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The Woman Taken in Adultery.
The arraignment of the guilty woman:
v. l. Jesus went into the Mount of Olives.
v. 2. And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down and taught them.
v. 3. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
v. 4. they say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
v. 5. Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned; but what sayest Thou?
v. 6. This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not.
The members of the Sanhedrin, after the excited discussion which broke up their meeting, went each one to his house. But Jesus, having no home or definite place of sojourn in Jerusalem, went to the Mount of Olives, very likely to the town of Bethany, where His friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived, in whose house He was always a welcome guest. But very early the next morning, as soon as the Temple-gates were opened for the morning sacrifices, He was back again, to continue His work of teaching the people. The Lord was indefatigable in His labors for the salvation of mankind, a shining example to all His servants. Jesus had no trouble in getting an audience; all the people that came to the Temple went to Him, and He addressed the assembly, teaching them words of eternal life. As a teacher in the Temple-school, as a teacher in the house of God, He sat before the people and instructed them. But the scribes and Pharisees, whose vindictive hatred would hardly give them any rest, were planning some way of taking the Lord unawares and ruining His standing with the common people. They brought an adulteress and placed her before Him, indicating that they were arraigning her before Him as judge. This was an altogether irregular proceeding, for they had their church courts, as well as their civil judges; but they were seeking occasion against Him. The woman was placed in the midst, to expose her shame before all, whereupon they stated their accusation, incidentally addressing Jesus, with mock courtesy, as "teacher. " There could be no doubt as to the guilt of the woman; it was a plain case of a flagrant transgression. But to the scribes and Pharisees the fate of the woman evidently was a secondary consideration, especially since the old church-laws were no longer carried out in all their stringency. They state the ordinance of Moses in a case of this kind, See Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-23; Leviticus 21:9; Ezekiel 16:38-40, but in a way implying a contrast between the Old Testament teacher and Jesus, for their question is: What now sayest Thou? It was a malicious temptation, and in no way an innocent questioning; their object was to find some accusation against Him. "Where shall He now go, the poor man Christ, when every avenue of escape is shut off? If He should keep silence, that would not agree. very well. If He says Yes, it is against His preaching; if He says No, it is against Moses. " But His enemies were disappointed, for Jesus, having stooped down, wrote on the ground with His finger, not for shame of the deed itself and the brazen hardness of the persecutors, as has been stated, but in order to convey to them, in a most emphatic way, that He wanted nothing to do with this matter, that it in no way concerned Him, but was a matter for their courts. The punishment of adultery was the business of the government: The idea of inveigling Him into an apparent opposition to the Law of Moses did not appeal to Him. It was a deliberate, an accusing silence. Note: If only all people to whose attention the shame and disgrace of a neighbor's sin is brought would assume at once this reproachful silence! It would. effectually stop malignant gossiping.
The Savior's solution:
v. 7. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
v. 8. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
v. 9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
v. 10. When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
v. 11. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.
