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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
John 8

 

 

Verses 1-11

He that is without sin let him cast a stone

John 8:1-11

John 8:1. The closing verse of the preceding chapter said, ‘Every man went unto his own house;’ but our Lord went unto the Mount of Olives, a mountain less than two miles from Jerusalem. He often went there for privacy and prayer, but ‘the son of man hath not where to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58).

John 8:2. Early the next morning our Lord returned to the temple, where a large crowd of people had gathered to hear him. After the manner of the Jewish teachers, ‘He sat down and taught them.’

John 8:3. These Pharisees the day before had failed in their efforts to arrest Christ and put him to silence; now they sought a new method to discredit him in the eyes of the people. Having failed to take him by force, they now tried to trap him with subtlety and craftiness. They brought to him a woman who they said was taken in the act of adultery and set her before him and the assembled people.

John 8:4. They called him ‘Master’ in a respectful way to cover their evil designs. ‘This woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.’ They evidently had the necessary witnesses in order to charge her legally.

John 8:5. The law commanded that both the man and the woman found in adultery should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10 : Deuteronomy 22:22).

John 8:6. ‘What sayest thou?’ They sought to trap the Lord Jesus in a dilemma. They figured that if he said, ‘Let her go,’ they could accuse him of ignoring the law or being an enemy of the law. But if he answered, ‘Stone her,’ he would lose the support of the people and reveal that he was not really the friend of sinners. What foolishness to defy infinite wisdom! But no doubt they felt that they had him cornered. Our Lord acted as though he did not even hear them, stooped down, and began to write on the ground with his finger. It is significant to note that the law given to Moses on two tables of stone was written with the ‘finger of God’ (Exodus 31:18). What he wrote we are not told. Some say that he possibly wrote some names, dates, or events known to these Pharisees; for they left quite meekly from the eldest in order to the youngest.

John 8:7-8. So when they continued to ask Him, ‘What sayest thou?’ He arose and said, ‘He that is without sin among YOU, let him first cast a stone at her.’ Our Lord did not justify the woman in her sin, nor did he deny the justice of the law in condemning her; he only reminds them that they also stood condemned before the holy law and should likewise be stoned (Romans 3:23; Galatians 6:1). By these words, calling for mercy and compassion upon the guilty from accusers equally guilty, he put these men on the spot before that large crowd. How could they cast a stone now and retain their image and leadership with these people? By doing so they would only make Jesus of Nazareth more popular. He stooped again and wrote on the ground.

John 8:9. This was a day and age of great corruption, not only in doctrine and worship, but as to men's lives and manners. It is very probable that these men were guilty of the same sin; and being convicted by their own consciences (and probably by what Christ wrote), they all departed, leaving the woman standing there with Christ. Whatever this woman was, they were not fit nor qualified to judge her (Matthew 7:1-5); and they knew it.

John 8:10. When our Lord stood and saw none but the woman, he said, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?’ The law required at least two witnesses before its sentence could be executed (Deuteronomy 19:15), and the hands of the witnesses must assist in carrying out the sentence (Deuteronomy 17:6-7). But in this case not a single witness was left.

John 8:11. She replied, ‘No man, Lord.’ And he said, ‘Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.’ He never said that she was not guilty; for she was, as are all the sons of Adam. But he said that he did not condemn her. He did not come to destroy the law, but on behalf of believers, to fulfill it. He did not come to condemn us, for we were condemned already. He came to save us and deliver us from the curse of the law (John 3:17; Matthew 5:17 : Galatians 3:10-14). He then exhorts her to a life of holiness and obedience by telling her to ‘go and sin no more.’ Our Lord did not say, ‘Go and sin no more, and I will not condemn thee;’ for that would not be good news (there is none that doeth good and sinneth not). But he forgave her and placed her, as we are placed, under the constraint of his love (2 Corinthians 5:14). The Lord was not assigning her an impossible task (that of living absolutely without sin), but rather he is speaking of a bent of the will, a tenor of life, which is ‘holiness unto the Lord.’ True believers do not love sin nor do they practice sin as a way of life. They love Christ and long to adorn his gospel and glorify him.


Verses 12-22

I am the light of the world

John 8:12-22

John 8:12. ‘Then spake Jesus again unto them.’ ‘Then’ signifies after the Pharisees and the woman had departed. He was teaching the people when he was interrupted by these Pharisees (John 8:1-3). God is spirit (John 4:24), God is love (1 John 4:8), and God is light (1 John 1:5). John the Baptist came to bear witness of that Light (John 1:7-9). This light is the life of God (John 1:4). As darkness and death are one, light and life are one. This light is the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). He that believeth on Christ, receives Christ, and follows Christ, does not walk in the darkness of sin, nor in the darkness of error and ignorance, nor in the darkness of tradition, but shall have the light of life, understanding, and eternal life (1 John 5:20; John 17:3). Christ himself is the light!

John 8:13. It was a known rule of law that none ought to be believed only upon his own testimony without other witnesses. Christ himself stated this in John 5:31.

John 8:14. Our Lord replied, ‘Though I bear record of Myself, yet my record is true.’ This seems like a contradiction of what he said in John 5:31-39. But in John 5 he speaks of himself as a man – the servant of the Most High, as in John 5:30. Here he speaks of himself as the Light or one with and equal to the Father; therefore, speaking as God, his record is true and to be believed. Standing before them in the likeness of sinful flesh, he said, ‘I know where I came from (John 7:29), I know why I have come (Luke 19:10), I know where I go (John 13:3).’ They thought him only to be the son of Joseph, and being ignorant of their own law and prophets, did not believe him to be the Messiah.

