From: Busy Person’s Guide to John 1 to 10 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2019
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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:
Quickly Understanding John
(Volume 1: Chapters 7 to 8)
Because of the Anger of the Jerusalem Religious Leaders at
Jesus and the Pressure of His Own Kin to Do Something So Impressive that
Violence Would Ensue, This Time He Attends the Feast of Tabernacles in Secret (John
7:1-13): After this Jesus traveled throughout Galilee. He stayed out of
6 So Jesus replied, “My
time has not yet arrived, but you are ready at any opportunity! 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I am testifying
about it that its deeds are evil. 8 You go up to the feast yourselves.
I am not going up to this feast because my time has not yet fully
arrived.” 9 When he had said this,
he remained in
10 But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, then Jesus himself also went up, not openly but in secret. 11 So the Jewish leaders were looking for him at the feast, asking, “Where is he?” 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He is a good man,” but others, “He deceives the common people.” 13 However, no one spoke openly about him for fear of the Jewish leaders. --New English Translation (for comparison)
7:1 After these things Jesus walked
7:2 Now the Jews’ Feast of
Tabernacles was at hand. Although it is much discussed as to how many actually
went to the three major Feasts each year, there is no controversy that this was
looked upon, informally at least, as the most joyful one of them. Even the vital Passover “only” commemorated
God’s past blessing upon the nation; this one celebrated God’s current
blessing upon the land as well. So
with the Feast of Tabernacles approaching, Jesus had to make the decision
whether to run the risks present in
Sidebar: The feeding of the thousands in the previous chapter was when the Passover “was near” (6:4). Since Tabernacles was in September, roughly five months have gone by at this point.
Sidebar: The observance of the Feast. “The Feast of Tabernacles . . . was the last great feast of the sacred year. It had its relation to the natural and providential goodness of God. Just as the Passover commemorated the opening of the harvest and the first fruits of the grain, and as Pentecost celebrated the completion of the harvest, so the ‘Tabernacles’ implied the ingathering of the fruit of the vine and of the olive, and summed up the joyful acknowledgments for the whole year. . . . Joyfulness and astonishing ceremonial characterized the festival. The city of palaces broke out into booths of trees and leaves in every possible space, on walls and housetops in courtyards, and even in wagons and on the backs of camels. The people carried their palm branches and citrons in their hands, and great merriment . . . prevailed. It probably gathered up about it, as some Christian festivals have done, other ancient or surrounding customs.
“The number of bullocks sacrificed during the seven days--one fewer on each day, beginning with thirteen--amounted in all to seventy (13+12+11+10+9+8+7 = 70). This the rabbis regarded as referring to the seventy nations of heathendom. Additional peculiarities were conspicuous in the immense number of priests who were required to take part in the sacrifices.
“The blasts of priests’ trumpets which regulated the
ceremonial, the great musical procession employed in bringing water from the
Pool of Siloam, then within the city wall, added another noticeable feature.
The water was brought in a golden goblet, and poured into a silver funnel,
which conveyed it by pipes to the Kedron, and was
thus supposed to bless the thirsty land.
This act was accompanied by singing the great Hallel, and the shouts and songs of
“At night time universal illumination prevailed, and huge candelabra in the temple court shed a radiance over the whole city. These peculiarities of the feast rendered it the most popular, if not the most sacred, of all the feasts ([Josephus,] Antiquities , 1, Ἐορτὴ ἁγιωτάτη καὶ μεγίστη). It was a time when the national sentiment often burst into fierce flame. Various historic glories of the past were called to remembrance, and spiritual privileges were symbolized in the ritual.” (Pulpit Commentary)
7:3 His brothers therefore said
to Him, “Depart from here and go into
one can suspect that they had the same worldly King concept that Jesus had so
forcefully discouraged. By pushing Him
before the audiences in
Sidebar: Their words seem a clear concession that Jesus already had a significant body of “disciples” in that region however unwise it was for Him to have remained there--or for them to be saying much of anything about it publicly. But if He were just there to embolden the embers of the fire that remained!
7:4 For no one does anything in
secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these
things, show Yourself to the world.” After
Sidebar: “If You do these
things” can be taken in the sense that they had not witnessed any of the
miracles and all they knew of them was second hand. Alternatively that they are challenging Him
to shake off His reticence and do them in a manner and place where everyone
could see for themselves: “If” not in a
literal but a rhetorical sense: “If You really do these things prove it to everyone by
showing Yourself to the world in
7:5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him. Lest there be any misunderstanding as to their motives, John tells us that His brothers “did not believe in Him.” Is that believe in His miracles and that He had been commissioned by God or believe in what He really was and really wanted--in His spiritual agenda rather than the temporal / regal one they preferred? The language would fit either.
words it could refer not to an absolute lack of faith but a partial
and distorted lack of faith: they
didn’t reject His miracle working ability and the legitimacy of His teaching in
the abstract, but wanted Him to be the regal revolutionary as well . . .
the role He rejects in the previous chapter.
Hence if He went to
7:6 Then Jesus said to
them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always
ready. It simply
wasn’t His time to do what they advised and bring things to a head in
7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. The world found nothing in Jesus’ kin to hate because they had not publicly rebuked the world for its “evil” misconduct. In contrast, Jesus had boldly taken it on. Note how Jesus found the reason for rejection of Him as being fundamentally a basic character fault rather than any intellectual failure. This was applicable on two levels. As to the “world” in the sense of people in general, they want to do whatever pleases them. The word “sin” is something that is irrelevant to anything they choose to do--no matter how evil it is. To note the existence of sin causes them to “hate” you in revulsion at your truth telling. It is an intolerable act to challenge their assumptions and behavior. They worship, if you will, at only one altar--themselves.
True as this is, Jesus’ personal danger did not come from this societal source but from the religious leaders of His “religious world” who hated Him. Genuine disagreements existed of course, but among the most important “players” in the religious landscape, these faded into virtual insignificance: Jesus was a danger to their ego, prestige, and dominance over the religious landscape. Hence their opposition lay not in the search for truth but in a evil search for continued (and undeserved) power and influence.
7:8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” The word “yet” is omitted by the critical text that is widely preferred by most translations. In behalf of its genuineness, however, it should be noted that only two sentences later that we read that He did go: Would even an uninspired writer make this blatant a mistake so quickly?
that what the kin have said is out of their implicit desire for all of
them to go together. With them in
the mood they are, they seem determined to find a way to force Him to act in
7:9 When He had said these things to
them, He remained in
He may have
traveled with only a few of His apostles and/or taken a route to
the alternative routing He could easily have used: “Judging from
His practice at another time (John 4:4), He would go through
Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said,
“Where is He?” Obviously after His arrival, word did seep
out. After all, His apostles would have
been there as well and a goodly number of other disciples. Sooner or later even those who had not
traveled with Jesus would have encountered Him or others who had done so. Since the religious authorities were making
no effort to hide their desire to confront Jesus (note the demand for “Where is
He?”), word would surely have leaked back to them as well. In turn, they would have sent out further
inquiries seeking more specific information as to where He was but they only
succeeded when He was ready for a public confrontation in the
Sidebar on “sought:” “The [Greek] imperfect: kept seeking; persistently sought for Him.” (Vincent’s Word Studies) This was not a casual interest, but an impassioned one. He had humiliated them previously and they regarded that as intolerable. If it was humanly possible, they would find Him--and make Him regret it.
It is far from impossible that the authorities had already been making this effort from the time that the first Galileans arrived--working on the natural assumption that a Man of such piety had to show up. When they heard confirmation of His presence, the effort would have intensified.
And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.” Some thought Him a “good” man and others that He was one of those lying charlatans that periodically set out to deceive the people for their own advancement--or out of their own delusions. Those who considered Him “good,” obviously appreciated the insight of His teaching and judged His miracles to be genuine. Those arguing “He deceives the people” could argue that they were produced by the power of the Devil (Matthew ) and that His words might sound perceptive--but how could they be truly sound when the most prestigious of the city’s religious authorities repudiated them?
We can easily see why Jesus regarded this as a good time to keep a low profile--especially in light of His brothers’ apparent grim determination that He ought to do some spectacular miracle while there (note our comments on verses 3-4). He would encounter His foes not at a time and location of their preference, but of His own (verse 14).
Sidebar: This was not the conversation of a few, but of
many: “Complaining among the people”
is found in John in the Greek plural only in this place. Hence it can rightly be rendered as
“widespread whispering about Him” (NIV), “much muttering about Him among the
people” (ESV), and “among the mass of the people there was much muttered debate
about Him” (
However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews. The opposition of the chief clerics was sufficient to discourage any public manifestation of enthusiasm for Him. Like many times in the current twenty-first century, the open discussion of the Lord and His will has to be done cautiously because of the danger of retribution. Back then it predominantly came from those who falsely claimed to be leaders of God’s flock. Even today many church leaders walk in their repressive steps and blatantly refuse to accept the moral teaching of Jesus and the apostles He inspired--and suppress those who try to be faithful. These might justly be called the “enemy within” the people of God. Today, in our secularized society, the repression even more savagely comes from government or employer--the truth having to be “whispered” rather than joyfully shouted--but even tyranny can not be listening all the time! And it frightens them.
Only Half Way Through the Feast Does Jesus Openly Let His Presence Be Known and He Bluntly Accuses the Authorities of Desiring to Kill Him (John 7:14-24): 14 When the feast was half over, Jesus went up to the temple courts and began to teach. 15 Then the Jewish leaders were astonished and said, “How does this man know so much when he has never had formal instruction?”