The fact that the Lord so pointedly ignored their question nettled the scribes and Pharisees. They persisted in their questioning; their importunity bordered on impudence. And so the Lord finally straightened up and put a question to them, in the form of a permission to carry out their aim with respect to the accused woman. The sinless one of them should cast the first stone upon the woman. Christ did not. shield, did not excuse the sinner; He did not utter one word in extenuation of her guilt. But His words were a most emphatic and cutting reproof for the self-sufficient Pharisees that were often guilty, in secret, of all the sins in the Decalogue. Having made this statement, the Lord once more bent down and wrote on the ground. Whether He wrote actual words and connected sentences or merely traced figures in the sand, is an idle speculation. But His manner conveyed the reproof more loudly than if He had shouted it, condemning them and their self-righteous sanctimoniousness. And the effect was all that could be desired. For once, under the prodding of Christ's words, the consciences of the scribes and Pharisees became active. Undoubtedly the dignity and majesty, the solemn, searching earnestness of the Lord did much to add to the weight of His rebuke. And so, one by one, they began to file out of the hall, the older ones leading, and the others following in due course. They might have brazened the matter out before others, before mere men, but they made a miserable failure of it before the majesty of Jesus. "This, then, is the difference between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world, that Christ makes all men sinners. But He does not let that be the end, but it follows that He absolves her. All the accusers having left, and the audience and the disciples having removed to a respectful distance, there was only Jesus and the woman left in the area, in the midst of the hall where this incident took place. And Jesus now purposely permitted the silence to continue, in order to prove effective. For He was most truly angry and provoked at the sin, but His Savior's heart was overflowing with mercy and love for the sinner. But at last Jesus straightened up once more and addressed Himself to the woman, who was now standing there in the abject misery and shame of her repentance. He asked her: Where are they? Has no man condemned thee? And when she answered: None, Lord, thus voicing her humble pleading for mercy and her belief in Him as the Savior of sinners, He spoke the words of absolution. Neither would He condemn her, although He, the Sinless One, might well have done so; not the death, but the life of sinners, was the object of Christ's work. But He adds an emphatic warning that she should go, and sin no more. He that sins after receiving the grace of the Savior, he that willfully and deliberately persists in spurning the merciful love of the Redeemer of which He once became the partaker, has only himself to blame, if the time of grace is brought to a sudden close and his unbelief is punished in accordance with the magnitude of its guilt. Note: This story teaches, in a most effective manner, the necessity of practicing merciful charity toward the fallen sinner and to win him back, if possible, to the way of righteousness. The uncharitable attitude which is often taken, by so-called Christians, toward those that have fallen, has, times without number, resulted in the final hardening of the sinner's heart, while the willingness to help in a spirit of Christlike forgiveness has resulted in making anew person. "Therefore only those sinners belong into the kingdom of Christ that acknowledge and feel their sins, and then eagerly catch at the word of Christ which He here speaks and says: I do not condemn thee; they are the kingdom of Christ. He does not permit the saints to enter, He blows them all out, Be thrusts everything out of the Church that wants to be holy in itself. But if sinners enter, they do not remain sinners, He places the mantle (of His righteousness) over them and says: wherever thou hast sinned, I forgive thee thy sin, and cover it over."
Jesus the Light of the World.
Christ's statement and the Jews' objection:
v. 12. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the Light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life.
v. 13. The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou bearest record of Thyself; Thy record is not true.
v. 14. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true; for I know whence I came and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come and whither I go.
v. 15. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
v. 16. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.
After this incident of the woman and her accusers, Jesus was again at liberty to continue His teaching. The one company of Pharisees that had caused the interruption had left, but there were still some in the audience. In His discourse Jesus told His hearers: I am the Light of the world. He may have alluded to two ceremonies of the Jews. It was customary to light the four great candelabra in the Court of the Women on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, with appropriate ceremonies. Their light shone forth over the entire city and the vicinity and signified that salvation was to come from the Jews. But He may also have had reference to a ceremony on the day after the official close of the festival, the "feast of joy for the Law. " On that day all the sacred books were taken out of the chest where they were commonly kept, and a lighted candle was put in their place, in allusion to Proverbs 6:23 or Psalms 119:105. Jesus is the true Light of the world; from Him, as the Fountainhead and source of all spiritual enlightenment, the rays of salvation and glory have gone forth to illumine all men, John 1:7-9; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:3-19. Any follower, any believer in Jesus, has not merely a chart, but a Guide, an in fallible Leader. He will never lead the way into darkness, but will scatter the darkness in the way of His followers. And He gives such light to the souls of men through faith in Him, that it will serve as a lodestar for them to the everlasting mansions