coming death.
He was going back to Heaven; they could not come. They will die in their sins if they do not acknowledge Him. He would be lifted up (crucified, but also lifted up as an icon) and then they would recognize Him.
The Father had not left Him alone and Jesus’ life was devoted to pleasing Him.
8:31–37 Then there was a remarkable and puzzling turn of events. A group “believed in Him” and were selected for further teaching. “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
This group, however, thought the same as the larger group they came from. Jesus promised them spiritual freedom. They responded that as offspring of Abraham, they had never been in bondage. They were at once defensive, rather than open-minded and ready to learn. Had they forgotten their history of slavery to Egypt, Moab, Philistia, Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome?
Jesus made the crucial pronouncement that all who sin are slaves of sin. Sinners have no permanent place in God’s house. The house belongs to the Son and He can free them. But they were still resolved to kill Him.
8:38–47. They protested that Abraham was their father, and that God was also their Father. Saying that they “were not born in fornication “ was probably a slur on His paternity. Perhaps they believed they were not guilty of spiritual adultery; Israel never worshiped idols after the Exile.
Jesus said that their behavior was not in line with their profession. If Abraham was their father, they could not contemplate killing Him. If God were their Father, they would love Him. In fact they are children of the Devil, a murderer and a deceiver from the beginning, lying according to his nature. Denying the truth of Jesus’ claims, deceiving themselves and plotting His murder were Satanically inspired.
Unlike them, He could not be accused of sin. He spoke God’s Word to them.
8:48–59. They used bad language: You are a Samaritan and have a demon!
Jesus replied that they dishonored Him. He was not seeking His own glory. Still, if anyone kept His Word, he should not die. They heard Him clearly: Abraham and the prophets were all dead.
As always, Jesus referred Himself back to the Father: “it is my Father who glorifies me.” “Abraham rejoiced that he was to see My Day; he saw it and was glad.” (8:56)
They were incredulous. You are not fifty and you have seen Abraham?
Jesus clinched the conversation. “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
Then they did try to kill Him.
Discussion, beginning at the end and going in reverse order.
I AM is the sacred name of God, first made clear to Moses in Ex. 3:14 “Say this to the people of Israel,’I AM has sent me to you.’” In Hebrew “I AM” is made of four consonants , JHWH, pronounced Jehovah or more likely Yahweh. We are guessing what the vowels might be. Jesus uses the words I AM three times in this chapter: 8:24, 28, and 58. In our English translation, verses 24 and 28 are often read “I am He”, or “I am just what I claim to be” but the Greek has only “I Am”. This is one of the most forceful statements of Jesus’ deity that can be found anywhere. Without doubt, in John 8:58, He has taken the sacred name of God for Himself.
“Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My Day; he saw it and was glad.” Jesus says that Abraham, looking forward 2000 years, was able to visualize redemption by the Messiah. God promised that in Abraham all families of the earth would be blessed. (Gen.12:3). Peter quoted that verse “And in your posterity shall all families of the earth be blessed” and explained “God, having raised up His Servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:26. So Peter could see Christ in Abraham’s blessing, but could Abraham? A clue is Abraham’s prophetic statement at the sacrifice of Isaac.
“And Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘My Father!’ And he said, ‘Here am I, my son.‘ He said ‘Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?‘ Abraham said ‘God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’” Gen.22:7–8
“…if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.” (8:51) Later, at the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus will promise that His disciples would “never die”. (Jn.11:24–26). The phrase will be explained in that passage.
“Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (8:45). Jesus’ sinless life is crucial to our Atonement and is supported by four writers in other texts.
“…in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Heb.4:15
“…who knew no sin….” Paul--II Cor. 5:21
“…who did no sin…..” Peter--I Pet.2:22, KJV
“….and in Him is no sin….” John--I Jn.3:5, KJV
Was Abraham their father? Jesus said yes (8:56) and no (8:39–40). Abraham was their physical progenitor without doubt, but because God was not their spiritual Father (8:42) they lost their kinship with Abraham as Father of the Faithful (Rom.4:17–18) and Satan filled the spiritual gap.
Was God their Father? (8:41). God says repeatedly in the OT that He is Israel’s Father. (Isa. 64:8; Mal. 2:10).
"Is not He your Father, who created you, who made you and established you?” Deut.32:6
“For Thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Thy Name.” Isa.63:16.
God the Father is their creator and redeemer. Israel, however, rebelled and was temporarily disowned centuries ago—“not my people” Hos.1:9 -- and now they are rebelling again. Jesus said ”If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded and came forth from God.” Jn.8:42. He later said “He who hates Me hates My Father also.” Jn.15:23. Both the Father and the Son were rejected by Israel as a nation. Satan fills the spiritual gap and becomes their father (8:44)—a dreadful thought. But that is why Jesus' murder was possible. Some of this crowd will cry "Crucify Him."
There are important clues to the inside of the Trinity in this passage. “I proceeded and came forth from God.” 8:42. This statement together with “…the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father....” 15:26 tells us that both the Son and the Spirit proceed from the Father. However, the Son is sent by the Father (24 references in Jn. 5–8) and the Spirit is sent by the Son. (Jn.15:26). These statement are very important and form the basis for our creeds ; they were important issues in church history. We also note in passing that as Jesus said He did not speak on His own authority (8:28), so the Spirit does not speak on His own authority, but speaks what He hears, and glorifies Christ. Jn.16:14
“You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free” 8:32 KJV is a popular slogan in educational circles but it is incompletely stated and therefore incorrect, because freedom depends on the preconditions: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples….” Getting away from home is freedom; so is an education, a job, a marriage, cheap gasoline, a retirement plan, but all are substitutes for real freedom. Real freedom is freedom from sin. Only Christ can give us that, and until then everyone is a slave of sin. We say we have free will, but the will is not free until Christ frees it, and then it becomes subject to Him.
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.” (8:28). Jesus first prophesied the crucifixion to Nicodemus, one of His first converts. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” Jn.3:15
Jesus is now sadly distancing Himself from His people.
“…I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going.” 8:15
“You know neither Me nor My Father” 8:19
“I go away and you will seek Me and die in your sins; where I am going, you cannot come.” 8:21
“You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” 8:23
“I speak of what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. “ 8:38.
Yet there are at least five invitations. (8:12, 24, 31, 36, 51). “He who follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 8:12.
There is a great gulf fixed between the sinner and any hope of peace and serenity in the life to come. Only Christ can bridge the gulf. He laid down His life, so that we could cross over to safety.
In John 8, He is the Savior of the fallen, the Light of the World, the One lifted up, the Son who makes us free, the One Abraham rejoiced in, and the I AM—God Himself in human flesh.
Let us love Him and glorify Him with a whole heart.