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Jesus Is the Light of the World (and a detour on textual criticism) -- a study of John 8:3-18

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

If Jesus is the light, what does that make other teachers?

Bible Study Ideas and Commentary for John 8:3-18

This week's lesson starts by covering the powerful story of the woman caught in adultery (but more on this below) and ends by covering the ultimate truth of this conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders -- Jesus and His followers walk in the light of the life of God, and everyone else walks in the darkness that leads to death in sin.

Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life. (8:12)

Note: This week's article is a long because I take quite the detour into a special topic. If you're just interested in the passage, you can skip that section, and this week's article is actually shorter than usual.

Getting Started: Things to Think About


Come on -- this is the "Light of the world" passage! What other reason do you need to bring out your favorite "light" activities or discussions? In fact, I'm not even going to suggest anything. Reach into your imagination, your book of science experiments, or Pinterest and bring out a topic or exercise that helps you illustrate the importance of light.

The point of this would need to be to demonstrate the value of light -- for showing a safe path, for helping you work, for helping you learn, for knowing what's around you. How much more difficult are those things without light?

Your Favorite Advice Sayings

This week, Jesus issues the challenge -- "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone". It's incredibly memorable, and just about anyone who hears it knows what it means. That's the mark of great advice. So, what sayings have been passed on to you that you find memorable and useful that you like to share with others?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

  • If your soup is too hot, start from the edges.

  • A little dirt never killed anyone.

  • If you don't have anything nice to say...

(Yes, every saying can be ruined by someone with good sarcasm, but let's not worry about that for the purposes of this exercise.)

Then, to bring everything back around to this week's lesson, ask people to share their favorite sayings from Jesus. Life advice is great, but Jesus' words have eternal power. And let's build off of what we talked about last week -- the danger of taking Jesus out of context, or only sharing part of what Jesus said. As group members share "Jesus sayings", make sure they have the right gist of it.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit ... for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

  • Do not judge ... lest you be judged.

  • Do not worry about tomorrow ... today has enough worries.

  • With God, anything is possible.

There is no end to the amazing words of Jesus you could share. (Keep an eye on the time.) What makes Jesus so "relevant" to today's world (apart from the salvation in no one else thing) is not just that He has truth in a way like no one else in history, but that He teaches it in ways that are so memorable and applicable even today.

Follow Up -- Misquoting Jesus

If you gave this challenge to your group last week, this is probably the right time to bring it up. What "questionable" teachings did they hear this week? Did they spot the error, or do they need to talk it through with the group?


Where We Are in John

This Week's Visual Bible Chapter

I have to admit that I love how Henry Ian Cusick plays Jesus in the opening scene. Very calm, very piercing, and also completely in control of the situation.

One bit of context, foreshadowing the "Big Idea". Remember that last week I said that the note in your Bible (which is probably something like "The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11") suggests that John did not write these verses, but they were added by a later scribe. This event possibly happened at a different time (and indeed, the earliest manuscripts with these verses put them in different places in either the Gospel of John or Luke). For our purposes, that means it is possible (I say likely) that the rest of chapter 8 takes place on the same day as chapter 7 (the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles).

Here is the flow of teaching:

7:37 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”
8:12 Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”

I mentioned last week that two rituals during the Feast of Tabernacles include drawing water from the Pool of Siloam and parading it through the temple, and also lighting some massive menorahs in the Court of Women. I believe that to be the setting of both of these teachings.

John 7:39-52 is a kind of "interlude" explaining what was going on around Jesus while He was teaching these things.

Jesus' open teachings in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles has really stirred up the Jewish leaders, but they were afraid that the large crowds would revolt against them. So, they sent guards to arrest Him, but the guards were so amazed by Jesus that they couldn't follow through. This really got the Jewish leaders mad.

This is almost certainly why the story of the woman caught in adultery was placed here (and let me be clear -- this is certainly when it might have happened; just because I think it makes sense that chapters 7 and 8 happened on the same day doesn't prove anything!). When the Pharisees felt the most threatened by Jesus, they would try to trap Him. Bringing this woman before Him while He was surrounded by listeners was intended to put Him in an impossible situation.

It reminds me of a different situation:

Matt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap him by what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You don’t care what anyone thinks nor do you show partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18 Perceiving their malicious intent, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” They brought him a denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked them. 21 “Caesar’s,” they said to him. Then he said to them, “Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Jesus' ability to rise above every trap -- and to do so in ways that are so memorable and mind-opening -- never ceases to amaze me.


This Week's Big Idea: How We Got Our Bible

(and yes, What Is "Textual Criticism"?)