of life above. All darkness of ignorance, infidelity, and sin is dispelled before the illumination of Christ in the Gospel, until finally the glorious light of heaven will definitely put an end to all hiding and obscuring veils and present the Savior in the everlasting glory of His work of redemption. The salvation of Christ therefore consists in this, that He gives the true, divine life. "To follow Christ means to obey His words, to preach that He has Buffered and died for us; that is to obey His words in faith. He that believes on Him, clings to Him, trusts in Him, he will be saved, he follows Christ in faith, he holds on to the Light. " But this statement again offended the Pharisees in the audience. The fact itself they did not dare to assail, but they disputed its formal validity. A man's testimony concerning himself has no value, it is no testimony, in fact. The answer of Jesus showed that He recognized the correctness of this axiom in general. But His case did not come under that rule, it was different on account of His divine origin. His testimony concerning Himself is true, because He knows whence He has come and where He is going. He has an existence, a being, which goes beyond birth and death. From another world He came down into this world, and, when His time is come, He will return to that other world whence He had His origin. Of these facts the Jews had no idea and understanding; their thoughts were chained to the conceptions of this life. And that was their own fault, since they refused to believe. Therefore it was impossible for them to do anything but to judge falsely with reference to Christ. They judge according to the flesh, according to appearances, without going into the essence of matters, though the latter was an absolute necessity in the case of Jesus. The Lord Himself, by contrast, condemns no man in His capacity as Savior. He confines Himself to witnessing, and does not Bit in judgment, chap. 3:17. But if He does pronounce judgment, then His verdict is always correct and just. He did not come into the world for the purpose of judging, reproving, condemning the world, for He is the Light, the Salvation of the world. But He must sometimes set aside His original, His real purpose in and for this world, in order to condemn the children of unbelief. It is in such cases that His judgment is right and true, also for that reason since His Father, who sent Him, is in and with Him. The two are inseparably connected and united, even though Christ is now appearing in the lowliness and humility' of His human nature.
An appeal to the Law of the Jews:
v. 17. It is also written in your Law that the testimony of two men is.
v. 18. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me.
v. 19. Then said they unto Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me nor My Father; if ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also.
v. 20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as He taught in the Temple; and no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come.
The Jews questioned the validity of Christ's testimony concerning Himself. But Jesus would have them consider that their own Law, upon which they were always harping, came to His assistance. If the testimony of two witnesses to a certain matter agreed, the Law held the testimony to be valid, Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15. Now the Lord applies the passage to Himself. He Himself is His own first witness, and His second witness is the Father, of whom Jesus repeats that He has sent Him. Christ's own consciousness and the power of God proclaiming itself in and through Him fully sufficed for the demands of the Law respecting exact testimony. But the Jews were still skeptical. They maintain that it is all very well for Him to allege that His Father is His second witness, and to hint at His super natural existence, but the question is: Where is He? The Jews wanted some special manifestation and proof that God acknowledged Jesus as His Son, See chap. 12:28. Jesus does not give them a direct answer. They ought to have known whom He meant when He spoke of His Father and been reminded of the many miracles which established His relation to God beyond a doubt. Theirs was a willful, malignant ignorance. The knowledge and acceptance of God and His whereabouts depends upon the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus. They professed to know this man Jesus who was bearing witness before them, but had they really known Him, they would necessarily have known the Father with whom He was inseparably connected. Belief in and knowledge of Jesus implies knowledge of and belief in the Father. When unbelievers speak of God, of the dispensations of Providence, etc. , they do not understand and realize of what they are speaking. The words are hollow, meaningless phrases in their mouths. Only the true believers, that are united with Christ by the bonds of true faith, can have a true knowledge and idea of God. In Christ the Father is revealed. This saying of the Lord, which again seemed boastful to the Jews, so angered them that they were ready to apprehend Him, as He sat there in the Court of the Women, in the section where the treasury chests were placed. But no one could touch Him, since the hour which was set in the counsel of God was not yet come. Though all the enemies of Christ combine in a deliberate effort to harm the Gospel and to hinder its proclamation, they are powerless before His almighty will.
Christ's going to the Father:
v. 21. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go My way, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins; whither I go, ye cannot come.
v. 22. Then said the Jews, Will He kill Himself? because He saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
v. 23. And He said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
v. 24. I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am He, yes hall die in your sins.
v. 25. Then said they unto Him, Who art Thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
v. 26. I have many things to say and to judge of you; but He that sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him.
v. 27. They understood not that He spake to them of the Father.
