John 8

The Word Made Fresh

1Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives, 2and returned to the temple early the next morning. People gathered around him, and he sat down and began teaching them.

3The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of the crowd that had gathered around Jesus. 4They said, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. 5In the law, Moses ruled that such women should be stoned. What do you say?” 6They were testing him to find some charge to bring against him.

7Jesus bent down and wrote something on the ground with his finger. 7They kept pressing him for an answer, and he straightened up and said, “Let whoever among you is without sin throw the first stone at her.” 8Then he bent down again to write on the ground. 9When they heard him say that they began to go away one by one, beginning with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10He straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Have you no accusers now?”

11“No one, sir,” she replied.

Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you, either. Go now, and sin no more.”

12Jesus began teaching the people again. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never again have to walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13The Pharisees said, “You are serving as your own witness, and that is not justified.”

14“Even if I testify on my own behalf,” he said, “it is justified because I know from where I came and to where I’m going, but you don’t know where I come from or where I’m going. 15You judge however you wish. I judge no one, 16but even if I did it would be right because I don’t judge alone; I judge with the father who sent me. 17Your law says that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. 18But I testify for myself, and the Father who sent me testifies for me also.”

19They asked, “Where is your Father?”          

Jesus answered, “You don’t know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father as well.” 20He said this while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple. No one arrested him because his time had not yet come.

21He also told them, “I am leaving. You will look for me, but you will die because of your sin. You can’t go where I’m going.”       

22The Jews said among themselves, “Is he going to take his own life? Is that what he means when he says we can’t go where he’s going.”

23Jesus told them, “You are from below and I am from above. You are of this world, but I’m not. 24I told you that you would die in your sins, and so you will unless you believe that I am who I say I am.”

25They said, “Who are you?”

Jesus replied, “I am who I said from the beginning. 26I have a lot to say about you, and much with which to find fault. But I say to the world only what I have heard from the One who sent me.”

27They didn’t understand that he was speaking of the Father. 28He said, “When you have lifted the Son of Man, you will realize that I am, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what my Father has told me. 29And the One who sent me is with me, and has never let me be alone. And so, I always do what pleases my Father.”

30A lot of people came to believe as he spoke of these things.

31Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed him, “If you continue following my word you are surely my disciples. 32And you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33They answered, “But we are descendants of Abraham. We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean when you say we’ll be set free?”

34Jesus answered, “I’ll tell you the truth; everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35A slave doesn’t have a permanent place in the family, but the Son does have a place, and always will. 36So if the Son gives you your freedom, you will indeed be free. 37I know that you are descended from Abraham, and yet you’re looking for an opportunity to kill me because my word has no place in you. 38I say only what I have learned from the Father, and as for you, you should also do what you have heard from the father.

39They said, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said, “If you are Abraham’s children, you should do what Abraham did. 40But here you are, trying to kill me even though I have told you the truth I received from God. This isn’t what Abraham did. 41But you surely are doing what your father does.”

They said, “We are not illegitimate. We have one father, and that is God.”

42Jesus replied, “If God were your father you would love me, because I have come from God, and now I am here. I didn’t come on my own, but because God sent me. 43Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? It’s because you can’t accept my testimony. 44You are from your father, the devil, and you choose to do your father’s bidding. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not hold to the truth because he has no truth in him. He lies – that is his nature. He is a liar and the father of lies. 45So, you don’t believe me because I speak the truth. 46How can you accuse me of sin if I tell the truth? Why don’t you believe me? 47Whoever is from God hears God’s word. You don’t hear God’s word because you are not from God.”

48The Jews replied, “You’re nothing but a Samaritan. And you’re possessed by a demon. Isn’t that right?”

49Jesus answered them, “I don’t have a demon, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50I don’t seek my own glory; the One who seeks it is the Judge. 51I’ll tell you the truth; whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

52The Jews said to him, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets. But you say that whoever keeps your word will never die. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also who died. So, who do you claim to be?”

54Jesus said, “If I glorify myself, it means nothing. But my Father glorifies me, the very one of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55even though you don’t know the Father. But I do know him. If I said I didn’t I would be a liar. But I do indeed know the Father and I keep the Father’s word. 56Abraham, your ancestor, was happy that he would see my day – he did see it, and was pleased.”

57The Jews said, “You’re not even fifty years old. Have you seen Abraham?”

58Jesus said to them, “The truth is that I am before Abraham was.”

59At that they took up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid from them and left the temple.


1-11: This has long been my favorite story about Jesus in the gospels, and it pains me that in recent decades scholars have begun to conclude that it is not an original part of the gospel. My response is that, even though there is some manuscript evidence that the story may have been a later add-on, that doesn’t mean it is not an authentic account of a real event. The story of the woman taken in adultery is so well-known that we can dispense with the usual commentary. The focus is usually on the scribes and Pharisees and their judgmental attitude. In the context of the last paragraph of the last chapter it can be seen as a clever attempt to trick Jesus into exceeding his authority as a judge so that he can be formally charged. Jesus, of course, turns the spotlight back on them and wins the day. But take a closer look: twice we are told that Jesus “bent down” to write with his finger on the ground, and twice we are told that he “straightened up.” However, the Greek word translated “straightened up” (anakupsen/anakupsas) does not indicate that he stood up, but rather that he simply straightened so as to look up. In other words, as soon as the woman is brought to him, he kneels, placing himself below her. When the scribes and Pharisees leave, he is still kneeling. In terms of authority, he is in the inferior position, deliberately placing her in a position of strength. What a beautiful description of the way Jesus related to people who were outcast.

12-20: It is tempting to connect this teaching to the story of the woman caught in adultery and his refusal to condemn her (“I judge no one,” he says in verse 15). The opening line, “Again Jesus spoke to them,” is a reference to the crowds who came to hear him teach — see verse 20.

“I am the light of the world” is the second of the “I am” statements Jesus makes in John’s gospel. The first was “I am the bread of life” (6:35). Scholars generally agree that there are seven such sayings:

6:35 – “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.”

8:12 – “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”

10:9 – “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.”

11:25 – “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though they die, will live.”

13:19-20 – “I am he (Lord and Teacher)… whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me.”

14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”

            Furthermore, the seven “I am” sayings are bracketed by seven “I am not” sayings. The gospel began with John the baptizer saying “I am not” four times (1:20, 21, 27, and 3:28), and at the end we will have three more “I am not” statements; two by Peter (18:17, 25) and one by Pilate (18:35).

,And further furthermore, the statements that accompany the “I am” statements might well have been used as a basic primer for new Christian converts: “Whoever comes to Jesus will never be hungry.” “Whoever follows Jesus will never walk in darkness.” “Whoever enters the gate by Jesus will be saved.” “Whoever believes in Jesus, even though they die, will live.” “Whoever receives one whom Jesus sends receives Jesus; and whoever receives Jesus receives the one who sent Jesus.” “No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.” And finally, “Those who abide in Jesus and Jesus in them bear much fruit, because apart from Jesus you can do nothing.”

21-30: We are still in the temple courtyard in the treasury area, a large open court where the huge offering boxes were placed. Jesus is speaking to the crowds in general, and the crowds include the “Jews,” which in John’s gospel is a general term for all those who oppose Jesus. Jesus prophesies his death, but he does so in riddles designed to evade those who do not believe in him. His opponents do not grasp his meaning, but many in the crowd do.

31-38: The term “the Jews who had believed in him” occurs nowhere else in the gospel, and must refer to those mentioned in verse 30. Yet, the tense of the verb indicates that John is referring specifically to those who once had believed in him but now were against him. Jesus tells them the truth will make them free, and they react as we might expect: “Who are you calling slaves?” Jesus explains that they are slaves to sin — aren’t we all? — and says that he knows they are plotting to kill him.

39-47: The confrontation becomes more heated. They assert their ancestry from Abraham and claim God as their Father; Jesus tells them their opposition to him is proof they are not children of God at all, but children of the devil! The proof is that they don’t know the truth when they hear it.

48-59: Jesus continues accusing them of being thick-headed and undeserving of Abraham who “rejoiced to see my day.” They become so angry that they start gathering rocks and he has to flee.


We are branches of the vine. Faith in Christ occurs when those who have faith share the experience with others. We do that through our daily words and actions. We don’t have to beat people over the head with our “testimony.” All we have to do is share and love as Christ leads us.