Warning: this section is dry and a bit technical, and you may not be interested.

Usually, when someone asks the question "where did we get the Bible?", they're asking about how the books in the Bible got picked. That's an incredibly important topic to understand, and there are great resources out there, like this Bible Project video:

This week, I'm talking about a different question: how do we know that the books in the Bible are the original books?

To illustrate what I mean, let me use digital communication. When you read someone's blog article or news story, how do you know if it's been changed since the person originally posted it? The only way you can know that is (1) if you printed the article when it was first published (with a timestamp), or (2) if the author leaves a note when he/she makes a change. For example, I can change this post at any time and not tell you; you can see from the date at the top the last time it was changed, but you can't see what happened. This is why when students cite a webpage in a paper, they're supposed to give the date they read that page.

But there's one trump card when it comes to digital changes -- there's always a digital record of what was changed and when (assuming you know how to find that record).

Now, let's go back to Bible times. How did Bible books spread in the first place?

  1. The apostle Paul (for example) dictates the letter to the Ephesians, and the scribe writes it all down on a piece of expensive (and perishable) parchment.

  2. A courier delivers the letter to Ephesus, where it is read aloud to the church. Per request, some handwritten copies are made and delivered to nearby churches.

  3. News of this letter spreads, and additional churches request a copy. Some of them can only get an oral record (which is all they need at the time).

  4. Over time, these handwritten copies get attached to copies of other letters from Paul, and then they get circulated in batches with more and more letters.

These batches weren't all the same, containing different letters (and in some cases, different versions of the same letter). That's where the events of the video come into play -- church leaders worked together to discern which letters God wanted in the Bible, and which versions of those letters were the "right" ones. (The "tests of canonicity": authority, authorship, authenticity, acclamation.) And by 397 AD at the Council of Carthage, those leaders had come to agreement about the New Testament.

Now -- how do those leaders then make sure that all of the churches have the most up-to-date and "definitive" version of the Bible (Old and New Testaments)?

Copies. Lots of copies. Made by hand. Lots of copies.

So it's finally time to get to the question of the day. By then, it's been 300+ years since the original letters were written. They were dealing with handwritten copies of handwritten copies of handwritten copies. Furthermore, many churches did not have time to send scribes around comparing their version of the Bible with versions in other churches' libraries. So they simply continued to copy what they had.

(If we had more time, I would launch into my soapbox that the true miracle of the Bible is how God preserved it through so many thousand potential points of failure, so that we can have extreme confidence that our Bible is an accurate translation of an accurate original manuscript thousands of years removed.)

For the history of the Western churches, the most influential document was the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible compiled by Jerome around 400 AD). It became the primary source for the so-called "Textus Receptus" compiled by Erasmus, and the Textus Receptus became the primary source for the King James "Authorized Version" of the Bible.

For some, that's the end of the story.

But when it comes to a translation of a copy, there are two important questions to ask: how accurate is the translation, and how accurate is the source? We will endlessly debate the accuracy of a translation (goodness, hasn't the English language changed quite a bit just in the last 30 years?). So the only way to overcome that is to go back to the source. And unfortunately, Jerome didn't leave us his source.

But that's not a dead end to an archeologist!

While there has only been one Dead Sea Scrolls find, archeologists have found thousands of pieces of the New Testament -- sometimes just a scrap, sometimes an entire book.

And sometimes they found incredible things in plain sight, like ancient Greek manuscripts in the back rooms of very old libraries, like the Codex Vaticanus ("Vatican Bible") and the Codex Sinaiticus ("Sinai Bible"), both of which date to the 360s, and the Codex Alexandrinus, which dates to the 400s.

Anyway, they kept digging, they kept finding more and more scraps, and some scholars took on the herculean tasks of cataloging, compiling, and comparing all of these manuscript pieces. And through incredible perseverance, scholars began to create a "timestamped history" of the New Testament.

They discovered differences between "textual traditions", most of which could be easily explained (a swap of letters, omitting a word, repeating a word, misspelling a word, and then that mistake was copied again and again). In fact, the vast majority of "problems" with the New Testament manuscript traditions are very simple copyist mistakes.

(That's not to say that they aren't important! One of my professors liked to use this example: what is the difference between "God is nowhere" and "God is now here"? A single space. That's why we want committed experts in language and translation working with the best manuscripts possible of the Old and New Testaments.)

All of that to say this:

In a very few places, like this week's passage, the differences are a little more significant -- a word being changed, a line being added, an entire story being added. For example, we know that Erasmus would change spellings (or entire words) in his version of the Latin Bible to line up more clearly with the established teaching of the church. The only defense we have against something like that is to get as close to the original manuscript as possible. And it is the field of "textual criticism" -- that search for a timestamped history of the Bible -- that attempts to do that. But it also wants to be as transparent as possible with the readers of the Bible. That's why when you read this week's passage, you'll find a note in your Bible that says something like "The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11".