Jesus did not permit Himself to be disconcerted or in any way influenced by the enmity which was manifested in their bearing nor by the angry thoughts of their hearts, but continued His testimony, in the effort to make clear to them what the relation between Him and His Father implied. It was necessary for Him to speak with severity, because of the hardness of their hearts, but the Savior's sympathy and mercy is evident in every sentence. Their time of grace was the present time, now, while He was in their midst. Now was the time to accept Him as the Messiah of the world. Later, when their time of grace will have come to an end, then they will search and look for Him, then they will frantically comb the country for the Messiah whom they have rejected. But it will be too late, and all their false Messiahs will not be able to bring them either temporal or spiritual salvation. They will therefore bring the judgment upon themselves that they will die in their sins. Their unbelief, the sin! If sins, having rejected the Redeemer, all regrets would be too late; condemnation would come upon them entirely by their own fault. This fact finds its full application also today, when thousands and mil lions are fooling and frittering away their time of grace. The unbelievers cannot enter into heaven, the place of bliss, they cannot become partakers of eternal happiness. The only way, the only method, the only means of getting to heaven is Christ; he that does not accept Him is lost. The Jews were again hurt to the quick by this plain statement of the Lord. And they tried to vent their spite in mockery. Their insinuation that He contemplated suicide was a most malicious blasphemy, showing the meanness and carnal-mindedness of their hearts. See chap. 7:35. The sustained loftiness of His thoughts contrasted all the more strongly with the sordidness of their usual line of contemplation. But Jesus disregarded the sneering interruption and pointed out to them what constituted the real cause of separation between Him and them. They were from beneath, from below, from this world, in the worst sense of the term. Their thoughts were wrapped up in the blind sinfulness of this world, wherefore they had no eyes for, and no understanding of, the matters which concerned heaven and eternity with Christ. Christ, being from above, with divine ideas and thoughts, was separated from them by a wide gulf. That the Jews did not believe in Christ could be explained only by their natural blindness and enmity toward God. Their origin and their associations were both brought out in their manner of thinking and acting. They are concerned with the matters of this world; Christ's mind and thought is centered in the world to come. And now the Lord tells them why they would die in their sins, why their sins would prove the factor of their own condemnation. It is due to the fact that they do not and will not believe. For that is the one condition for obtaining salvation, to believe that it is Jesus, and Jesus only, in whom there is salvation. That is the object which brought Him down from heaven, and that is the great gift which He has earned for all men, the gift which can be secured by faith only. This statement of the Lord did not yet make things clear to the Jews; in a measure, it added to their bewilderment, since they could not associate this simple Nazarene with supernatural gifts. In their blindness they ask: Who art Thou? And Jesus told them: What I have told you from the beginning and always, that I am. He is above all, from the beginning, the Word which He is speaking to them; He is identified with that Word; that is His essence and the description of His person and office: the Word of God Incarnate. As such He still has many things to say to them; the revelations which He could give them concerning the Father and the Father's will are so great and wonderful that the subject could never be exhausted. And He would also be obliged to judge, to condemn them because they refuse to believe on Him. They should know, however, in spite of their refusal to believe, that the Father who sent Him is true; there is no falseness, no deceitfulness in Him. There are certain matters which the Father, that sent Jesus, has given Him to say to the world, and this will He carries out. Even now the Jews did not understand the Lord; their understanding was darkened; they did not identify "Him that sent Me" with "the Father. " Note: By the reconciliation which Christ earned through His atonement the sins are no longer imputed to him that accepts this redemption; to him that refuses to believe, they remain imputed, not because the atonement has not been made, but because it is not accepted. Mark also, in the entire passage, the stately quiet of Jesus, while His words roll from His lips like the tolling of the bell of doom. The unbelievers load a terrible responsibility upon themselves in rejecting their Savior.
