Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
John 8

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


A woman taken in Adultery is brought to Christ for Judgment. The Lord pardons her. He preacheth a divine Discourse. The Jews oppose him, and are about to stone him; but he passeth by, and escapeth their Hands.

Verses 1-2

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. (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.

I take occasion at the very mention of the Mount of Olives, to remind the Reader, what a memorable place this was. Jesus delighted in it. And doth the Reader ask wherefore? The Scriptures will answer the question. See Luke 22:39 , etc. John 18:1-2 . Here it was, that David, a memorable type of Christ, ascended bare-footed in his sorrows. 2 Samuel 15:23 . And here it was, the Lord Jesus had to encounter the power of darkness, and sweat a bloody sweat. The Lord had all these things in view; and knew when, and where, his soul-travail would be. Hence Jesus loved the Garden of Gethsemane! and the Mount of Olives. These were his sacred haunts. Reader! you and I by faith should like to tread the hallowed ground, made sacred to the Redeemer's sufferings!

Verses 3-11

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery: and when they had set her in the midst, (4) They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. (5) Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? (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. (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. (8) And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. (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 alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (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? (11) She said, no man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

It is worthy remark, that these sworn foes of Christ did not bring the Adulterer as well as the Adulteress. Had their designs in coming to Jesus been purely from a regard to the sanctity of God's law , they would have been as anxious to punish the man, as the woman; for so the law enjoined. See Leviticus 22:10 . But the object they had in view was not so much about the Adulteress, as to entangle the Lord Jesus in a snare. Had Christ commanded her to be stoned, they would have reproached him for acting contrary to the meekness of the Messiah; and thereby opposing his own doctrine in receiving Publicans and Harlots. And had he screened her from the law, they would have charged him with setting at nought the law of Moses. Deuteronomy 22:22-24 . Dearest Lord! what an everlasting contradiction of sinners didst thou endure against thyself. Hebrews 12:3 ; Matthew 21:31-32 .

There is somewhat uncommonly interesting in this relation of our Lord's conduct towards this Adulteress. What a lovely portrait is it of the Son of God in our nature? Look at Jesus in this sweet point of view, pardoning the sinner, while reproving the sin. There was for a little space some question as to the authenticity of the history; it not being in all the copies of the Testament. And it was confidently said by such, that it was in none of the editions of the Syriac version. But Archbishop Usher, at no small expence and labor, procured a copy of it in which it was found. It hath exercised also the curiosity of some, to know what it was Jesus wrote with his finger on the ground, while the Pharisees were accusing the woman. And it hath been said, that in an ancient Greek manuscript, it was found, that Jesus wrote some of the leading sins of the Scribes and Pharisees then present; which of course, as God, he knew. But this is mere conjecture. But as the Holy Ghost is silent upon the subject, it becomes us to be the same. It is enough for the Church to be in possession of so very sweet a testimony, of the mercifulness of Him, who is the judge of quick and dead. And I venture to believe, that no child of God, who hath himself passed under the sentence of God's holy law, and, from self-condemnation, hath been led by the Holy Ghost, to know the grace of Jesus; but must feel delight in so lovely a representation of Jesus, in the exercise of it.

I hope that I shall be forgiven, even if I err, when I venture to behold this woman as a lively emblem and figure of the Church, in the Lord's pardon of her. For surely there never was an Adulteress equally vile in baseness to the Church. Many have departed from their husbands, and dealt shamefully: But what adultery ever came up to the spiritual fornication of the Church? Read the Bible through, and hear the Lord's complaints. See particularly Jeremiah 2:0 ; Hosea 2:0 and Hosea 3:0 . And then observe how graciously the Lord hath dealt, and doth deal, with his people. Jeremiah 3:0 ; John 5:14 .

Verses 12-20

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. (13) The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true. (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. (15) Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. (16) And yet, if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. (17) It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. (18) I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. (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. (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.

We enter here upon one of the most blessed discourses of Jesus. Who but the Lord Jesus ever called himself, or could call himself, the light of the world? Let the Reader gather into one view, some few only of those unequalled expressions of Christ, which he applied to himself; and then ask, whether any less than God could possibly assume such language ? I am the light of the world. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever. John 6:51 . I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whomsoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. John 11:25-26 . Reader! I charge you to pause over these words of Christ. What can we suppose, in Christ's assuming this language, if for the moment it could be thought that he was not God? And on the conclusion, which is the only conclusion on principles of common sense, that he is; what must be the awful situation of those men, who call themselves Christians, after Him, and yet indirectly charge him with blasphemy in denying his Godhead?

Verses 21-30

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. (22) Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. (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. (24) I said therefore unto you, That ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (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. (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. (27) They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. (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. (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 (30) As he spake these words many believed on him.