16 So Jesus replied, “My teaching is not from me, but from the one who sent me. 17 If anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know about my teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from my own authority. 18 The person who speaks on his own authority desires to receive honor for himself; the one who desires the honor of the one who sent him is a man of integrity, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 19 Hasn’t Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law! Why do you want to kill me?”
20 The crowd answered, “You’re possessed by a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” 21 Jesus replied, “I performed one miracle and you are all amazed. 22 However, because Moses gave you the practice of circumcision (not that it came from Moses, but from the forefathers), you circumcise a male child on the Sabbath. 23 But if a male child is circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses is not broken, why are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to external appearance, but judge with proper judgment.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
Now about the middle of the
feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
Mid-way through the feast, Jesus invited a confrontation by
openly entering the temple and teaching there.
Since the feast was a week long, this would occur around the third or
fourth day (note the “about” in the dating).
How long He had been in the
Sidebar: Oddly enough this is the first time John explicitly refers to sustained teaching by Jesus in the temple. Even when He had driven the animals out during an earlier visit, we read only a brief explanation why He did so (John ) and the answer to only a single question (John ). Here we encounter sustained teaching.
And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Since the “Jews” in verses 11 and 13 are clearly the hostile faction of the Sanhedrin, it is virtually certain that here, also, they are of the same group. They might passionately dislike this strange Galilean, but they could not help but “marvel” that someone could be so knowledgeable without having undergone a lengthy period of formal study, such as they had been through. This couldn’t be, but it clearly was.
In the apostle Paul they recognized a well schooled individual who had learned in detail under the tutelage of the famed Gamaliel in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3), but this Jesus was from the intellectually and spiritually destitute Galilee--and that was not just their prejudiced viewpoint, but also reflective of the fact that few if any opportunities to be schooled by a religious “expert” would have been available. Yet Jesus clearly had perception and insight, however much they might disagree with it.
Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. Jesus’ explanation for the oddity of His unexpected skill at teaching and the insight it provided was simple: He was merely teaching God’s doctrine. It wasn’t something He had originated such as rabbis would do in their learned opinions which were supposedly interpretations of Divine law. All too often it was their speculative “bending” of it to permit or require what Scripture had not even hinted at in any responsible exegesis. In contrast, Jesus’ teaching was direct Divine Law itself, relaying the teaching of the Heavenly Father “who sent Me.”
Endorsing them and their skill, His critics “sent out” rabbis to teach; in vivid contrast it was the heavenly Father who had sent Jesus out to teach. So He “trumps” His foes on both the source of His teaching (the Father) and also on who sent Him out / commissioned Him to go and teach (again the Father).
If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. Some people in every age are genuine doubters but moved by sincerity. Many others, however, are motivated by pre-existing disposition to refuse any teaching that is new to them or contrary to their preferences and no amount of evidence will change their minds. Jesus directly challenges such individuals: If they truly wish to do God’s will, then they will give it the consideration it deserves. The result will be that have no doubt as to whether Jesus originated this teaching or whether it had been given Him by the Father. It bore in its contents and emphases that which humanly invented teaching would not. A primary example is the person who wants to draw all attention to his own authority, position, and correctness rather than it being an accurate reflection of what God truly wants, i.e., . . . .
He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. The individuals who--if they were honest--had to admit that their teaching had originated through their own thinking and reasoning were, however inadvertently, also admitting that they were seeking their “own glory.” Although the traditions were claimed to be a divine fence around the Torah, the fact remained that they had been invented by uninspired individuals such as themselves. It came through their own wisdom and insight and could claim nothing more for it. And they had no problem in stressing that it was what “we”--the speaker or the priestly/scholarly class he was aligned with--“knew” the truth to be. Demanding and convincing others of that, built up their own pride and arrogance even further for rejecting it meant rejecting them as well.
In contrast, Jesus sought solely the glory of God in whom there is “no unrighteousness” of any kind. That is a slap at their willingness to use raw power to do violence to Him—even kill Him (). It also alludes to their willingness to unjustly hinder others from fulfilling the moral obligations that the Law of Moses (which they claimed to champion) laid down on His people--Mark 7:9-13; providing there only a single example, He pungently adds, “many such things you do.”
Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” Truth be told, they themselves were not obedient to the law of Moses even though they vigorously insisted they were the only proper and authorized interpreters of it. So who were they, then, to try to kill the One who was faithfully observing it (verse 20b)? What is the evidence to justify it?
This inconsistency made them blatant hypocrites not just on the grounds of a widespread laxity toward obedience in general, but specifically in regard to the proper grounds for the death penalty they sought to inflict. Judges were supposed to be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Exodus 18:21): The reverential fear of God would rule out consciously doing wrong to those who came under their jurisdiction; they were to be ones who sought the “truth” about any accusation rather than simply seeking an excuse to justify their own hostile intentions--as they were in the case of Jesus. In a similar vein Jehoshaphat warned the judges of his day that they were to “take care” in how they carried out their judgment. They were to avoid the taint of any “iniquity” becoming involved and there was to be “no partiality nor taking of bribes” (2 Chronicles 19:7).
They should be well aware of their own sin and failures (David’s standard in Psalms 51:3) lest they act against others too harshly or unwisely. If even kings were to avoid the “shedding [of] innocent blood and practicing oppression and violence” (Jeremiah ), how much more so the religious leaders of the nation! But rather than be honest and honorable judges they try character assassination and plot His death. . . .
The people answered and said, “You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?” These words are typically read as the onlookers’ observation and the term translated “people” changed to “the crowd:” hence shock that He could accuse them of such extreme behavior. But why would He accuse the crowd of seeking to kill Him (verse 19) when it was the religious leaders at fault? Would the genuinely non-committed be upset at all that He had healed on the Sabbath (verse 23)? Shall we mention that others present were well aware that there were those that wished death to be inflicted upon Jesus (verse 25)?
Hence if we are to read “people” in a broad sense at all,
surely it must be as those elements of the crowd who felt ties of loyalty
and obligation to the leadership. If
we were to think in terms of contemporary
Either referring to the onlookers or to the religious leaders, technically, there may even be a tiny amount of “truthfulness” in their words: Few if any may have uttered the word “kill” to the non-elite. But how about “bring to justice,” “punish as He deserves to be punished,” “punish Him the way a rebel against God’s appointed spiritual leaders should be?” Wouldn’t such euphemisms carry the same assumption of death?
And those who came to the conclusion they sought the execution of Jesus (verse 25) would have come to that very justified deduction even when such euphemisms were being used. That those closed aligned to the religious leadership would ever admit such an intent to Jesus Himself, however--of course not!
Jesus answered and said to them, “I did one work, and you all marvel. This refers to His daring to perform a miracle (“one work”) at a time they insisted was improper--of healing on the Sabbath day (). This was flat outright wrong so far as they were concerned and they had “marvel[led]” at His audacity. It is especially fascinating that this had happened at a significantly earlier Feast and not during this one (John 5:1-16). In their minds, it remained a burning insult just as much as if it had been done the previous day. The adage “evil hearts never forget” seems one that applies here. Are they upset more at the “wrong day” of healing or His “infamous behavior” of daring to do it in their city?
Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. They themselves would gladly “circumcise a man on the Sabbath day” even though it was clearly “work.” These two statements from the Talmud, for example, confirm this belief: “Everything required for circumcision may be completed on the Sabbath;” “The healing of a sick man dangerously ill, and circumcision, break through the Sabbath sanctity.” Hence there are some “works” that are not only proper but even essential to do on the Sabbath day.
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges suggests the implicit reasoning is this: “Circumcision originated with the Patriarchs, and was a more ancient institution than the Sabbath. When, therefore, the two ordinances clashed, the younger had to give place; it was more fit that the Sabbath should be broken, than that circumcision should be administered on the wrong day. If then the Sabbath could give way to a mere ceremonial observance, how much more might it give way to a work of mercy? The law of charity is older and higher than any ceremonial law.”
After all, the Divine principle of mercy long preceded the revelation of the Mosaical system. Even God’s creation of Eve was an act of mercy for Adam--so that he would not have to suffer from loneliness due to lack of human company (Genesis ). Noah found mercy in God’s sight when He decided a depraved world had to be eliminated (Genesis 6:8, 18-19). God showed His desire to provide mercy to one and all by promising to bring a redeemer (Christ) to earth in fulfillment of the promise made to ancient Abraham (Genesis 12:3)
God provided mercy to Joseph as well: Even while he was a slave in
If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? To do God’s will required circumcision on the eighth day after birth (Leviticus 12:3), even if it turned out to be the Sabbath. Yet they were willing to be outraged at Him even though God’s ongoing demand for mercy just as firmly demanded that a man could be healed on the Sabbath.
the intensity of their indignation: “Angry. The word occurs
nowhere else in the New Testament. It
signifies bitter and violent resentment.”
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Their problem was a lack of perceptivity. Instead of judging by mere superficial “appearance,” they needed to be sure that their reasoning was based on “righteous” premises and attitudes. And not just the envious desire to destroy the credibility of Someone who could make a far better case than they did.
Jesus’ Claims to Have Come from God Causes An Unsuccessful Attempt to Seize Him (John -36): 25 Then some of the
28 Then Jesus, while teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “You both know me and know where I come from! And I have not come on my own initiative, but the one who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him, because I have come from him and he sent me.”
30 So then they tried to seize Jesus, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the crowd believed in him and said, “Whenever the Christ comes, he won’t perform more miraculous signs than this man did, will he?”
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things about Jesus, so the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Then Jesus said, “I will be with you for only a little while longer, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me but will not find me, and where I am you cannot come.”