The distinguishing sign:
v. 28. Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things.
v. 29. And He that sent Me is with Me; the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.
v. 30. As He spake these words, many believed on Him.
In spite of all the enmity and the lack of understanding, the Lord continues to proclaim His message concerning Himself and His office in the world. He points forward to the great culmination of His labors in the world. The time would come that they would raise up the Son of Man, nail Him to the cross. Through this death He would enter into the glory of His Father. This fact would become a distinguishing mark. He that believes on the crucified Christ has the necessary spiritual understanding of the Gospel and its meaning. They that reject the crucified Christ will find that He will become their Judge. To them He will be revealed in the majesty of His divine power, and they will understand when it is too late that He did nothing in His labors on earth on His own initiative, by arrogant presumption, but that He had spoken only what the Father had taught Him to say. For the union between the two persons of the Godhead is so intimate that all their great undertakings for the salvation of mankind are done together. For although He has been sent out by the Father, yet the Father is with Him; there is a distinction of persons, but one divine essence. He is true to the purpose of the Father, to the divine will for the salvation of the world; and therefore His conduct pleases the Father at all times, there is perfect sympathy and correspondence between them. Now finally some of the divine truths penetrated into the hearts and minds of some of the hearers, and many were won for Christ. His Word, whenever and wherever it is preached, will always have some effect and success, on account of its inherent power.
The True Liberty of the Gospel. John 8:31-59
Bondage and liberty:
v. 31. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed;
v. 32. and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
v. 33. They answered Him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?
Many of the Jews had indeed come to faith, but their minds were still held in the bondage of a carnal understanding. Their idea of discipleship was that of an external adherence to Christ, of professing allegiance to Him as their Leader. They were caught in the meshes of the same delusion which to this day holds the minds of so many so-called Christians captive. The continuing or remaining in the Word of Christ is the characteristic of the true disciples of Christ, the adhering strictly to the Word which He has left for our instruction in the gospels and epistles. There we find Jesus revealed, and through the understanding of Jesus as the Christ we have true knowledge, the knowledge of the truth; and that knowledge is the only factor which will give Us true liberty. Without Christ, all men are servants, slaves of sin, Romans 6:17-20. But in Christ there is deliverance from sin, true freedom. Only those men are truly free that have accepted the salvation of Jesus; only they have a will which is interested in good works and able to perform them. That is the wonderful liberty of the Christian of which Luther wrote in such powerful words. But the Jews thought the Lord spoke of the liberty of the body from the tyranny of an earthly despot. They resented the inference as though they had ever been in bondage: Children of Abraham we are, and to no man have we ever been in bondage, in slavery. They forgot, for the moment, that they were subject to the Romans; they forgot also that their fathers had been in the power of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Syrian, and Roman conquerors. Since Abraham had received the promise of a descendant that should rule all nations, the Jews proudly called themselves children of kings. They resented even the idea as though they needed to be emancipated, to be set free. This answer of the Jews shows that they had quickly extinguished the small flame of faith which had been kindled in their hearts. Their Jewish pride would not accept such a statement from Jesus. The pride of the human heart has driven many a person away from the church to which he professed allegiance, because he resented the plain talk of the Bible regarding the depravity of the human heart.
v. 34. Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
v. 35. And the servant abideth not in the house forever; but the Son abideth ever.
v. 36. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed
v. 37. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill Me because My Word hath no place in you.