If the Reader will take into account the different characters here described, he will be led to discover, (the Lord being his teacher,) wherefore it was, that from the same words and the same preacher, even Christ himself; some rejected the counsel of God, against their own souls: and some, while he spake these words, believed on him. It was so in the days of Christ, and under Christ; and it hath been the same in every age, and must remain so, until the consummation of all things. And the reason is given in the Scriptures. They who are born in the Adam-state of nature by the fall, and void of all grace-union in Christ; have no apprehension of the divine life. Our Lord describes them: Ye, are from beneath, I am from above: ye are of this world, I am not of this world. And of such the Lord speaks: If we believe not that I am; ye shall die in your sins: And as the Lord had said in the former Chapter; whither I am ye cannot come. John 7:34 . And on the other hand, they who were given to Christ before the world began; who are of the first born whose names are written in heaven; and by virtue thereof, have had a grace-union in Christ; and Christ hath betrothed them to himself forever, in a covenant which cannot be broken: these are secured for recovery from the Adam-nature of a fallen state; in which they were also born, but from their oneness in Christ, are in the fulness of time called out of it and regenerated, and made willing in the day of God's power. See Ephesians 1:4 ; Luke 10:20 ; Hosea 2:18-19 ; Psalms 110:3 .

By making the true scriptural distinction between these very opposite characters; a light is thrown over this whole discourse, and others of the same nature, of our Lord's. Hence the everlasting opposition made, by the Scribes and Pharisees, to all the divine preaching of Jesus. And hence the light of grace which broke out in the minds of the Lord's people, under the very same discourses of Jesus, by which, while he spake these words, it is said, that many believed on him.

I beg the Reader to notice the particularity of the expression. If ye believe not, said Jesus, that I am; (the he subjoined is not in the original, neither ought it to be considered elliptical,) by which there is an evident allusion to Exodus 3:14 and there can be no question, but that our Lord meant it in the same sense. I am, that I am. So he spake to Moses, at the bush. So again he spake here. And so once more, in the close of this same Chapter, John 8:58 . And I venture to believe, that our Lord meant the words not only in the eternity of his nature, as God; but also in his Mediator-character and office, as God-Man. And the change of words in this last verse, from was to am, Before Abraham was I am; most plainly and decidedly proves this most blessed and glorious truth. Reader! ponder it well. Carry it about with you wherever you are; with the credentials of your holy faith. All the blessedness, the marrow, and sweetness, of the Person, Headship, and Office-character of the Lord Jesus, are included in it.

Verses 31-42

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed: (32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (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? (34) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. (35) And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth ever. (36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (37) I know that ye are Abraham's seed: but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. (38) I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your Father. (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. (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. (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. (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.

In this part of our Lord's discourse, we have a subject equally interesting with the former; but Jesus takes another form, by way of discriminating his people from the world. He adopts a beautiful figure, of an house, and family; in order to shew the striking difference. He represents the image of that fallen state of Adam, by reason of sin, as a servant; and shews, that everyone who committeth sin, is the servant of sin. And the similitude is just. Every son and daughter of Adam, by transgression hath forfeited all right of inheritance; and is in bondage to sin and Satan. The Lord calls his people, the lawful captives of the mighty; and the prey of the terrible. Isaiah 49:25 . And the Lord represents the children of his kingdom as his, by virtue of his adoption; and shews, that by his abiding in his own house, as a Son forever, he preserves them, and makes them free. Whereas the servant, having no inheritance, is shortly turned to the door.

This forms a beautiful illustration of the subject. As the whole Adam-race, were all alike involved in the ruin of the fall; they all come forth from the womb of nature in the same natural bondage of sin; all alike serving divers lusts, and pleasures; all under the guilt of sin, the curse of sin, the dominion of sin, the punishment due to sin; the wrath of God, and the terrors of his justice. It is only such as the Son of God makes free, that are free indeed! The carnal Jews could not brook this pointed discourse of Christ. Priding themselves on being lineally descended from Abraham, they thought that they were entitled to all Abraham's privileges. But Jesus taught, that freedom was only in himself. It was not Abraham's seed in nature, which gave a right and title to Abraham's inheritance; but Abraham's seed in grace. He saith not and to seeds as of many, but as of one; and to thy seed which is Christ. Galatians 3:16 . Hence all the natural children of Abraham only, (and he had many,) were servants in the family, and no other; and had no part, nor lot, in the promises. But the charter of grace ran in these words: In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Romans 9:7 .

I beseech the Reader to pause over our Lord's own illustration of this subject, as here set forth. Nothing can be more plain, nothing more evident, in proof of that everlasting and irreconcileable separation, between the Church and the world; between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. Both the one, and the other; the Israel after the flesh and the Israel after the Spirit, possess for a time, as servants and children in the same family, apparently the same privileges. In respect of ordinances, and means of grace, they sit down under the same. And like those Pharisees, who never believed in Christ, and those true disciples of Jesus who did; the same discourses were delivered before all. But by and by, when the Lord comes to take account, the Ishmaels, and the Isaacs, are found to be of very different stock; and an everlasting separation takes place. For what saith the scripture; Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be here with the son of the free woman. Reader! learn to estimate the vast distinction. See whether you can enter into a relish of the Apostle's conclusion, when he, saith: So then brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free. Galatians 4:22 to the end.