So let's talk about the story of the woman caught in adultery (the Pericope Adulterae, if you want to do your own research). A lot of manuscripts have it, and a lot of manuscripts don't (and some manuscripts have part of it, and some manuscripts have it, but moved elsewhere). So, which one is "right"? There's no single test, but in general, scholars look for what was in the oldest manuscripts that have proven trustworthy in other places. And as your Bible note suggests, the oldest manuscripts don't have this story. Let's give a few examples.

The three documents I mentioned above -- Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Alexandrinus -- do not include this passage. In fact, the earliest complete Greek manuscript to contain it, the Codex Bezae from the mid-400s, is famous (notorious?) for having many variant readings in all four Gospels. On the other hand, the Vulgate does include the passage (which is why the KJV doesn't have any brackets on these verses). And the Latin texts that Jerome consulted in producing his Vulgate also include the passage. So this tells us that this story was circulating among Latin-speaking Christians before the mid-300s.

That gives us a clue as where to look next: the writings of the early church leaders. Leaders from the 200s (like Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Cyprian) don't mention this story in their sermons on the Gospels. (Take arguments from silence with a grain of salt.) But leaders from the 300s and 400s (like Ambrose of Milan and Augustine, who studied under Ambrose) do. According to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Augustine was the real champion of this passage, and he believed that other leaders had deliberately suppressed the story because they thought it excused adultery.

And so that gives us a picture of what might have happened with respect to this week's passage. John the author almost certainly did not include this in his Gospel. However, the event itself almost certainly did happen, and it was an important part of the oral tradition that circulated among early Christians. Papias, a very important early church leader (died ~130 AD), mentioned this event in one of his sermons. Papias said he had learned under John the author, so that might explain how this story became associated with the Gospel of John. Somewhere during the early 300s, scribes in the western Latin-speaking part of the Empire wrote it in. (Note that they didn't agree where to put it.) Augustine highlighted sexual ethics in his teachings, so it kinda makes sense that he would latch on to this story.

So, this big question: should we still study this passage?

My friend "Mickey" Klink (who wrote the commentary I've been leaning on) says yes, and I agree with him. To him, the fact that it has stayed in our Protestant Bibles even with the [brackets] around it shows its power and importance. In other words, many Christians have learned and applied this passage, and thus we should help people study it. (And you will be able to gather from how I approach this passage that I find it amazing.)

But furthermore, he says that this passage is the perfect opportunity to teach Christians about the reliability of the Bible and how God inspired and preserved it. He doesn't think you should get bogged down in the technical jargon of textual criticism. I get that. I agree that you need to tread lightly any time you might bring up something technical, but I also believe that an awareness of textual criticism helps us understand the differences between some versions of the Bible. If we don't have any awareness about the history of the manuscripts of the Bible, we could be completely blindsided by things in the Catholic Bible or King James Bible (or etc.) and be made to think that people are keeping secrets from us. Not at all! The Bible we have is reliable and trustworthy, and the few differences that are out there can be explained by history.

[That's my qualm with the Lifeway lesson, btw -- not that they focus on this passage, but as far as I can tell, they never even mention the textual questions behind it. The Bibles people use have notes about "manuscripts", and I think that we have a responsibility to explain what that note means.]

What to Do with This Information

I just gave you a bunch of info, and I'm not sure how it should be used in your group. Here's what I'm thinking -- if you think someone in your group will say, "Hey, my Bible has a note here that says this passage isn't in the earliest manuscripts," then you will want to learn a brief summary of my long-winded section.

In my opinion, here is the most important thing to emphasize: after thousands of years of hand-copied manuscripts, we should not be surprised that there are debates about the exact content/wording of the original texts of the Bible. However, we can take great confidence that studying thousands of ancient manuscripts has shown an incredible (miraculous) agreement of the earliest manuscripts, and furthermore we can have faith that God Himself has helped ensure that the Bible we have today is the Bible He wants us to have.

If you have personal doubts if we should study this passage, I give you places Jesus teaches the same things in other parts of the Gospels.

Editor's Addition:

On February 15, 2023 (a couple of weeks after this post), I saw an article on the New York Times called Oldest Nearly Complete Hebrew Bible Heads to Auction. It's a manuscript from the 900s, and it's expected to be the most expensive book ever sold.