v. 38. I speak that which I have seen with, My Father; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
In a very solemn manner, Jesus here proceeds to explain His statement regarding slavery or bondage. Every doer of sin is a slave of sin. He that commits a sin thereby places himself in its power, is bound and held captive absolutely. And therefore these Jews are servants, slaves, in the spiritual sense. But such a slave has no part and right in the house, he has only duties to perform; he is not his own master and cannot speak of freedom. The servants of sin may now be outward members of the Kingdom, of the Church, but they will in the end be obliged to leave, they will be thrust out from the place where they have usurped the rights of children. It is only the Son of God that is able to bring freedom, emancipation from sin and its service. He has earned freedom from sin for all men by paying the price, the redemption for their sin, His holy blood. That is the only true freedom, which the Son has thus earned and is offering to the whole world, which He wants also these Jews to accept. Jesus was very well aware that they were descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, that they could trace their ancestry back to the great patriarch. But they had little of their ancestor's manner in them, for they were even now seeking to kill Him, because His Word would not enter into their hearts and minds. The unbelievers are filled with spiteful anger against the true believers, but incidentally shut up their hearts tightly against every form of Gospel influence. While Jesus was making it a practice to speak what He had seen in the bosom of His Father from eternity, all the wonderful things which pertained to the salvation of mankind, the Jews were getting ready and setting their hearts to do what they learned from him who was their father in truth, in a spiritual sense, the devil. They were acting in a perfectly consistent manner. It was a bit of impressive irony which should have opened the eyes of the Jews.
The difference between earthly and spiritual parenthood:
v. 39. They answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
v. 40. But now ye seek to kill Me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God; this did not Abraham.
v. 41. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Whether the Jews would not or could not understand the words of Jesus is not apparent. But they sullenly, doggedly repeat their statement that Abraham was their father, their ancestor, assuming that this fact must cover a multitude of defections. To this Jesus objects by saying that they must do the works of Abraham, if they are children of Abraham in truth, that is, in the spiritual sense. They have none of the characteristics, none of the spiritual nature of Abraham, else they would show this nature in such deeds as would be in conformity with the spirit of Abraham. In seeking to kill Jesus, against whom they could bring no real charge, they showed a decided difference from Abraham. The Jews now began to notice that He was ascribing a different parentage to them and became highly incensed. They were not born of an adulterous union, they protest; they were not guilty of idolatry and the practices that go with idolatry; they belonged to the people of Israel in truth; they believed in one Father, in God Himself, and had nothing in common with idols. Their zeal was commendable, but it did not. strike the point under discussion.
The true ancestry of the Jews:
v. 42. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love Me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me.
v. 43. Why do ye not understand My speech? Even because ye cannot hear My Word.
v. 44. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.
v. 45. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not.
v. 46. Which of you convinceth Me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?
v. 47. He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God.
The Jews had vehemently repudiated the idea of their being idolaters and had just as emphatically insisted that they were children of God, that they belonged to God's house as children. But Jesus now shows that God cannot be their Father. For if that relationship obtained, then it would follow without fail that they would love Him, since He proceeded forth from eternity from the Father. He did not come on a mission of His own scheming and devising, but God has sent Him. If they were really children of God, they would love Him, for brothers must feel brotherly love toward one another. He that does not love Christ has no part in God. And not only the fact that they refused to welcome Him was an unmistakable argument against their being God's children, but also the fact that His speech was incomprehensible to them, that they could not understand the commonest things concerning the Father which He told them. The ears of their mind, of their understanding, were closed. Even the substance of His words was foreign to them; His language, His mode of speech, everything was strange and unfamiliar to them. For that reason they also refused to give ear to His preaching. Unbelief has its cause and reason in not wanting to accept Jesus and His doctrine. And having thus shown in two points that the Jews cannot possibly be children of God, Jesus no longer minces words, but tells them that according to their spiritual nature they are children of the devil and exhibit the devil's