35 Then the Jewish leaders said to one another, “Where is he going to go that we cannot find him? He is not going to go to the Jewish people dispersed among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, is he? 36 What did he mean by saying, ‘You will look for me but will not find me, and where I am you cannot come’?”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
Now some of them from
Then there were the servants. What people with status often forgot was that their “lowly” servants had ears to hear and barring the sternest direct prohibition would have had no reason not to share with outsiders their latest nugget of “inside information.” Then there were the servants who were slaves who had even less vested interest in maintaining the “good face” of their masters. We know there were such in geographic Palestine in the first century--Herod the Great had slaves and rebels against maintaining his family in power were sold into it--but there seems no way to make a decent estimate of what percentage of the population were in bondage. In all of these ways the rumor probably spread.
But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? Since Jesus had just dared to speak both publicly and “boldly” without the rulers providing effective contradiction, might their private attitudes be different from their public face? Or might their views have changed? This was a far from illogical deduction. Jesus’ opponents in the city included the religious intellectuals of the day. If Jesus could be “taken apart” in public confrontation, they had both the ability to do so and the vested interest as well. They had failed so far and, even in failure, they retained the power to arbitrarily arrest and punish . . . and they hadn’t done that either.
However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.” Weighed against the pro-Jesus logic was one powerful factor: How in the world could He be the Christ? They knew the region and town Jesus was from but “no one knows” where the Messiah would come from.
Sidebar: We have an obvious tension here between their
conviction of the “unknowability” of the origin of
the Redeemer and the fact that prophecy had spoken of “where” the
Messiah would be born, i.e.,
For some the fact that He did not live there carried the connotation that moving anywhere else ruled out His being the prophesied figure. In other words living for most of His life in Galilee was used as an objection against the possibility that He could be the prophesied figure at all (as in John 7:41-43).
But these objectors are ignoring Micah 5:2 entirely and go much further to challenge whether the origin place can possibly be known at all. Perhaps they had latched onto “who will declare His generation” in Isaiah 58 as describing His ancestry rather than dying without fathering any earthly children. Or perhaps they thought the glory and grandeur of the Messiah required such a background out of “nowhere.”
We know from non-Biblical sources that there was a strain of thought that He would, in effect, majestically appear out of “nowhere” rather than being someone with long settled roots in the countryside. Trypho the Jew is quoted by Justin Martyr as embracing that kind of scenario: “But Christ--if he has indeed been born, and exists anywhere--is unknown, and does not even know himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint him and make him manifest to all.” One of the rabbis quoted in the Talmud must take for granted something very akin to this for he argues that “three things are wholly unexpected--Messiah, a god-send, and a scorpion.”
Clearly some such line of reasoning about the “unknown” origins of the Messiah was being branded about in the city and He makes a public response to it in verses 28-29. But those words seem aimed not so much at these folk as toward those already hostile for the former are ambivalent and hardly the ones who would immediately try to arrest Him (verse 30).
Then Jesus cried out, as He
taught in the temple, saying, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of
Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. In the temple He emphatically insisted
that if they would but stop and think about it, they would “know [= recognize]
where I am from” and how that He had not come ministering, preaching, and
healing out of His own initiative but because it was His Father’s will. The root of the problem was that they simply
did not “know” (= understand / comprehend / acknowledge) this. They saw the evidence but failed to grasp
what it implied as to His true origin.
From the varied supernatural acts He performed, having roots in
For that matter they didn’t really know all that much about His Father either: “whom you do not know” is directly applied to Him. They repeatedly bent the words of Scripture to fit their preferences (consider the examples given in Matthew 5): They arrogated to themselves the right to do so because of their position and supposed spiritual/intellectual development. Even when the Father’s power allowed the Son to work powerful and impressive miracles, that was not enough to convince them that His raw power gave Him profoundly greater authority than their faulty exegesis. Clearly, they truly did not “know [= recognize, understand]” the Father either. And if they misunderstand both Father and Son what is left then? A fundamental ignorance or blindness unfortunately.
Sidebar: “Cried out” argues impassioned and emphatic speech. This was not a mere intellectual discussion; it involved just how much power the Father had given Him. Compare Matthew 28:18: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.” The perceptivity they lacked Jesus claimed for Himself. In contrast to them, Jesus had both come “from” God and been “sent” by Him as well. His critics of any type could claim neither. This could be taken in two ways--though in Jesus’ case they both overlap: (1) How could anyone who had done and said what He had, have mere earth side roots? (An allusion to His supernatural origin discussed in the prologue to the gospel.) (2) He had been specially commissioned by God not just as a prophet but as the Messiah. (As Messiah He was “sent” on a commission “from” Him.) This was the apparent interpretation put on it by those who “believed” (accepted) His claims (verse 31). However the power brokers were outraged. . . .
Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. At this point we find a paradox that the author leaves unexplained: on the one hand they wished to seize Jesus; on the other hand no one did so. The reason was that “His hour had not yet come.” That was the reason or purpose for which their attempt was frustrated; but the means by which it was accomplished are passed by.
not some new idea on the part of the religious power brokers. “The tense is [Greek] imperfect, marking the continuance
of efforts to take Him.” (Ellicott’s
Commentary for English Readers) Yet they decline to “grab Him” themselves
perhaps fearing that only the “officers”/police of the
And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?” In contrast to the situation before His arrival in Jerusalem--when only “some” spoke praise of Him (verse 12)--the numbers had now dramatically increased: “Many” of the masses now “believed in” Jesus for a very practical reason: Could the Messiah possibly do “more signs” that this Man had done? Since it was unimaginable, Jesus must be the Messiah or (far less likely) at least some one so specially endowed by God to be worthy of their honor and following. They are trying to show others the folly of their doubts which they themselves do not share.
Sidebar: Our text shows that miracles were expected to be performed by the Messiah. The roots of this conviction likely lie in the Messianic interpretation of Isaiah 35:5-6: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. . . .”
Jesus embraced this miracle working criteria as evidence for His claims. When challenged by John’s query through his disciples whether He was really the Messiah (Matthew 11:3), He responded for them to provide him the evidence on which to make a decision: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (verse 4-5).
The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. The Pharisees were a minority in the Sanhedrin and, at key points (Acts 23:8), were far closer to Jesus’ teaching than the Sadducees who dominated the institution. Yet all this was too much for them as well. So they consulted “the chief priests” (= mostly Sadducees) and they all supported the sending of “officers” (= temple police) to arrest the Lord.
Sidebar: We have no definition of exactly who “the chief priests” were. It is “a phrase often occurring in the writings of Luke, and here for the first time in this Gospel [and] cannot be confined to the official ‘high priest,’ but may include the ex-high priests, perhaps the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests and the chiefs of the priestly party, though there is no proof of it.” (Pulpit Commentary)
Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. Using the decision to try to arrest Him as a jumping off point, John notes that Jesus conceded that He would not be with them much longer. They might not arrest Him today but eventually they will succeed. (Lesson: Don’t interpret any escape today as a permanent one.) This, however, would not stop Him returning to God. Whatever the future might hold, it is not going to, in any way, disrupt His relationship with the Father.
Sidebar: He would die some six months later, at Passover.
You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.” A logical question that would derive from His claim that He would soon be departing (verse 33), would be to where? At that point they might still wish to “find” Him, but they were forbidden access to where that was.
In the temporal terms they thought of, His leaving meant going into the Greek speaking and Gentile dominated world (verse 35). Whether for supportive purposes or hostile ones--the latter is specifically in mind--nothing, of course, prevented them from following to such places. For them to be unable to have access would require that He be under the protection of someone powerful in that distant location who would keep them from bothering Him.
Literally speaking, His words fit that kind of situation, but Jesus was thinking in spiritual terms instead: His enemies took pride in being servants of God, but they would be faced with the situation of Jesus being with the Father and their own entrance denied. Any victory they might seem to gain over Him would destroy their acceptability to the very God they worshipped.
Sidebar: The expression “you cannot come” varies in application according to context. In John it also refers to not going to the heavenly place Jesus will and the natural accompaniment of that reality: you “will die in your sin.”
In John 13:33, however, Jesus intentionally quotes the words to His apostles: “Little children, You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.” Note the shift in meaning: His rabbinic foes could not follow Him to heaven because their sin and murder excluded them. In contrast, His own apostles could not follow Him there--yet . . . because it was not time for them to die and He had plans for them to spread His word throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20).
Then the Jews said among themselves, “Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? If they had interpreted Jesus’ remarks on a spiritual level they would have been incensed rather than mystified. In this case, interpreting things “literally” defused the anger. They wondered—longingly? Hopefully??—that Jesus might be announcing plans to journey among the “Dispersion,” the Jews scattered around the Gentile world. Perhaps He even intended to be a missionary to the Greeks as well. Either way, He would be someone else’s problem and not theirs.
What is this thing that He said, ‘You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?” The ominous overtones of His warning bothered them and they continued to wonder just what He meant. Since He was addressing sworn enemies, it must have dawned on them that whatever it meant it was nothing complimentary to them.
Jesus Speaks of the Coming Gift of the Spirit (John 7:37-39): 37 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.) --New English Translation (for comparison)
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. There was a spiritual thirst that Jesus could provide for and which was available to one and all. We read of no questioning of Him about the meaning of these words--perhaps because He presents it as an illustration of what the Old Testament teaches (verse 38). (Subtext: If you understand the Torah and prophets so well, you should be able to understand this as well!)