The article also goes into some detail about the history of the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament manuscripts, particularly how the Hebrew scribes (in this case Masoretes) created a system to ensure that their copies would all be accurate. It's a very interesting article.


Part 1: Trapped (John 8:3-6)

3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 4 “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger.

Above, I mentioned Matthew 22, another passage where the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in an impossible situation.

Here's your opening question: what are the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus in? What is it they think they can get Jesus to say? Focus on the law of Moses -- they seem to think that they can get Jesus either to contradict the law of Moses or to contradict something He had previously taught. What do you think that is?

And then, just to raise our amazement level of Jesus, answer this question -- if the Pharisees brought this scenario to you, what would you have said? In my personal experience, when someone tries to trap me, I find spectacular ways to put my foot in my mouth. Anything I could think to say, I'm very confident that it would not have turned out well. How good are you about saying the right thing at the right time?

But note that the author specifically calls this a trap. This is to help the reader understand something that might not be clear -- these guys do not have honest intentions. We have some subtle clues:

  • Leading with "Teacher" before launching into a question about the law is a clear setup.

  • "Such women" is a derogatory phrase in the Hebrew.

  • How exactly did the Pharisees catch this woman in the act of adultery?

The biggest clue (which Jesus of course caught but we might miss) is the actual text of the laws being referenced:

Lev 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with a married woman—if he commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death."
Deut 22:22 “If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. 23 If there is a young woman who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man encounters her in the city and sleeps with her, 24 take the two of them out to the gate of that city and stone them to death—the young woman because she did not cry out in the city and the man because he has violated his neighbor’s fiancée. You must purge the evil from you."

What's missing? The man! The witnesses! This is nothing more than a lynch mob.

While it's clearly unfair and a trap, history warns us how profitable it is to "talk sense" to a mob. But Jesus has no trouble dealing with them...

Writing on the ground with His finger is such an incredible, disarming choice of action. Who would have expected this? Now the people have to observe and think.

This passage is very popular to study among groups like the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses because they can go hog-wild in speculation about what Jesus was drawing in the sand. That's not the point! Even if I don't think John the author put this story in his Gospel (and John was brilliant in his use of details), I'm confident that the details we have and don't have are significant. Whatever Jesus wrote/drew doesn't change the meaning.

How did Moses receive the Ten Commandments? God used His "finger" to inscribe them on stone tablets (Ex 31:18). And now these men are challenging God the Son about the Law of Moses. Jesus writing on the ground with His finger is a clear callback to Moses' relationship with the law God gave him.

We will see in the next verse that it's going to take a moment for the Pharisees to catch on to what is happening, so let's move ahead in the passage.


Part 2: Freed (John 8:7-11)

7 When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”]

And so the Lawgiver speaks. This is in the vein of Jesus saying in the Sermon on the Mount "you have heard that it was said ... but I say to you". Jesus knows that these men do not care about the law at all, and so He is going to cut through all of their hypocrisy to the heart of the matter. They want to use the law as a weapon (a weapon where they identify the target). That's not why God gave the law. I cited Deut 22 -- the law exists to keep the people away from sin. AND YET THESE MEN WERE WILLING TO COMMIT SIN TO "FOLLOW" THE LAW by flagrantly violating the conditions of the law that were clearly set out (let alone the actual intent of the law).

And I'm not even talking about the bigger layer of hypocrisy that Jesus called out in the Sermon on the Mount --

Matt 6:27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

(I am certain that Jesus' disciples had the Sermon in the Mount in mind when they reflected on this story of the woman caught in adultery.)

Anyway, Jesus finally stands up and gives The Line.

Unfortunately, people have found ways to misapply this line. Back in Augustine's day, some teachers apparently thought that Jesus was excusing adultery (hence why he thought they wanted to "suppress" the passage). Others have tried to say that Jesus was rendering the law useless -- since no one is without sin, no one can pass judgment.

Neither of those things are the case.

Let's address the most important truth first: who is the one without sin? Jesus. Who has the right to condemn this woman? Jesus. But what does Jesus say to this woman? "I do not condemn you." It is a beautiful illustration of God's grace in action. If you remember nothing else, remember that.

But let's also remember what these Pharisees were trying to do: get Jesus to endorse their theory of God's law (that it was a weapon of judgment). Oh no. They do not get to tell the Lawgiver why He gave the law. This relates to Jesus' other statements about self-awareness:

Matt 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use."
Matt 26:52 Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword."