characteristics. They have hardened their own hearts, and therefore the judgment of this hardening is upon them. They want to perform, they find their greatest delight in performing, the desires of their father, the devil. Note: The distinction should be observed between servants of the devil and children of the devil. All men, as the result of inherited sin, are servants of sin and of the devil, because they are in the power of the devil and are forced to do his bidding. But children of the devil are such people as deliberately invite the devil to take possession of their heart and mind. They are truly one with the devil, all their thinking and speaking is specifically devilish. He that rejects Christ, the Savior, and consistently refuses to accept His Word, is doubly a child of the devil. Wherein the devil delights, as things that are opposed to the good and gracious will of God, therein they also find their delight. They are not betrayed into this condition, but they have deliberately embraced that which is wrong. And the traits of their spiritual father the Jews now exhibit especially in two ways. The devil is a murderer and a liar from the beginning. His great delight is to destroy man, the image of God, according to body and soul. This idea has actuated him from the beginning; it has found its expression in every murder since the time of Cain. And he has no idea of the truth, he does not adhere to it nor live in it. The domain of lies, of deliberate, malignant, malicious falsehoods, is his special province. He himself is a liar and the father of all liars. Note: There is a splendidly consoling thought in the words of Christ that the devil is a liar. If he then tries to make a Christian believe that his sins cannot be forgiven, the latter has a weapon in this saying of Christ wherewith he can conquer the devil and quiet his doubting heart. Now the Jews par took of the nature of the devil, their spiritual father, in both these. traits. In the first place, they would not believe Christ, although He told them the truth. And in the second place, they had a murderous hatred of Him in their hearts. Not one of them could substantiate a single charge against Him. But if they must confess their failure in this respect, they must thereby concede His infallibility. What He therefore speaks, is the truth. So utterly irrational and bigoted were the Jews that they might have believed Him had He spoken falsehood, for it was their nature to believe falsehood. The Lord plainly tells them that He has believers and always will have believers among such as have a different moral and spiritual descent. A person that is truly born of God, regenerated according to God's loving counsel, has the manner and nature of "God in himself, he under stands the words of God as spoken by Jesus and accepts them. In open contrast to this the fact that they do not and will not hear God's words proves that they are not His children, that they have nothing in common with Him. It is a truth which should be repeated in our days in the case of every person that refuses to hear and learn the Word of God according to the will of God.
The Jews take refuge in abuse:
v. 48. Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil?
v. 49. Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honor My Father, and ye do dishonor Me.
v. 50. And I seek not Mine own glory; there is One that seeketh and judgeth.
v. 51. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.
The frank argument of Jesus struck deeply, it cut the proud Jews to the quick. And they could not gainsay His words, their conscience was forced to admit their truth. And so they took recourse to jeering and abuse. They called Him a Samaritan, an adherent of the people that had retained only a part of the truth, whose members were considered heretics by the Jews and therefore believed to be possessed of evil spirits. That is the manner and style of the unbelievers of all times; when they find that they have no arguments against the truth, then they resort to calumny and blasphemy. But Jesus does not permit the manner of the enemies to disturb Him. He most emphatically, but altogether quietly, spurns the charge, declaring that He was honoring His Father in all His works and words. In speaking as He did, He gave all honor to His Father. But the Jews, by their blasphemy, dishonored Him, and therefore also, by implication, His Father. Their foolish manner of acting does not stir Him to resentment, for the idea of seeking and furthering His own glory was absolutely foreign to Him. But from this they should not infer that their abuse of Him was a matter of indifference, which would not find its punishment. There is One above, who is very much concerned about His Son's glory and. honor; He seeks it, and He will pass judgment upon those that esteem the abuse of the Lord lightly. The sentence of condemnation which the blasphemers of Christ will ring down upon themselves is terrible beyond human comprehension. The Jews should therefore remember, as Jesus solemnly declares to them, that a man that keeps His saying, that diligently attends to His words, His Gospel, and accepts them for use in His life without remonstrance and unbelief, shall not see death unto all eternity. Temporal death will have no terrors for Him, being merely the gate and entrance to eternal life. Here was the sweetest, the most wonderful Gospel-news, calculated to strengthen and comfort all believers of that and the present time.