What He has in mind to “drink,” and which comes uniquely from Him, seems clearly to be the gift of salvation. By “drinking” His word--hence obeying it--we are given redemption from our sins. Jesus had used this imagery earlier with the Samaritan woman: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John ). Hence we drink, so to speak, from the Fount of Life. Or as Jesus explains it in Revelation 21:6: “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.”
Sidebar: Whether this is the seventh day of the feast or the eighth depends upon how we calculate its length. Technically the feast was for seven days, but it was followed the next day by another special occasion as well: “Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner” (Nehemiah ).
In establishing the Feast in Leviticus 23:33-43 it is specified as seven days long but with that additional Sabbath at the end of it; as it is summed up concisely in verse 39: “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest.”
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Note that just as Jesus gives us abundantly we, in turn, share this abundance with others. Hence the text describes not just His own primary role in the process but our secondary one as well. When a person has the belief necessary to embrace Jesus, then out of his inward nature will flow abundant blessings to enrich the lives of others as well. They will gush out not in sporadic acts but as if they were “rivers” that “flow[ed]” outward constantly. An abundant and unending supply.
Sidebar: These words are found nowhere in the Old Testament so Jesus must be referring to the teaching of scripture rather than quoting a specific text, i.e., summing up what it taught. The appropriateness of the language in application to followers of Jesus: Isaiah 58:11 refers to how the obedient are “like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” They always have it available and in abundance. The Proverbist speaks of how “he who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs ).
appropriateness of the language in application to Jesus Himself since HE is the
one from whom the water ultimately originates in both the previous and
following verses: Isaiah 44:3-4
speaks of how Deity “will pour water on him who is thirsty and floods on the
dry ground” and how this will be accompanied with the “pour[ing
out of] My Spirit” on their descendants.
Combining the ideas of abundant water and salvation is found in the
prophecy of first century events found in Zechariah 13:1: “In
that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and
for the inhabitants of
We have in Joel the promise of how “all the brooks of
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. John applies the--to us--vague words of Jesus quite specifically: what the Lord had in mind was the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the dominant interpretation, this would mean that by belief they would receive it . . . through their belief in Him they would share the blessings of “physically” receiving that Spirit along with all others who embraced Jesus as well.
In what is a far sounder interpretation, the idea is that when we receive what the Holy Spirit itself gives, then we become live, flowing rivers pouring out good to others--knowledge of how to be saved in particular. What we are driving at is illustrated in Acts 2:38-39 where what is promised in baptism is not receiving the Spirit itself into our hearts but receiving the gift the Spirit provides . . . which is identified as redemption in that text: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Having just mentioned salvation, what more logical thing would “the gift of the Holy Spirit” possibly be than redemption itself . . . of salvation by being converted? It perfectly fits the text. By its very nature, anything else becomes speculative. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call [i.e., this applies to everyone who in the future becomes a Christian as well].”
To make this gift of the Spirit in John 7 the gift of inspiration would work only of that minority blessed with this gift while verse 39 speaks as if addressed to all who become Christians. If we make it some vaguer gift of the Spirit itself what role does it serve in our lives? To be more exact, what provable role . . . since assuming a specific role is profoundly easier than trying to find scriptures that prove it. In contrast the gift of the Spirit and salvation are clearly linked together in Acts 2.
The Crowd Has Vigorously Divided Opinions about Whether
Jesus Is the Promised Messiah (John -44): 40 When they heard these words, some of the crowd began to say, “This really is
the Prophet!” 41 Others said, “This is
the Christ!” But still others said, “No, for the Christ doesn’t come from
Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” Opinion was divided among those favorably inclined. John first mentions those who thought He might be the special Prophet God had promised to send: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you [Moses] from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). This possibility had been brandied about previously of both Jesus (John ) and John the Baptist (John ). But that wasn’t the only possibility of course. . . .
Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of
Has not the Scripture said that
the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of
they were unaware of His being born in
So there was a division among the people because of Him. Their disagreements (“division”) could not be bridged; they couldn’t come to a consensus. Supporters of Jesus were divided between those who considered Him the pre-eminent prophesied “Prophet” to come (verse 40) and those who thought He was the “Messiah” (verse 41)--in addition to being the Prophet or (more likely) because they regarded the two as synonymous. The only protest against either is in regard to whether He met the criteria for being the Messiah. For some the objection was quite serious for they found no way to deal with it. For any who wanted Him arrested and punished (verse 44) the objections were a tool rather than an honest dissent.
“division:” “Schisma, whence our word ‘schism.’ It means a serious and possibly violent
division: John , ; 1 Corinthians ,
; compare Acts 14:4, 23:7. In the New Testament it is never used in the
modern sense of a separation from the Church, but of parties in the Church.
In the Synoptists it is used only in its
original sense of physical severing: ‘a worse rent is
made;’ Matthew ; Mark
Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him. It was this division that made it unfeasible to seize Him: The bulk of the crowd were all appreciative of Jesus; their only question was how great He was in the spiritual scheme of things. Faced with arrest (verses 45), waiverers between these opinions might shift--in their pure numbers and the potentially volatile spirituality of the Feast--into vehement supporters and the arrestors have to flee for their own safety. Furthermore, the arrestors were themselves impressed by the Lord ()--so much so they felt absolutely no confidence in intervening regardless of their orders.
Those Sent to Arrest Jesus Come Back Empty Handed Because of How Much His Words Had Impressed Them (John 7:45-53): 45 Then the officers returned to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why didn’t you bring him back with you?” 46 The officers replied, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 Then the Pharisees answered, “You haven’t been deceived too, have you? 48 None of the rulers or the Pharisees have believed in him, have they? 49 But this rabble who do not know the law are accursed!”
50 Nicodemus, who had
gone to Jesus before and who was one of the rulers, said, 51 “Our law doesn’t condemn a man unless it first hears from him and learns
what he is doing, does it?” 52 They replied, “You aren’t
Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” Note that the power brokers weren’t intending a mere imprisonment until He had His hearing: They were (enthusiastically) waiting for Him to be dragged before them now. They wanted to be rid of His insufferable opposition once and for all. To their shock, though, the officers assigned to the arresting party returned without the One they were sent to arrest (). We don’t know how specific their instructions had been: It could have been a blunt “arrest Jesus!” or it could have been “find an excuse to arrest Jesus”--i.e., find something He says or does that could be plausibly interpreted as going across the line of propriety and respect for the Temple. If the latter, their reason to be listening closely to the Lord’s words were magnified and actually laid the foundation for why they couldn’t do what they were ordered. . . .
The officers answered, “No man
ever spoke like this Man!” In
essence, they responded that they were awed by the Man and the power of His
message. (The size of the crowd and its
enthusiasm for Him probably helped as well!)
There was something in the “what” and the “how” He said things that
thoroughly impressed them. Doubtless these
Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also
deceived? To the Pharisees
this reaction meant they had been “deceived” just like the others. Although “fooled” (Holman), “led astray”
(NASB), and “deceived” (GW) are also responsible translations, the venom behind
the leaders’ rhetoric surely gives it the implicit overtone of “deluded” (
Of course they didn’t ask, “what impressed you so”--and then proceed to refute it. First of all, that had never worked well in dealings with Jesus. Furthermore, that would imply that these police had a right to make spiritual decisions rather than merely yield to their supposed “betters.” Hence the rebuke. . . .
Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? How could He possibly by right when all the evidence of both authority (rulers) and piety (Pharisees) rejected Him? This was not a “factional” issue within the Sanhedrin--Pharisees versus Sadducees--but one where both sides regarded Jesus with thorough disdain. Those of the most societal, religious, and political importance all agreed. How could that powerful a consensus possibly get it wrong? We don’t need to examine the evidence further; you don’t need to examine the evidence at all. We have already decided it for you.
But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” The crowd that reacted favorably was “accursed” and worthless because they were nothing short of ignorant: they “did not know the law” at all! Hence their opinion meant nothing. The experts had spoken and the “rabble” (as we today would describe them) not only could, but should be dismissed out of hand.
Sidebar: “The writings of the Rabbis are full of scorn and contempt for the untutored multitude, whom they called ‘am hāāretz, ‘people of the earth,’ as opposed to those instructed in the Law, whom they called ‘ām kōdesh, ‘holy people.’ These words in John 7:39 are an expression of this contempt.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)
Vincent’s Word Studies provides two examples from the rabbinic writings of such attitudes: “the ignorant is impious; only the learned shall have part in the resurrection.” That is insulting; passing into the outright vicious, vile, and abominable is this one: “He shall not take a daughter of the people of the earth, because they are an abomination, and their wives are an abomination, and concerning their daughters it is said” and then the rabbi quotes Deuteronomy 27:21, “Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.”
7:50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, Nicodemus did not feel confident enough to defend Jesus openly, but He did feel the need to speak up in some manner and since they claim to be pious advocates of law he reminds them of what they law has to say . . .
“Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” This would be common justice: Since when can a person be condemned by authority before hearing His defense and examining the evidence of those who have seen and heard His actions and disagree with them? You may “hate his guts,” but he still has the right to mount His defense. “He was not arraigned; he was not heard in self-defense, and not a single witness was adduced.” (Barnes’ Notes)
The Torah itself had demanded, “Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him” (Deuteronomy ). Proper judges were to be profoundly different from these men who had already decided the entire matter. Proper judges were to be careful to “judge with just judgment” and neither “pervert justice” nor “show partiality” (Deuteronomy -19). “In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus ). And a text that was even more relevant here, “Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous” (Exodus 23:7).