This has led some scholars to speculate that Jesus was writing the men's sins on the ground -- "if you're going pass judgment from wicked motives, then prepare to be judged". Here's what I speculate (fwiw): Jesus was writing the complete laws of Moses that these men were flagrantly misapplying. Jesus didn't need to write their sins; they knew that in this situation, they were sinning, and now they knew that Jesus knew. In other words, Jesus defused the mob by getting the mob to defuse itself. If they persisted in this godless hypocrisy, they knew that they would face the wrath of God. So it didn't matter what they believed about Jesus -- Jesus had forced them to confront themselves!

Now, let's continue what Jesus said in Matthew 7:

5 Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

In other words, yes we are supposed to call our brothers and sisters to account for their sins. Jesus never suggests anything else. BUT we are supposed to hold ourselves accountable for our own sin first and foremost. If we behave like this mob, calling for judgment when we ourselves are guilty of even "worse" sins, then we had better get ourselves under control before the True Judge comes to hold us accountable.

Why do I say that? Jesus' final words to the woman: "Do not sin anymore." What she was caught doing was sin. She was wrong for doing it. But Jesus had mercy on her just as He has mercy on every one of us. What He called on her to do in response to this mercy is the same thing we are all called on to do: when God forgives you for your sin, stop doing that sin! Paul picks up on this in Romans 6:

6:1 What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Paul goes on to explain the implications of this truth:

6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed from sin. ...
14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.

And the memorable conclusion:

22 But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the outcome is eternal life! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus set this woman free from her life of sin. And now she had the choice to live in that freedom or go back to her sin (a cruel slavemaster).

This is the lesson of this story. But Jesus isn't done. After this, we are taken back to Jesus' teachings in the temple, and things get even wilder.


Part 3: Shining (John 8:12-18)

12 Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying about yourself. Your testimony is not valid.” 14 “Even if I testify about myself,” Jesus replied, “My testimony is true, because I know where I came from and where I’m going. But you don’t know where I come from or where I’m going. 15 You judge by human standards. I judge no one. 16 And if I do judge, my judgment is true, because it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am the one who testifies about myself, and the Father who sent me testifies about me.”

In defense of the scribe who chose to insert that story right before this teaching, it makes a whole lot of sense. Here, Jesus talks about right judgment (and the importance of witnesses -- two key failures on the part of the mob).

Who is the only one who could give right judgment? God. And, Jesus is God (the Son). This is the second "I Am" statement, and it causes the expected hubbub.

In immediate context, Jesus is saying that He is the One who rightly illumines the purpose of God's law given to Moses (certainly against the Pharisees, who have routinely demonstrated their legal hypocrisy). But it was a failure of the Pharisees that they would reduce the purpose of life to following laws. Life is so much more than that! Here I could point you back to Romans 6, where Paul calls living under grace living in the truest freedom. But I can also point you ahead a few verses where Jesus also says this:

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ... 34 “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free."

God created us to be free. That includes the freedom to fail (and to fall). But God has not set us up to fail -- He has always given us the means by which we can be protected from that failure.

That means is Jesus. Jesus is life. Jesus sacrificed Himself so we could enjoy the life of God. God sent the Spirit to guide us and protect us (cf. the Armor of God, which we are learning about in David's sermons). Jesus showed us what godly life looked like and prioritized, and everyone who follows Him will have their path illumined.

(Note that in the rest of this chapter, Jesus also says that His life will be one of conflict with the devil and death at the hands of wicked men. Don't misread what Jesus is saying about having the light of life in this world.)

The following verses get a bit technical. The Pharisees make a new legal accusation that Jesus doesn't have the witnesses to support what He is saying (nevermind the ridiculousness of what they suggest), which Jesus says doesn't apply to Him because He does have a witness -- the Father (nevermind that God doesn't need a witness).

And then things get really sticky. The most confusing part to me is when Jesus says, "I judge no one; but if I do ..." What Jesus is doing here is tightly aligning Himself with God the Father. The world passes judgment by human standards. But Jesus, even though he is human, does not do that -- He only passes the judgment that God the Father has passed to Him. Jesus gives the ultimate illustration of what He means in a few verses:

28 So 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 on my own. But just as the Father taught me, I say these things. 29 The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.”

What justice do you trust more? The mob justice of fallen humans (the ones who will kill God)? Or the justice of the all-seeing, all-knowing God who has repeatedly demonstrated His grace and mercy toward fallen humans?

So there you go! If you don't get bogged down in technical questions about textual criticism (and if anyone if you group really wants to learn more, just have them get in touch with me), you can cover all of these verses.

I think you will want to leave enough time to read a few more verses into John 8. You certainly couldn't cover everything, but as you can tell I think that some of those verses help us understand what Jesus was saying in this week's focal passage.

All of this leads to the critical verse of this chapter:

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus has never been "on trial". The people have.


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