The attempt to kill the Lord:
v. 52. Then said the Jews unto Him, Now we know that Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and Thou sayest, If a man keep My saying, he shall never taste of death.
v. 53. Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom makest Thou Thyself?
v. 54. Jesus answered, If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing; it is My Father that honoreth Me; of whom ye say that He is your God;
v. 55. yet ye have not known Him. But I know Him; and if I should say, I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you; but I know Him, and keep His saying.
v. 56. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it and was glad.
v. 57. Then said the Jews unto Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?
v. 58. Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
v. 59. Then took they up stones to cast at Him; but. Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the Temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
The saying of Jesus that the believer in Him was sure of obtaining eternal life was beyond the comprehension of the Jews. And it increased their anger and resentment to note that Jesus ascribed such power to Himself. They concluded rightly that the Lord here claimed to possess supernatural attributes. And so they repeat their Blander and blasphemy that He is possessed of an evil spirit. They understood the saying of temporal death, and since they supposed Jesus to be a mere man and surely of smaller importance than Abraham and the prophets, they felt that He was arrogating to Himself powers which were altogether out of His reach. If those men had died, He surely could not speak of granting safety and deliverance from death. Their conclusion was a bit of sound arguing. Jesus did indeed place Himself upon a much higher level than the prophets. But the question of the Jews was impudent in spite of all: What do You expect us to take You for? Their words plainly showed their contempt of Him and of the fact that they believed Him to be extolling Himself at the expense of truth. But Jesus insists that He has His honor from His Father. If He were guilty of exalting Himself at the expense of truth, His glory would suffer at once and come to naught. God never permits an unworthy person to arrogate to himself privileges which properly belong to Him alone. But in this case God Himself was giving evidence on every hand that He stood behind His Son, in His preaching and in His miracles. Now the Jews made the boastful statement that God was their Father. If that were true, then they must be conscious of the fact that God is zealous and jealous of the honor of the Son, whom He has sent. But their proud boast cannot be true, they cannot have a correct idea and knowledge of Him. Their entire life and manner of acting shows that. They have not acquired knowledge of the Father, either by observation or by teaching, but the knowledge of Christ is of such a nature as to exclude all possibility of a mistake as to the essence and qualities of God. He has a direct and essential knowledge of His Father. Were He to deny that He has such a direct knowledge of God, then He would be a liar and on a level with the Jews. But He is the possessor of the right knowledge, out of which grows and follows a glad and joyful keeping of His Word. Note: This close connection between the actual knowledge of God by faith and the doing of His will is indispensable in the Christian life; the keeping of God's Word must follow the acceptance of this Word in faith. And with Jesus this keeping was of a peculiarly wonderful character, since He was carrying out the will of God for the salvation of the world. And now Jesus offers a bit of proof for the fact that He is greater than Abraham. For this patriarch, who was their ancestor according to the flesh, was filled with exultant joy over the fact that he should see the day of Christ. The wonderful promises which were given him with regard to the Messiah filled his heart with joy ineffable. In this way Abraham did see the Lord, His Savior, by faith, and died in happy trust in Him. But this last saying the Jews completely misunderstood. They had the idea that the life of Jesus and that of Abraham on earth had been contemporaneous. Full of indignation they cried out to Him: Fifty years Thou art not yet, and Abraham Thou hast seen! The very idea was preposterous. But Jesus repeats the thought with an unusually strong affirmation, that before Abraham came into being, He was, He is, thus asserting His eternity. Our Savior, the humble and despised Jesus of Nazareth, is the eternal God. That is our comfort, to know that in our redemption the suffering and death of the eternal God is lying in the balance. It is the eternal God that delivered us from eternal damnation. That the eternal God suffered for some hours on the cross, that has taken away the power of hell and damnation. But this was too much for the Jews. They could no longer contain themselves; they picked up stones to put Him to death for what they considered blasphemy. But their murderous intention was not carried out. Jesus did not merely hide Himself, to slip out unobserved, but He made Himself in visible. by His almighty power: Through their very midst He went out, unhindered, while His enemies were struck with temporary blindness and vainly endeavored to harm Him. That same almighty Jesus is the Protector of His own at all times, and may well make use of His power in their interest, whenever He deems it necessary. There must be no lack of trust. in Him.
Summary. Jesus gives an evidence of His redeeming love in the case of the woman taken in adultery, proclaims Himself as the Light of the world, tells of His going to the Father, gives a discourse of the true liberty of the Gospel, and escapes from the wrath of the Jews.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 8". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany