The Pharisees' Attack

By Mike Mazzalongo Verse: John 8:1-59 Posted: Sun. Aug 11th 2013
More dialogue between Jesus and a woman caught in adultery as well as His denunciation of the hypocritical Jewish leaders.

In the previous chapter we saw Jesus among the people at the temple during the Feast of Booths. During His time in the temple He teaches the people and is, consequently, charged by them of various failings.

  • They charge Him with being incompetent.
  • They charge Him with being demon possessed.
  • Jesus responds by declaring their ignorance and His response to them creates division between them, the leaders, the citizens and the people.
  • In the end, Jesus makes a final plea to them to believe in Him and chapter seven finishes with the people reacting to Jesus' appearance in Jerusalem in a variety of ways.
  • The crowd is divided, some believe and some disbelieve.
  • The temple guards sent to arrest Him are dazzled by His teaching and cannot find an opportunity to seize Him.
  • The Pharisees and the leaders dismiss the guards and the crowds as ignorant and begin to plot against Him.

Thus ends chapter 7 and brings us to the next scene where Jesus will return to the temple the following day to face the Pharisees once again.

1. The adulteress woman – 8:1-11

Vs. 1 – But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

John says that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, which is a hillside and valley, connected to the city itself. The Mount of Olives makes up and includes the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went often to be alone to pray and did so on this occasion.

Vs. 2Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.

Jesus begins again to teach the people who were in and around the temple and is doing this when He is interrupted by the Scribes and the Pharisees.

Vs. 3-6 – The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.

The key here is in verse 6 where John says they were doing this in order to test Him so that they might have a way to accuse and condemn Him. The Pharisees and Scribes were trying to trap Him in two ways:

  1. If He said to let her go, they would accuse Him of being soft on adultery and thus not in compliance with the Law.
  2. If, on the other hand, He said "Yes, let us stone her according to the Law of Moses," they would accuse Him of disobeying Roman law. The Jews had no permission to execute.

Of course, even the finding of the woman is questionable. It seems that even she was set up in order to be caught and create this particular opportunity to try to trap Jesus.

Vs. 7-9 – But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.

We do not know what Jesus wrote on the ground, we have no idea why He did that or what was written or drawn. There is a lot of speculation about what He did, but we just do not know. However, we do know where He is quoting from when He says, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." He is quoting this from Deuteronomy 17:7.

In this passage, Moses was giving instructions as to how a stoning for such a sin should be carried out. The idea was that the witnesses to the adultery were to be the first ones to cast the stones in the punishment and after they had thrown their stones, the people were to cast the stones to finish the job.

And so Jesus is referring them to this command in the Law of Moses, but He adds the idea that the one to cast the first stone should be the one who has not sinned himself, and not just a witness. Once He said this, He ignores them and allows them to mull this over. Of course, once they hear it, they are the ones that are in a catch 22. If they throw the stone, they acknowledge they are hypocrites and break Roman law; if they do not throw the stone, they acknowledge that they are sinners. For them, it is the acknowledgment of the lesser evil. Better to be recognized as a sinner than a hypocrite.

In His dialogue with the woman Jesus shows an alternative way of dealing with sinners. He offers forgiveness rather than condemnation and punishment. In this little scene we see the difference between the result of the Law that came through Moses which these men were trying to enact, and the grace of Christ that Jesus was bringing into the world. One condemned and punished for any infraction, the other offered forgiveness and restoration for those who acknowledged their wrong.

Vs. 10-11 – Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."

In telling the woman that He did not condemn her and that she should go but not sin anymore, Jesus was showing the balance between grace and acknowledgment of sin and repentance. Yes, He had forgiven her, yes He did not condemn her, but this was not because He did not see any sin in her. He offered forgiveness with the condition that she repents.

We do not know what the woman did and how she acted after this event. We can only speculate that her contact with Jesus and His gracious conduct towards her motivated her to continue to strive to sin no more.

2. The Pharisees – 8:12-30

The event of the adulteress woman now sets the stage for the dialogue that will continue between Jesus and His fierce enemies, the Pharisees. Now that He has managed to escape their trap, He will begin with a statement that will draw them into more dialogue with Him.

Vs. 12 – Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

Once again Jesus invites people to believe in Him. Now a person would normally say, I provide light for those who are in the darkness, but Jesus says, "I am the light." He claims that He is not just part of the light, but the whole of the light that shines not only in some part of the darkness but that illuminates all of the darkness.