They answered and said to him,
“Are you also from
the fact that Jonah was a prophet from a community in
And everyone went to his own house. Frustrated, the group broke up and went to their individual homes. Although the “critical text” rejects this verse, what else could have happened since they took no more immediate steps against the Lord? Their meeting having failed to accomplish their goal, what choice did they ultimately have but to go home? That these quite natural words would just happen to fit here--when they actually come from a totally unrelated source . . . well, isn’t that probability incredibly low? Furthermore if it came from a different source, then we haven’t the slightest hint of what came between the breaking up of the Sanhedrin meeting and the breaking up and resultant home going referred to here. Surely it must have been a major event! Is such an omission probable either?
His Enemies Attempt to Use a Woman Seized in the Act of
Adultery As a Tool Against Jesus (John 8:1-11): 1 But Jesus went to the
Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.
9 Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up straight and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She replied, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
8:1 But Jesus went to the
John are omitted by critical texts though they are found in, numerically, hundreds of later manuscripts. Some reject the genuineness of the passage entirely, while others believe that it has somehow been misplaced from some other location in the story. Either way, the forgiving mind frame and determined opposition to injustice masquerading as “justice” (cf. verse 8) is exactly the type of attitude one would expect Jesus to have shown. Likewise the attitude that is manifested by “the scribes and Pharisees” (verse 3) clearly represents what we would expect from them as well.
But what exactly were they up to? Were they hoping that Jesus would openly let the woman escape unpunished? Can’t you hear the rumor mill quickly spreading “this man Jesus is so contemptuous of moral behavior that He doesn’t even believe that a woman caught in adultery should be punished! How can He possibly be right in the other things He teaches in opposition to the religious establishment?”
Or are they (also?) hoping to get Jesus to endorse the death penalty for extreme violations of the Law? It is easy to imagine them then arguing, “Just as He committed her to death for violating the Law, we had to commit Him to death as well for His false teaching. His own example set the precedent for it!”
Or were they trying to get the Lord in trouble with the Romans who did not provide for such a death in their own system of punishments? Inciting “mob rule” would make a nice accusation. Or simply to establish a bad reputation for Him? That way when they themselves drag Him there with their own false accusations, the Romans would already be predisposed to be rid of this “troublemaker.”
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. He put Himself there before many had arrived in order to have a good long day teaching. This early arrival also occurred the week He was crucified (Luke -38) and was likely His norm whenever He attended one of the annual feasts in the city.
listening “sat down” around him to listen.
They did so since the
8:3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, This itself was brazen hypocrisy. They had conspicuously not brought the man involved. Although the Old Testament authorized death for adultery, it was death for both parties and not one: “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10). “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22:22). Although stoning is not specified, its mention in connection with sexual misconduct in argues this was the case here as well. Compare Ezekiel 16:38-40 where an analogy is made between punishing idolatry by stoning (and/or “sword”) and punishing sexual unfaithfulness in a similar manner.
Where, therefore, was the male? His absence tells us that something in this entire situation “stinks.”
Sidebar: This is the only time “scribes” are mentioned in this gospel.
8:4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Hence her guilt was unquestionable since she was caught while committing adultery. So why had they let the man get away? Was he a friend of theirs? Did they really think that when two people were involved in some evil that one could only punish one of them and that be considered fair and equitable justice?
Sidebar: We have no way of proving how common adultery was in geographic Palestine in that age, but Jesus’ description of His contemporary society argues that it may have occurred quite often: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 12:39); “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation” (Mark 8:38). On the other hand must be weighed the fact that this language can also be used for compromising one’s moral integrity in general rather than just through this specific action: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Is there any doubt that this was Jesus’ evaluation of His contemporary world--that it suffered from a general lack of moral earnestness?
8:5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” Jesus had been known to take views that many regarded—unjustly—as a repudiation of the teaching of the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy). How then would He react to this particular teaching of the Torah? Would He dare reject it? If so, they could accuse him of laxity and of openly refusing to embrace its teaching.
Sidebar: It should be noted that there was a common rabbinic opinion preserved in the Talmud that the proper means of putting to death was strangulation; stoning was to be limited to only those cases where it was explicitly commanded. Their question argues that there was also a strong dissent from this view.
8:6 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. This was not an honest enquiry for His judgment; it was intended as a “test” of how He would react. Jesus refused to become involved but only bent down and started writing. But writing what? Speculations on this have been numerous. A text that condemned arbitrariness and injustice? Certainly not embarrassment at the mention of sexuality for this was an age far more like ours than like the Victorian, which encouraged such interpretations.
Sidebar: The problem with this or His writing anything
at all is that the “floor” of the
other hand, dust does accumulate, even on the floors of a holy
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.” If Jesus meant they had to be sinless, then no offense would have been punishable. Hence the interpretive gloss seems required, “He who is without sin among you in this matter. . . .” They were playing games with the death penalty and He knew it and they knew it. Only if they could honestly say they had no guilt in this affair were they justified in inflicting death. Less likely would be the reading, “He who is without having committed this very sin themselves, let him be the first to throw a stone.” Even so the weakness of “human nature” found in so many, argues that the latter guilt is quite possibly present as well.
Sidebar: Since she had been grabbed in the very act of adultery (verse 4), at least some of these were witnesses and the Law required that in cases of the death penalty that the witnesses were to be the first to throw the stones (Deuteronomy 17:7). Although this is speaking of idolatry in particular, it is hard to see how they could have avoided the application of this principle to other cases as well.
They argue that she deserves death, so He challenges them with the demand “then do it!” But they don’t really care about doing it; they are simply out to use this case to undermine Jesus’ reputation. She is nothing more than a handy and available tool to do so.
8:8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Having said what He had to say, Jesus returned to His writing on the ground. The name of the man who they had so carefully avoided bringing before Him? Nothing else could have been more appropriate unless perhaps the names of their own number who were known to have committed the same offense. Perhaps even with this very woman?
Sidebar: As early as Jerome (347-420 A.D.) the first written speculation appears as to what it was. Jerome’s conclusion was the same as one tenth century manuscript inserts into the text: He “wrote on the ground the sins of each one of them.”
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. Their guilt began to work on their nerves and the oldest (either in age or the most knowledgeable and mature) drifted out first, followed one after the other by the remainder. Finally only Jesus and the accused were left. Remember that Jesus had been teaching when these folk had interrupted Him. Pure curiosity would have been sufficient to keep them there to hear His response even if other factors were not present.
Sidebar: Although “being convicted by their conscience” is omitted by the “critical text” as inadequately documented, why else would they have left? They were involuntarily driven to the recognition that she wasn’t the only one in the present company deserving of severe censure.
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?” Till now the conversation has been about her; now it becomes one with her. The first step is to implicitly make her realize that He is well aware of just how serious an offense she was accused of. Just because they had walked away did not mean that she was innocent.
Sidebar: The mercifulness of the Messiah had been predicted (Isaiah 42:3) and Jesus lived by that standard: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20). In the context that Matthew quotes the text, it is in regard to healing a handicapped man on the Sabbath in spite of rabbinic tradition which would have prohibited it.
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Since there was no one left accusing her, Jesus did not need to make any personal judicial style judgment as to whether to “condemn” her. But He made plain that He was fully aware that she was not without guilt: “go and sin no more.” You escaped the penalty this time; never put yourself in such danger again . . . which automatically has to carry the weight of “by never committing the same sin again.”
He has not said “you are forgiven” for she has provided no evidence that she seeks it. However He is not going to let her get away with either the delusion that she has (somehow) “conned” the Lord or that He is unaware that her life needs some serious correction. Hence the admonition to avoid such evil in the future.
What we have no idea of is whether she had the wisdom to embrace both that admonition and warning--because the words carry both undercurrents. One can never change the past, but only the future. And then only if one is wise enough to accept that it needs to be done.
In the Temple Jesus Rebukes His Foes for Not Accepting the Evidence in His Behalf—The “Testimony” of Both Jesus As Well As the Heavenly Father (John 8:12-20): 12 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees objected, “You testify about yourself; your testimony is not true!” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going. But you people do not know where I came from or where I am going. 15 You people judge by outward appearances; I do not judge anyone.
16 “But if I judge, my evaluation is accurate, because I am not alone when I judge, but I and the Father who sent me do so together. 17 It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I testify about myself and the Father who sent me testifies about me.”
19 Then they began asking him, “Who is your father?” Jesus answered, “You do not know either me or my Father. If you knew me you would know my Father too.” 20 (Jesus spoke these words near the offering box while he was teaching in the temple courts. No one seized him because his time had not yet come.) --New English Translation (for comparison)
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.” Jesus spoke to the listeners, affirming that He was the embodiment of the “light” the world needed. The one who followed as a disciple would escape the moral and spiritual “darkness” that filled the world and would have the “light of life” within. His teaching “lit up” the difference between right and wrong and stressed the importance of true piety while condemning the “pretend piety” that came from embracing humanly invented religious traditions.
This fits in well with the theme of condemning sin in verse 11. What was true of that woman was also true of all of them: avoiding moral blot was essential. The “darkness” that Divine light strips of its hiding place for evil is language repeatedly found--Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 5:11; etc.
Sidebar: This description was especially appropriate--odd as it may sound to the modern mind--because of the Feast where it occurred and because of the Messianic connection of the language. “In John 8:20, we are told that Jesus spake these words in the Treasury. This was in the Court of the Women, the most public part of the temple. Four golden candelabra stood there, each with four golden bowls, each one filled from a pitcher of oil by a youth of priestly descent. These were lighted on the first night of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is not unlikely that they may have suggested our Lord's figure, but the figure itself was familiar both from prophecy and from tradition.
“According to tradition, Light was one of the names of the Messiah. See Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:1-3; Malachi 4:2; Luke 2:32 [where the imagery was applied to the newborn Jesus: “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel”].” (Vincent’s Word Studies)
The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.” Certain Pharisees decided to attack Jesus’ credibility on the ground that what He had to say—His “witness”—was simply not true. But they give no ground beyond the fact that He was describing Himself. Now if they were speaking of and bearing witness of their own piety, well there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with that!
Some find much more here. . . . that they are consciously quoting the words of Jesus Himself. But the context of John is much different, as can immediately be seen if we include the next two verses: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.”
In other words: If I am the only one who says this, My word is arguably not reliable. But you have far more; you have the testimony of both Me and John the Baptist. In our current text the identity of a different--and even greater--second witness is invoked: You have the testimony of both Me and that of the Father as well (verse 18). This probably refers to God’s testimony through Jesus’ miracles (compare Hebrews 2:4 in regard to the apostles) and the predictions made in Scripture of His coming.
8:14 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. Even if their exaggeration that the only witness He had was Himself were true—and it wasn’t—that still did them little good. At least He knew the truth about where He had come from and where He was returning while they grasped neither. And it is really hard to guess which would horrify them more if they had understood: That He really had come from the Father or that He was returning to the Father to receive His praise and kingdom?
You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Their own reasoning skills failed. They fell into the trap of judging “according to the flesh:” superficially, or according to the standards embraced by their non-scriptural religious tradition, or according to what appealed to their natural/fleshly instincts. The point would be the same in regard to all of these. Jesus refused to judge anyone in such a manner. His standards were profoundly different.
And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. Even if they insisted that He, indeed, was guilty of “judging” in some supposedly “negative” and “improper” sense, at least He could be sure that His actual “judgments” were always ones shared by the Father who had sent Him. Hence they can’t be truly prejudicial in any case.
There is always a difference between having a “judgment” on any matter and being sure that one has the right judgment. Jesus always embraced the right one because He embraced the “judgments” His Heavenly Father made. He never tried to make His own unique and separate ones. “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John ).
It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. What establishes valid evidence? The Mosaical law required the word of at least two witnesses and He finds no problem with this principle. In a very real sense it was “His law” as well since He was also a Jew. However, they were the ones that were trying to use it against Him so it was only fair to label it “your law” since, in their conceited minds, they were the only ones in the discussion who were “really” its advocates and defenders.
He was in no way denying the authority of the Mosaical Law for it was still in effect (Matthew 5:17-18) and He defends its true intent and purpose in the Antitheses of that same chapter of Matthew that promptly follows this assertion. The real rejecter of Moses was not Jesus but His “clerical” critics (John -47).
Sidebar: There is a subtle change here in the citation
of the Old Testament that some have suggested is intended to carry an
additional rebuke: “Not so much a quotation as a reference to Deuteronomy [and] Deuteronomy 17:6. Note that the Law speaks of ‘two or
three witnesses:’ here we have ‘two men.’ The
change is not accidental, but introduces an argument à fortiori: if
the testimony of two men is true, how
much more the testimony of two Divine Witnesses. Compare ‘If we receive the witness of men,
the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath
testified of His Son’ (1 John 5:9).” (
I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” In spite of their claim that there was no other witness on Jesus’ behalf (verse 13), in reality there were actually two of them that Jesus chooses to mention (omitting that of John the Baptist)—both Jesus Himself and the Father. Jesus bore witness of the truth and validity of what He taught and the Father backed it up--through the signs He empowered Jesus to perform among other things. Not to mention the heavenly voice at His baptism by the Baptist and the Messianic prophecies God revealed through the Old Testament prophets.
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.” The critics took the “father” reference as meaning His physical father and enquired where he might be. In effect they challenge, “Let us hear what he has to say!” However Jesus had repeatedly spoken of His Father as God in heaven (John -24, 30, 37-38; -39; -18). Hence it is possible (though less likely) that their protest challenges “let your supposed heavenly father manifest Himself here and now.” But would that have dissolved their hostility?
At a later Feast, God did
speak from heaven and the audience of listeners in the
Jesus’ response in the current verse implies that if they had truly understood (“known”) Him, they would already have recognized (“known”) the validity of what He had to say. They would also have understood (“known”) that His heavenly Father embraced the same things as well. Today we would use the idiom, “We are not on the same wave length so you simply don’t understand what the Father and I say!”
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 was apparently not a building per se but the area
where the money was given to the
His Enemies Insist His Teaching Is Obscure; He Responds That He Is Teaching the Same Things He Always Has (John 8:21-30): 21 Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” 22 So the Jewish leaders began to say, “Perhaps he is going to kill himself, because he says, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ ”
23 Jesus replied, “You people are from below; I am from above. You people are from this world; I am not from this world. 24 Thus I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus replied, “What I have told you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the Father who sent me is truthful, and the things I have heard from him I speak to the world.” 27 (They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.)
28 Then 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 just what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do those things that please him.” 30 While he was saying these things, many people believed in him. --New English Translation (for comparison)
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.” The most likely interpretation is that they would eventually seek what Jesus is but which they deny, i.e., the Messiah: “He meant, that after his ascension into heaven, when the Roman armies were spreading desolation and death in every corner of the land, they would earnestly desire the coming of the Messiah, in expectation of deliverance, but should perish for their sins, and under the guilt of them, without any Savior whatsoever, and be excluded for ever from heaven.” (Benson Commentary) The kind of Messiah they wanted was never intended nor ever would be.
If you take the desire to mean “seek Jesus himself,” then the idea would likely be along this line: They reach the point where it becomes impossible because they “cannot cease from sin” any longer (2 Peter ). In other words, if you postpone doing the right thing long enough, you may find that it is too late to accomplish that goal at all. You may harden your heart for so long that you’ve self-destroyed the ability to change and repent: Hence “you will seek Me and [yet] will die in your sin” because you are no longer able to manifest true and full repentance.
the immediate relevance of Jesus’ remark about how “I am going away:” “It was, let
us again remind ourselves, the last day of the feast, and now its closing hours
have come. That thronging multitude
would be before the close of another day, leaving
So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” The assertion of their spiritual death () surely annoyed them, but they were perplexed by His strange claim that where He was going they could not follow. Earlier when He had made a similar claim they wondered whether He intended to go out among the Jews scattered throughout the Roman world (-36).
But the current response of possible suicide was not an illogical thought since this was a “place” they definitely would not follow, nor even try to. “The issues of life are in the darkness of the future. Who can know the hour of His own departure? There is only one class of persons who can speak with certainty of thus going away, and these are persons who by their own act fix the limit of their own lives.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers) But are their words serious or simply another way of showing their contempt for Him?
And He said to them, “You are
from beneath; I am from above. You are
of this world; I am not of this world. Jesus’
origin was completely different from that of His critics. They came from the earth and “this world”
while He was “from above” and was “not of this world.” The facts that they knew full well were that
He was both “of” and “from” this world--
8:24 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.” They wished to think in terms of where He was going, but Jesus wanted to center their minds on their sin instead. “You will die in your sins,” he repeated, because a refusal to acknowledge Jesus as the long predicted Coming One made it inevitable.
The “He” is in italics to convey to us the caution that, though it is not found in the Greek text, the assertion is regarded by the translators as essential to complete the thought. Without the addition, however, the point could easily be that He embraces the classic name for God: I Am. “The words had a sacred history which told of the revelation of Jehovah to Moses (Exodus ). Uttered as they were by Him who had just claimed to be ‘from above’ and to be ‘not of this world,’ and uttered as they were within the precincts of Jehovah’s Temple, and in the presence of His priests and people, they may well have carried to their minds this deeper meaning, and have been intended as a declaration of His divine existence.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)
Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. “Who are you?” was the obvious response to verse 24. Inherently He had to be something extraordinary or there was no rationale way that dying in sin could possibly be the result of rejecting Him. Their response also made sense if they are suspicious of the words “I Am” in the previous verse as somehow hinting of His deityship.
And Jesus’ answer was equally obvious: I’m exactly what I’ve been telling you from the very beginning of My ministry. At least if you’ve been paying attention and haven’t found an excuse to totally ignore or reject everything I’ve had to say.
In one sense this is a dodge of the question for it does not give a direct answer but, in another, it is a very appropriate response as well. After all, He had repeatedly presented Himself as sent from God, a unique spokesman for God, and with a relationship with God that no one else had. They might not grasp the full implications of all this, but if they accepted it in any meaningful sense at all, they would have become disciples and worried about its full significance at some other date.
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.” Admittedly, there was much more Jesus desired to teach and “judge” (= correct, reprove, rebuke, criticize] concerning them and their theology and behavior, but of one thing they could rest assured: the only things He would teach—no matter how startling or impossible they might seem—would be that which He had personally “heard” from God. Hence His judgment would perfectly reflect that of the Father and there would be absolutely no divergence.
They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. To us, reading the text from John’s perspective, the reasoning is obvious. From their standpoint, they were left confused who this person was who was teaching the Lord. Indeed, the nature of Jesus’ absolutely authoritative teaching was an issue secondary in potential explosiveness only to the claim to be the Messiah--it was a claim of correctness so perfect that any teaching of theirs which contradicted it had no change of being right. Hence on many occasions it was better to use double-edged language that would be obscure at the time but understandable after the resurrection.
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. When they honored (“lift up”) Jesus the way He should be, then they would recognize who He was and that His teaching was strictly that which His Father had given Him. Of course the flip side of this was, if they never do so, then they will never be able to recognize that what He does perfectly reflects the will of the heavenly Father.
If the “lift up” refers to the crucifixion, then the idea is that by permitting Himself to be crucified, He will prove that He has done only what the Father wants Him to do. After all, no rational human being wants to go out and have himself painfully and humiliating killed--and in public on top of that. In this case “know” takes on the sense of “proving” rather than “convincing” . . . whether they are willing to let their eyes see the evidence that is there or not.
And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” In spite of whatever dangers and trials would yet come, Jesus felt the absolute confidence that His Father would never leave “me alone.” But there was also a reciprocal element in this as well. The Father could just as confidently be assured that Jesus would always conform His own ways to those of the Father--habitually, on every occasion; it was His way of life. On earlier occasions Jesus had insisted that He did the will of His Father (; ) but here He makes the claim even more emphatic by adding the forceful word “always.”
If Jesus were a mere mortal--even just a “normal” prophet--would these words be fully true? Would they not tempt us to say “exaggerated,” “demented” or “blasphemous” in response to such an all encompassing claim? Indeed don’t the words seem to require the concept of “sinless” as well if we accept them as fully true?
As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Not “all” but still a significant number were convinced by this discussion that they should “believe” in Him as God’s spokesman--though the words also carried much “conceptual freight” beyond this bare minimum. Even so they made a fundamental commitment, however much it would need to be developed and built upon in the future. Much like the temple police in the preceding chapter, they clearly responded with the conviction that “no man ever spoke like this Man” ().
Sidebar: This gospel stresses that belief was repeatedly the reaction of crowds to His words: ; (by implication); ; ; .
Those Who Faithfully Follow Jesus’ Teaching Will Be Freed From Their Sin (John -38): 31 Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 “We are descendants of Abraham,” they replied, “and have never been anyone’s slaves! How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the family forever, but the son remains forever. 36 So if the son sets you free, you will be really free. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. But you want to kill me, because my teaching makes no progress among you. 38 I am telling you the things I have seen while with the Father; as for you, practice the things you have heard from the Father!”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. What was important was not temporary adherence, but permanent commitment. Hence if they continued to “abide in My word”--respecting and obeying it--they would thereby prove themselves His true disciples. His enemies weren’t going to listen to Him in the first place. The challenge would be those willing to be His followers at the moment and whether they would continue to want to be weeks, months, and years in the future. The challenge of spiritual persistence, if you will. “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments,” John himself stresses in one of his epistles (2 John 1:6).
Some who were temporarily enchanted by Him had already reversed course (John 6:66) and the potential was always there if one insisted on personal preference in doctrine and morals rather than ongoing loyalty. Or if one yielded to the pressure of powerful leaders or friends.
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” By being His disciples over an extended period of time (= “if you abide in My words,” verse 31), they would learn “the truth”--more of it and more completely--and it would “free” them from their sin and ignorance. That spiritual journey had just begun and would continue throughout their discipleship.
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’?” Remember
that these words are addressed to those who had begun to believe on Him (verse
31). The idea of their not being “free,”
however, rubbed some the wrong way. As
descendants of Abraham, they insisted we “have never been in bondage to
anyone.” Their annoyance overcame their
memory: what of Abraham’s immediate
If one had to, one could try to defend their verbal folly this way: They may have (mentally) been making a very subtle distinction between being slaves and being under the control of others. Of those then alive, all were under some indirect control of the Romans but very few of them (if any) may have been counted as slaves of anyone.
But there are slaveries that involve no chains, no markings, and no obligatory special attire. And that is what Jesus has in mind. Slavery to sin in any of its many forms. And their people had unquestionably fallen prey to that repeatedly in the past: Remember the popularity of idolatry that plagued the nation time and again?
Sidebar: Although He addresses the next few verses to those who accepted Him, we find the crowd wanting “to kill Me” in verse 37. Had they already that much rejected His words? The answer lies in the fact that those Jews already hostile to Jesus have rejoined the discussion. There is no mention of them having left during the preceding digression and Jesus’ words in this mid-section are only addressed to “those Jews who believed Him” (verse 31). The others merely listened--but their annoyance and rage clearly had not diminished.
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. Jesus responded to their denial by stressing that He was not speaking of political freedom or even of human temporal freedom. Rather he was speaking of the slavery that results from a person being controlled by sin. That is a slavery that is voluntarily produced and maintained. No one else sells into it; you sell yourself. The apostle Paul makes much the same point in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
Sidebar on “commits sin:” “The Greek word is a present participle, expressing the continuance of the deeds of sin. It means, not simply the committing individual sins, from which no man is free, but the state of the life which is [ongoingly] sinful; the state which is opposed to doing the will of the Father, and is expressed in other words as ‘working iniquity’ (Matthew 7:21-23.).” (Ellicott’s Commentary for the English Reader)
And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Inherently a slave has a different relationship to the Master than a son. The son is always going to be there, but a slave has no inherent right to be so. He/she could be sold, moved to different lodging, or otherwise rejected (as happens in Genesis ).
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. A son could have the authority to free the slave if given permission by his father. And Jesus, as God’s Son, could break them “free indeed” from the chains that bound them to immorality and corruption in whatever forms it besieged their lives. And as a free person you have the right to remain in the same household permanently because you share freedom in common and (adopted--Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:5-6) sonship with the same Father.
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. Jesus did not deny that they were Abraham’s descendants. On the other hand it was equally clear that they weren’t trying to imitate the patriarch’s character but, instead, were determined to murder Him. Not because He was a threat to the public order. Not because He was a threat to the life of any one, but simply because they refused to accept His teaching (“word”)--which, by the way, they repeatedly were unable to refute. But if He’s dead, they won’t have to worry about that, will they?
I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” The source of their teachings differed. Jesus’ teaching originated with what He had “seen” with His father while theirs originated with what they had seen from their father. By implication the difference, of course, is between the heavenly Father of Jesus and the “Satanic” one (verse 44) they were in their ignorance and blindness following. At the same time they were convinced they were the bedrock of orthodoxy! If we become so convinced that we are right that we refuse to consider contrary evidence fairly--even when we suspect it is wrong--then are we much better than they? There is a profound difference between being alert to deception by evil and false doctrine and blinding ourselves to our own potential for intellectual and spiritual limitations.
Jesus' Enemies Were Living in the Way of Their Satanic “Father” and Not the Heavenly One (John -47): 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father!” Jesus replied, “If you are Abraham’s children, you would be doing the deeds of Abraham. 40 But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth I heard from God. Abraham did not do this! 41 You people are doing the deeds of your father.”
Then they said to Jesus, “We were not born as a result of immorality! We have only one Father, God himself.” 42 Jesus replied, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come from God and am now here. I have not come on my own initiative, but he sent me. 43 Why don’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot accept my teaching.
44 “You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 “But because I am telling you the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Who among you can prove me guilty of any sin? If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God.”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
The 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. Jesus had not, in the previous verse, explicitly denounced His foes as having a “Satanic” father, but that is what He had in mind (verse 44). Although left ambiguous, His critics could easily tell that whatever He meant was derogatory. Hence they take Jesus’ concession that Abraham was their “father” (verse 37) and try to use that to neutralize the accusation.
So far as they were concerned, since “Abraham is our father” that automatically proved they were walking in the right footsteps of faith and action. Not so, responds Jesus. If they were truly Abraham’s offspring in behavior rather than just genetically they would be performing the kind of “works” carried out by Abraham--exhibit the kind of behavior he did. Paul develops this kind of distinction between ancestry defined genetically and ancestry defined behaviorally when he argues “nor are they all children because they are of the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7; context verses 6-9).
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. They wished to kill Him even though He never deviated from the truth that God had delivered to Him. In contrast, Abraham had never acted in such an irresponsible manner. Whether He was always happy with His instructions from God or not, he was still willing to do his honest best to carry them out. Hence they needed to look somewhere else to find someone who embodied the kind of rebellion, rejection, and repudiation that they exhibited.
Sidebar on Jesus’ description of Himself: “A man (ἄνθρωπον). Used only here by the Lord of Himself. To this corresponds His calling the Devil a manslayer at John 8:44. Perhaps, too, as Westcott remarks, it may suggest the idea of the human sympathy which, as a man, He was entitled to claim from them.” (Vincent’s Word Studies)
You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” If an appeal to Abraham won’t work, then they’ll appeal to Yahweh Himself: They are His children and not just of Abraham. After all they weren’t “born of fornication,” i.e., have spiritual origins from any other source. As Westcott sums up the point: “We do not owe our position to idolatrous desertion of Jehovah. We are the offspring of the union of God with his chosen people. Our spiritual descent is as pure as our historical descent.” (quoted by Pulpit Commentary) Implicit subtext: Hence what they do must also be the right thing.
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. If they truly had a family relationship with the Father, then they would “love” Jesus for He had come forth from God. (Note the implicit, barely hidden allusion to a pre-existence before coming to earth: “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person”--Hebrews 1:3.) Instead of embracing, they were conspiring against Him.
Even accepting the element of validity in their argument--that in a sense they deserved to be considered children of God--there was still a profound difference between being children of and being faithful children of. They do not automatically equate each other. The Old Testament history repeatedly illustrated this reality. Not to mention its emphatic rejection of such behavior: Deuteronomy 4:25-27; Jeremiah 3:20; Nehemiah 1:8; Hosea 4:10-12; etc.
Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. What was the root of their lack of “understand[ing]”? It lay in the fact that they could not overcome their preconceptions and carefully listen to what He had to say. They could pay enough attention to respond, but not enough to give it the careful and just analysis it deserved--much less acceptance. Nor probe the latent message lying just beneath the spoken words. One might well say that they “considered themselves PhDs but wanted the message they heard explained on an elementary school level.”