Verses 43-59

Why do ye not understand my speech; even because ye cannot hear my word. (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. (45) And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. (46) Which of you convinceth me of sin? and if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? (47) He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not , because ye are not of God. (48) Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? (49) Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. (50) And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. (51) Verily, verily, I say unto you; If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. (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. (53) Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? (54) Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say that he is your God: (55) Yet ye have not known him: but I know him. And if I should say, I know him not, I should be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. (57) Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old: and hast thou seen Abraham? (58) Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (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.

We have the continuation of our Lord's Sermon, on much the same subject; only, that Jesus is rising higher, and making use of much stronger language in the doctrine, when separating the precious from the vile; the wheat from the chaff; the Church from the world. He here considers the Pharisees as totally incapable of receiving his word, because of their total inability of understanding it. And the Lord traces up the effect, to the cause; in decidedly declaring, and without the smallest reserve or limitation whatever, that they were of their father the devil, and the works of their father they would do. Here opens at once the whole matter, and becomes a decision to all the subjects of dispute, which, from age to age, have divided the opinions of men in the world. Wherefore some are everlastingly obdurate, whilst others relent. Some believe in Christ, to the salvation of their souls; whilst others are entrenched in invulnerable unbelief. Jesus, by assigning the cause of infidelity, in Satan, plainly shews the cause of faith, in the gift of God. I beg the Reader not to turn away from this solemn but just view of the subject, before that he hath first carefully looked over those scriptures, which very fully explain it: Mat_23:15; Mat_23:33 ; 1 John 3:8-12 ; Matthew 13:38-39 ; Acts 13:10 . There can be no concord between Christ and Belial; between the Church and the world: they differ, in beginning and end; in cause, and effect. They never can coalesce. Tares and wheat may grow together; but tares and wheat they must everlastingly remain, as long as they remain. Hence Christ's final sentence to the characters of the Serpentine brood; ye shall die in your sins: and whither I go ye cannot come.

I will only detain the Reader with just observing, what a very blessed, and decisive declaration, the Lord Jesus made of himself, when, in the close of his sermon, he said, Before Abraham was I am! In every sense how truly blessed! Considered as to his eternal nature, and essence. Considered as to his Mediator-character, as set up the Head and Husband of his Church, from everlasting. Considered as to his Office-work before he openly tabernacled in substance of our flesh, when in his goings forth at creation, and in the garden, with our first Parents; with Noah, and before and after the flood! And though it was subsequent to the days of Abraham. when the Lord went before his people, in the wilderness; yet Stephen, under the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost declared, that he it was who spake to Moses, in Mount Sinai. Acts 7:35 . And that the Jews understood our Lord in this sense is very plain, for they took up stones to cast at him for what they considered blasphemy. Hence, that the Lord Jesus asserted his Godhead in this blessed expression; Before Abraham was I am: and that the Jews took it in this sense is as plain as words can make it. Neither do I think the action of Christ which followed, less convincing than his words in proof of Deity. For as he had done once before upon a like occasion, (See Luke 4:28-30 .) to escape their malice for that season; so now he did the same, either by rendering, himself for a time invisible, or blinding their apprehension of him: but in either case, manifesting his Godhead so as to pass them by.

Verse 59


Precious Lord Jesus! may my soul gaze with rapture on every feature of thy divine Person, while by faith I behold thee, as in this Chapter, pardoning the poor Adulteress; and manifesting the mercy of thine heart. Oh! thou dear Lord! well is it for thine Adulteress Church, that thou art a God, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; or what would have become of all thy redeemed.

And Lord! I find new occasion to admire, to love, to adore, my compassionate God, in that he brings his people from the Adam-nature and servitude of sin, into the freedom and adoption of children, in my Lord's family. Truly Lord thou hast loosed my bands! Thou hast, brought all thy redeemed from the dominion and guilt of sin, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. And as it is God the Son hath made his people free, they shall be free indeed. And although all thy children, thy blood-bought family, do still carry about with them a body of sin and death, which harrass and afflict the soul: though still the subjects of outward troubles, and inward fears: though many a fiery dart Satan still hurls at them; and many a wearisome path by his craft and cruelty, he causes them to tread in their pilgrimage: yet thou Lord hast brought them out of his servitude, where once they lived as his drudges; doing his work, and wearing his livery, and delighted with both: and art bringing them home, and wilt bring them all in, to thine heavenly kingdom! B1essed be my God and Savior, for all his love and mercy.

Reader! let us both join in thanksgivinigs to the great I am; both for his own eternal power and Godhead, and for thus drawing the line of everlasting, distinction as this Chapter hath it, between those awful characters who by denying Christ die in their sins; and those who believe in him to the salvation of their souls. Blessed, forever blessed, be our great I am!

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/john-8.html. 1828.
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