You also see in this verse that He equates light with life. In other words, if a person has light, that same person has life. Or course, the light that He is talking about is the truth. The understanding that one has when one knows God. His point is, if you know the truth, then you have not just ordinary human life but you have spiritual life, which, in essence, is eternal life. Or course, Jesus is once again declaring His divinity and His association with God. Notice the cycle is beginning once again where Jesus is declaring His divine nature to those who would hear.

Vs. 13 – So the Pharisees said to Him, "You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true."

The Pharisees dismiss what He says and make no comment on it. They are more interested in discrediting Him than understanding what He says. They focus on what they see as a weakness. The fact that He has said something about Himself. They accuse Him of making a witness, or bragging about Himself, and claim that if He is doing this it compromises what He says about Himself. In other words, if you are bragging about yourself, then what you say is not true.

Vs. 14-18 – Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me."

In this passage Jesus is answering from the perspective of His divine nature. He tells them that even though He makes a statement about Himself, that statement is nevertheless true because:

  1. He has complete knowledge about His entire past and His entire future and they do not.
  2. His assessment of His identity is not based on His own opinion alone but on the opinion of Himself and the opinion of the Father.
  3. That two agree on a thing is what the Law requires to establish validity. Therefore since Jesus and the Father agree on who He is and what He says, then their testimony is true.

We have to realize that Jesus' answer and justification for what He has just said comes from His divine knowledge and His insight as God and not man. That is why He says He does not judge from a fleshly perspective. A human being could not say the things that He says about Himself. However, since Jesus is also divine, He can say the things that He says because they are true and because God confirms them.

Vs. 19a – So they were saying to Him, "Where is Your Father?"

Again the Pharisees respond with misunderstanding and confusion. They think that He is talking about His father, an earthly father, when Jesus is talking about the Heavenly Father. They want to know where the father He is talking about is so that they can verify the things that Jesus is saying.

Vs. 19b – Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also."

Jesus answers them plainly that in the way they treat Him, they demonstrate that they do not know His Father and cannot know Him.

Vs. 20 – These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.

Again, John makes an editorial comment about the fact that they did not seize Him at this time because God would not permit it.

Vs. 21 – Then He said again to them, "I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come."

Jesus continues the dialogue by once again speaking from the divine perspective. Here He is talking about His death and His resurrection and the fact that they will not be able to understand what has taken place because they do not believe.

Seeking Him and trying to go where He is going refers to the fact that they try with human understanding to grasp what will take place and will fail. They will fail because they do not believe and they will die in their sins because they did not believe in Him. Jesus is condemning them for their lack of faith, but they do not understand even the condemnation that He gives them at this time.

Vs. 22 – So the Jews were saying, "Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?"

Here the Jews demonstrate that they truly do not understand what He is talking about. They think that His reference to death means that He will cause His own death.

Vs. 23-24 – And He was saying to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

Jesus once again reiterates that they are fleshly, they are from below and He is spiritual, from above. They are from this world; He is from another world. He summarizes the idea by telling them more plainly that they will die in their sins because they do not believe in Him.

We know from our perspective today that the reason they die in their sins is because only through faith can they have their sins forgiven. They do not understand this principle at this time and so they are confused.

Vs. 25a – So they were saying to Him, "Who are You?"

We can tell by this verse that they are beginning to slowly open their eyes by the fact that they are actually asking a decent question. By asking, "Who are you?" the Jews demonstrate that they are beginning to sense that He is someone very special. So they ask the question, "Who are You" as a way of getting Him to be more clear as to His declarations about His person.

Vs. 25b-26 – Jesus said to them, "What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world."

Jesus tells them that He has been trying to explain this to them from the very beginning. Jesus, in verse 26, reestablishes the idea that everything He is saying to them, whether it be something that He teaches them or something that brings judgment on them, comes from God; The God who is true. He also says that the things that He speaks are only those things He has been given to say by God. Of course, this is a very sweeping statement that establishes the idea that everything Jesus is saying comes directly from God. Yet, another time where Jesus is declaring His divinity: they ask "Who are You?" and He answers, "I am the One sent from God."

Vs. 27 – They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father.

John makes another editorial comment by saying that the Jews finally grasp that He is speaking to them about God and that He is casting Himself in the position of God's Son and God's Spokesman. This does not necessarily mean that everyone believed what He said, but now they are a least understanding the point to His sayings.

Vs. 28-29 – So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."

Again Jesus looks into the future to His crucifixion and resurrection and says that this will provide the proof they will need to believe the things He is saying to them now.

In verse 29 He simply repeats the idea that God is the one who sent Him; God is the one who is with Him; God will not leave Him alone now or in the future, and that all the things that He does are pleasing to God.

Vs. 30 – As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.