An alternative approach is also possible: In John 6 listeners pondered a “hard” (= “difficult,” NASB, NET) teaching of Jesus (verse 60) and the Lord promptly pointed out the problem: “Does this offend you?” (verse 61). They couldn’t understand and accept because they disliked the teaching--as might be happening in our current chapter as well. This assumes that, on some level, they are simultaneously “understanding but also refusing to understand what they don’t want to hear in the first place.”
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. Refusing to let the father/son image drop, Jesus returned to it once again and this time spells out exactly who He had in mind: Their father was actually “the devil”. This was demonstrated by several of their manifest weaknesses that the devil himself had exhibited: (1) the fundamental “desires” and purposes were the same; (2) he had been a “murderer” just like they wished to be against Jesus; (3) neither stood “in the truth” of God because truth was not the prime consideration in what motivated their behavior; (4) both were quite capable of being “liar[s]” to further their interests and undermine those of others.
verse as powerful evidence of the objective reality and malignity of
Satan: Alford: “This is one
of the most decisive testimonies to the objective (outward) personality of the
devil. It is quite impossible to suppose
an accommodation to Jewish views, or a metaphorical form of speech, in so
solemn an assertion as this.” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary) “It can scarcely be an economy, a concession
to ordinary modes of thought and language.
Would Christ have resorted to a popular delusion in a denunciation of
such solemn and awful severity?” (
But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Jesus implies that he was faced with a paradoxical situation. They were not unwilling to accept His message—if it were a different message. But because it was “the truth” and He refused to alter it in any manner to make it acceptable to them, they refused to have anything to do with it. A sad truth about humanity: Just because you have the truth on some important matter does not necessarily mean that you will be able to get others to believe it. Even when it is as clear cut as it could possibly be.
Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? They knew full well that there was nothing sinful that they could point to in His life. Why then did they refuse to believe His teaching? One can easily imagine a short pause at the end of the first question--giving them an opportunity to respond if they dared try. The reasoning here seems to be: If I don’t have sin to discredit me, why won’t you accept the truth I teach? They have neither logic, scripture, nor character to justify their defiance.
Sidebar: Some reconstructions of Jesus’ life have held Him up as a fornicator or practicing homosexual. If there had been anything so transparently a violation of moral right and wrong, Jesus would never have dared make such a challenge. Furthermore, they would have used it to gut His credibility.
He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” He who is fully committed to God will hear the words God speaks through Jesus. They refused to heed that message because they were not fully committed to God and His cause in the first place. Their traditions and their rank in the religious structure of the day held pre-eminence.
Sidebar: Jesus repeatedly in this gospel refers to how His teaching had been given Him by the Father: John 3:34; John 7:16; John 8:26; John 17:8,
His Enemies Are Horrified That He Insists that “Anyone [Who] Obeys My Teaching . . . Will Never See Death” Because Even Abraham Died (John 8:48-59): 48 The Judeans replied, “Aren’t we correct in saying that you are a Samaritan and are possessed by a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father—and yet you dishonor me. 50 I am not trying to get praise for myself. There is one who demands it, and he also judges. 51 I tell you the solemn truth, if anyone obeys my teaching, he will never see death.”
52 Then the Judeans responded, “Now we know you’re possessed by a demon! Both Abraham and the prophets died, and yet you say, ‘If anyone obeys my teaching, he will never experience death.’ 53 You aren’t greater than our father Abraham who died, are you? And the prophets died too! Who do you claim to be?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worthless. The one who glorifies me is my Father, about whom you people say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 Yet you do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I obey his teaching. 56 Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 Then the Judeans replied, “You are not yet fifty years old! Have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” 59 Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus was hidden from them and went out from the temple area.”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus has given them His opinion of them. Their own of Him is equally strong: He was a Samaritan and demon-possessed. Samaritans were scorned. A true Jew would never think of saying the kind of things Jesus had uttered! And He was so unquestionably wrong--even worse than an ignorant and no good Samaritan could get things wrong--He must be a demon-haunted individual as well! Or as similar minded critics accuse in Mark 3:22, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. The response can be taken in either (or both) of two ways: (1) As a simple rejection of the demon charge, balanced by an insistence that He was the one who was actually giving true “honor” (= respect and obedience) to God--not them. Or (2) it is inherently impossible for a demon to give true honor to the heavenly Father as I do--therefore I am not demon possessed: I respect the Father and not Satan.
Either way, instead of honoring and respecting such a person as Jesus, they regarded Him with “dishonor”--disrespect and contempt--thereby dishonoring the heavenly Father as well. This restraint under insult reflects the mind frame the apostle Peter later referred to: “When He was reviled, did not revile in return” (1 Peter ).
Sidebar: “He does not
notice the charge of being a Samaritan.
For Him it contained nothing offensive, for He knew that Samaritans
might equal or excel Jews (John -42; Luke
; Luke )
in faith, benevolence, and gratitude.” (
And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Now only did Jesus not seek out His own reputation and advancement (“glory”), but He recognized that there was One who would “judge” whether that or any other claim was true. In other words, answerability for both false claims and accusations ultimately is to the heavenly Father. Humans may successfully deceive each other--and themselves. But God can never be deceived.
Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Jesus wished to emphasize this fact so He introduces it with “most assuredly”--i.e., this is “unquestionably and beyond any rational doubt.” (“I can guarantee this truth,” GW; “I tell all of you emphatically,” ISV.) The fact that they did not accept it changed nothing at all.
Note that “keeps” involves far more than merely hearing; it involves doing it as well. (“If you continue to follow My teaching”--John , NET; “if you live by what I say,” GW.) We may “believe” to our heart’s content; but it only becomes salvational when it also involves implementing what we claim to believe.
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.’ “Now we know” = “by your own words you put the question beyond any shadow of doubt! By your claims you prove you must be demon possessed.” If they took their words seriously, however, this was also an admission that what they had previously said was mere empty bombast and simply said to find an excuse to discredit Him. That their insulting words were actually “true” made them feel even better!
Laying aside their maliciousness, there was unquestionably a certain problem with Jesus’ claim--if you took it as expressing a physical reality rather than a spiritual one. After all, both Abraham and the prophets had died and here was Jesus insisting that mere obedience to His teaching would enable one to escape death. So outrageous is this claim and so self-evidently wrong that they build on their argument even further. . . .
Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Were they to seriously think that He was “greater” in authority and importance than the prophets? Not to mention the father of the nation, their great ancestor Abraham? None of those could ever have done such a marvel and if anyone could, it should have been them, shouldn’t it? Thus is the thrust of their argument.
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. This can be read two ways. First: Jesus stressed that whether He gave praise (“honor”) to Himself or not was actually irrelevant since God also honored Him. Second: “If I am the only one to honor Myself, My claimed honor is a worthless claim--but I’m not the only One. The Father does as well.”
Regardless of which way we take the words, they are counterbalanced with the affirmation that His claim does not go unrecognized by the One who actually counts--the Father Himself. So how could they refuse to extend similar honor and recognition since they claimed Him as their God as well?
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. They had not truly “known” (= understood) God and His intent; hence their spirituality was actually superficial and lacked depth. Unlike them, Jesus did have such a knowledge and it was manifested by the fact that He faithfully did whatever His Father expected rather than trying to find ways to avoid doing so.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Shifting to Abraham, that ancient patriarch had seen in His mind the day--the Messianic age--when Jesus would come and he had been exuberant (= “rejoiced”) to look forward to it. His own “day” (= time, age) was puny and insignificant compared to this one yet in the future.
Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” They responded that such was arrogant nonsense: He was not even fifty years old--not even gotten through the prime of life--so how could He possibly have ever seen Abraham and had him react in this manner? After all, those things happened so many centuries before!
Jesus had not said that He Himself had met and seen Abraham on
earth, but that Abraham was jubilant to see His “day” coming in
the future. Others take this as meaning
that at that very hour Abraham knew, along with others awaiting in
But if they were going to accidentally or on purpose misunderstand His words, He will throw down an equally true but even greater challenge to their thinking. . . .
Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” In other words before Abraham was even born, He Himself had existed. If Jesus had been alive that long, it would be extraordinarily difficult to avoid considering Him “eternal” and “God.” Is it therefore any surprise that the words “I Am” are usually interpreted as explicit affirmation of deityship since that was the classic Old Testament name for God from the time of Moses (Exodus 3:13-14)? Indeed, the reaction of His critics in the next verse strongly argues that that was exactly how they understood the words as well. Their understanding was often “bent,” but in this case they hit it “right on the nail.”
The apostles, walking in that tradition, affirmed the eternal existence of Jesus as well: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians ). “Being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power . . .’ (Hebrews 1:3).
8:59 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. Implicit or explicit claims did not matter any longer; they were utterly out of willingness to even listen to them. So they started to pick up stones to throw at Him and destroy His life.
failed because somehow Jesus was able to be “hid” and pass through the crowd
without the attempt being successfully carried out. An overtone of supernatural protection would
not be surprising in light of what Jesus had just been claiming. Working from a different Greek text, a number
of translations, however, omit “going through the midst of them” and this could
argue things were not quite that dramatic.
On the other hand it would not be without precedent: Successfully “passing through the midst of
them” is certainly mentioned in regard to the men of the
text of this element of severe supernatural intervention and you would have
something along this line: “Here we need not suppose more than that He drew back
into the crowd away from those who had taken up stones.” (