John tells us that people who heard these words came to believe in Him. The combination of His challenging words, the declaration of His divinity, and the prophecy concerning the future work together to produce faith in the hearts of several of His hearers. We see from this the cycle repeating itself where Jesus declares His divinity in some manner and people either believe or disbelieve according to their will. In this passage, some of the Pharisees rejected what He said and some, as John tells us in verse 30, came to believe Him.

Jesus and His new disciples – 8:31-59

We have seen Jesus confront the Pharisees over the adultery issue with the woman and we have seen Him continue the dialogue with the Jews and the Pharisees as they discuss His identity. We also see the division of those who accept His word and believe Him and those who reject it.

In the next section Jesus will continue a dialogue, but this time with those who have believed what He has said about Himself. We are going to see that He continues to challenge those who say they believe in Him with further claims about His divinity. We will note that even those who have an initial belief in Him turn away when He challenges them to accept more fully who He really is and what He has come to do.

Vs. 31-32 – So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

In this verse someone has made some profession of belief, and Jesus in response says, "If you are truly my disciples" (meaning if what you say is true), then this will be proven because you will obey and continue to obey and believe what I say. The point He makes here is that if they continue believing and accepting His words, they will know the truth and the truth will free them from their ignorance and, eventually, from their sins.

Vs. 33 – They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?"

Of course, they are offended by what He says concerning their freedom and the necessity of their obedience to His word. They claim to be Abraham's offspring, meaning they are descendants of Abraham and because of this have never been enslaved to any person. This, of course, is not true as history shows the Jews were often overrun and enslaved by a variety of opposing armies and nations. But these Jews like to think that their relationship to Abraham was the thing that made them right before God and they had religious freedom guaranteed because of this heritage. They reject Jesus' offer of freedom by saying, "We have always been free because we are Abraham's seed, we do not need you to free us spiritually."

Vs. 34-38 – Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father."

Jesus begins by explaining to them that their slavery is to sin and that because of that, they will not remain in the house, or the presence, of God forever. He however, because He has no sin, will remain in the presence of God forever. His offer of freedom is to free them from that sin and give them a portion of what He has. He acknowledges that they are culturally related to Abraham, but even this relationship does not protect them from their slavery to sin. He repeats the fact that He speaks only the things that He has seen in person with God and they act out the urges from their father, the devil.

Vs. 39a – They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father."

Now the crowd senses what He is accusing them of and they come back with the idea that Abraham is their father. In other words, they are saying they have no other father but Abraham.

Vs. 39b-41a – Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father."

Jesus responds to their declaration by saying that if they were Abraham's children they would not be doing what they intend to do, that is to kill Him. Not only is Jesus accusing them of an evil thing, but in doing so He demonstrates that He is reading their minds. He finishes up the section by saying once again that because of the thing they are trying to do, they prove that Abraham is not their father because Abraham would never think of trying to kill someone who is bringing the Word of God to them.

Vs. 41b – They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God."

Now the crowd steps up, if you wish, and declares not only are they children of Abraham, but God is their Father. The point they are making is that they are the children of God. The unspoken insult here is that they charge Him of being born of fornication. They are insinuating that His own birth was in question because of the conditions in which Mary conceived. They are saying to Him, "Well at least we are not illegitimate."

Vs. 42-47 – Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.

Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

Jesus picks up on what they say about their father being God and turns it back on them by telling them that if they were from God, they would love Him because He was from God. However, because they reject Him and intend to kill Him for what He is saying, they prove that the source of their lives is not God but the devil himself whose nature is full of lies and aggression.

In the last verse or two, He summarizes His argument by saying simply that they do not believe what He says because they are not from God.

Vs. 48 – The Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"

The Jews obviously are angry and make two accusations:

  1. He is a Samaritan, in other words, He does not belong to the nation of Israel.
  2. He has a demon and is possessed by the forces of Satan.

Now they are simply angry and hurling insults and accusations against Him to keep Him quiet.

Vs. 49-51 – Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death."

In these verses, Jesus tells them that their accusations and insults dishonor Him, the One who is from God. But He also says that their dishonor does not discourage Him because He is not looking for His own honor, but rather the honor that should go to God. He finishes up by saying, "If anyone keeps His word, they will have eternal life." Once again He finishes the debate by challenging them to believe in Him.

Vs. 52-53 – The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.' Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?"

The Jews pounce on His answer and use it to support their accusation that He has a devil. They say that if both Abraham and the prophets are dead, how can He claim that He can offer eternal life. They turn around and challenge Him by asking, "Are you greater than Abraham?" In the end, they are basically saying, who do you think you are?

Vs. 54-56 – Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him

and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."

Jesus picks up on their last question and answers them that if He is trying to glorify Himself, His glory does not mean anything, but if His glory comes from God, then He is truly glorified. Once again, He compares Himself to the crowd and tells them that it comes down to who really knows God. Does He know God or do they? The proof that He knows God is that He obeys God and He speaks only God's word and they do not. If this were not so, He would be a liar like them, but since it is so (that He does speak only God's word, that He only does what God gives Him to do), then He is the legitimate Son of God and not them.

He finishes up by saying that the person they claim to be their father, Abraham, was actually happy to know that one day Jesus would come and when through faith he saw it, it made him happy. Jesus is saying this in such a way to suggest that He Himself was there when Abraham understood the promise of the Messiah. This challenges the crowd one more time, and they give Jesus a response.

Vs. 57 – So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"

Once again the Jews only accept the human nature of Jesus' character and not the divine. They simply see His physical age and claim that it is not possible for Him to have actually seen Abraham in person. Of course, this would be true if Jesus was only a man but since He is also the divine Son of God, He was present when Abraham lived and can make this claim.

Vs. 58 – Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."

In His answer to the Jews about seeing Abraham, Jesus not only says that He saw Abraham but the way that He expresses it is very remarkable. In saying "Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was born, I am." Jesus is referring back to the time when Moses was speaking to God and asking God who should he say sent him to Egypt? God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you." (Exodus 3:13-14)

The Jews were very familiar with this passage and recognized that Jesus had referred to Himself, in the same way that Almighty God had referred to Himself. This, of course, was blasphemy in their ears for a mere man to declare and give himself the name of God. Of course, since Jesus was the Son of God, this was quite a legitimate name for Him to use. However, the Jews not believing this saw a blasphemy worthy of death.

Vs. 59 – Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

John then describes that the people tried to stone Him to death because of what He said. As a result, Jesus hid Himself and left the temple for safety sake. It is ironic that the chapter begins and ends with an attempt to stone someone to death.

Summary

So we see once again Jesus continuing His dialogue with a variety of people. We also see the continual cycle of the revelation of His person, along with the belief or disbelief of individuals.

In this chapter, we've noted three different examples of this cycle being carried out:

  1. The Pharisees, trying to trap Him and being outwitted, leave in disbelief. The woman remaining behind goes away with forgiveness and a sense of faith in Christ.
  2. Jesus speaking to the crowd, encouraging them to believe in Him and continuing with a dialogue about the source of His life. Once this dialogue is over, some of the people disbelieved but others came to initial belief.
  3. Jesus has a dialogue with those who show interest and belief in Him. He challenges them to obey His word in order to be free from their sin. People stumble over this demand because of their pride. They feel that as descendants of Abraham they have no need of someone to deal with their sins. They believe that their cultural heritage is sufficient to make them right before God. Jesus teaches them that they need a Savior to free them from their sins no matter what their cultural and religious heritage is. These same people who believed in Him quickly turn against Him because they are unwilling to acknowledge their sin of pride. We find out at the end of the chapter that the very people who began to believe in Him quickly turned against Him and were prepared to kill Him because of what He said to them.

Lessons

There are still a couple of lessons that we can draw from this dialogue even though it repeats the cycle and pattern of discussion that Jesus has had with these people in the past.

1. Jesus came for forgiveness sake, not judgment.

In the story of the adulterous woman we see that Jesus' purpose in coming was to provide forgiveness for the people. Of course there will be a judgment to come, but the primary reason for Jesus' appearance was to open the gate to allow forgiveness and grace to come into a person's life. We need to remember this when we see others who have made mistakes or who have sinned. Our task is to lead people to forgiveness not to form a posse and/or a mob to carry out justice.

2. Obedience separates the men from the boys.

Regardless of what people say about their religious convictions or their Bible knowledge, it is their obedience to God's Word that determines their relationship to God. By doing what God wants us to do in worship, ministry, and relationships with other people that we prove that we are His people.

3. Jesus is always testing His disciples.

Even the people who said they believed in Him were subject to Jesus' tests. He challenged them to come to a higher level by depending on Him for their salvation.

This offended their pride and turned them against Him. Many times in our lives we are tested by the Lord in what we say, what we do or how we will respond to Him. We need to be conscious of this and remember that at any time He can test our faith. If we find ourselves falling away, neglecting Him, putting less emphasis on His Word, or growing cold in our love for Him, these are sure signs that we have fallen into disobedience. We have to be careful about becoming complacent because that is when the tests usually come.

Reading Assignment:  John 9:1-41

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