John 8:15. ‘You judge after the flesh’ or according to outward appearance. You are judging my claims according to what you see and bear outwardly. Because I am in the flesh you deem it impossible for me to be God (John 10:33). Outward appearances are deceptive (1 Samuel 16:7). Not only were they judging him as they saw Him, but ‘after the flesh’ or according to fleshly and natural reasoning, which is incapable of discerning divine truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christ continued, ‘I judge no man’ in this manner. He knows the heart and see things as they actually are (Luke 16:15; John 2:24-25). Some believe he might be saying, ‘I am not come at this time to judge nor condemn but to save (John 3:17).

John 8:16. ‘If I judge,’ or better ‘when’ I judge, my judgment is true! My judgment is according to reality, truth, and is infallible. My judgment is the judgment of the omniscient God, for we are one! (John 10:30). This is one of his strongest claims to Deity, affirming the absolute oneness of the Son and the Father.

John 8:17-18. Christ was not appealing to the law to vindicate himself, but rather to condemn those who rejected him and denied his claims. The law you claim to believe accepts the testimony of two men as being true. I have borne witness of Myself; and the heavenly Father hath borne witness to the Son through John the Baptist, the works that he did, at his baptism, and through the holy scriptures (John 5:31-40).

John 8:19. ‘Where is your Father?’ We know no father you have but Joseph the carpenter. He is no acceptable witness. Our Lord answered, ‘You neither know me nor my Father.’ These religious men boasted of their knowledge of God, yet they knew him not. Their ignorance of Christ revealed both their ignorance of the scriptures and of the Father. The knowledge of the Father, the Son, and the scriptures all go together; and this is eternal life (John 17:3). Nor can a man truly know the one without the other, for they are one! Christ is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his Person! (Read Matthew 11:27; John 1:18; John 14:7-10 : Hebrews 1:1-5.)

John 8:20. The treasury (Mark 12:41) was the place where the thirteen chests stood into which the people put their contributions and therefore was a very public place to which all had access. Though the Pharisees and leaders were incensed against him and would have put him to death, yet they had no power to work their evil designs until God permitted them to do so (John 7:30; John 13:1; John 17:1). His death was appointed and ordained as to method, time, and purpose (Acts 4:27-28).

John 8:21. It seems that our Lord speaks to the Pharisees as the representatives of the whole nation of Israel (John 1:11). I go my way – the way of death, sacrifice, and atonement. Someday you will seek ME, that is, your Messiah, Deliverer, and Saviour. In your great distress and trial you will seek the deliverance of the promised Messiah, but it will be in vain, for you have despised and rejected God's Christ; therefore, you will die in your sins and ‘where I go,’ to the Father, to the kingdom of heaven and glory, to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you cannot come!

John 8:22. Before, they guessed that he would leave Jewry and go to the dispersed among the Gentiles (John 7:34-35). Now they mockingly suggest that he may kill himself.


Verses 23-32

I am he

John 8:23-32

John 8:23. In these verses our Lord still asserts his divine nature. All of the disputing and trouble with these Pharisees was on this point – who is Jesus of Nazareth? He had given them the greatest proof imaginable of his witnesses and his works; yet they, being destitute of spiritual life, grace, and wisdom, did not believe. You are from the earth; you are of this world; you understand and judge all things according to carnal reasoning and wisdom; you have no spiritual knowledge or life. I am from heaven: I am not of this world (John 3:9-13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-11).

John 8:24. Here is the bottom line! ‘If you believe not that I am,’ (Exodus 3:13-14) the true God, the eternal Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, the true Messiah, the only Saviour of sinners, the one and only Mediator between God and men, Prophet, Priest, and King (Isaiah 9:6), ye shall die in your sins! This text plainly teaches the impossibility of salvation for those who receive not and believe not in Jesus Christ as God and Saviour (Isaiah 45:21-22).

John 8:25. Whether in doubt, desperation, or frustration, they said, ‘Who are you?’ To which he replied, ‘Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning’ of this discourse, or from the beginning of my ministry, or as he spoke from the beginning to Moses, ‘I am that I am’ (John 1:1-2). I am the same, and no other, than I told you at the first (John 10:24-28).

John 8:26. Just as our Lord said to his disciples in John 16:12, ‘I have many things to say unto you of redemption, regeneration, sanctification, justification, and eternal glory, but you cannot bear them now;’ and as in Mark 4:33, ‘He spake the word unto them as they were able to hear it.’ He tells these Pharisees, ‘I have many things to say about you which will judge and condemn you. He that sent me is true in his revelation and judgments. I only speak to all men what I have received from him.’ (John 14:10.)

John 8:27. ‘They understood not.’ This reveals the total depravity of even the most religious and moral of men. The Lord God himself spoke to them of spiritual things, and they understood not (1 Corinthians 2:7-9). They did not understand that he spoke to them as the one sent of the Father; or that, when he spoke of his Father (John 8:19), he spoke of the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

John 8:28. ‘When you have lifted me up on a cross (this is what is meant by lifting up the son of man – John 3:14; John 12:32), then shall you know that I am He.’ Our Lord is saying that his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension would be accompanied and followed by such manifestations of divine glory that his words would be fully vindicated and many would be convinced that he is, indeed, the Messiah (Matthew 27:54). Thousands of the ones who had cried, ‘Crucify Him,’ were brought on the day of Pentecost to believe on him as both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36-41).

John 8:29-30. Whatever men might think of Him, his doctrine, and his office, he knew that in all he said and in all he did, he was the Father's elect servant, upheld and delighted in by him. ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ As he spoke these words (all that we have read in this chapter), it says that ‘many believed on him.’ Whether they truly believed with saving faith on him as the Son of God, the true Messiah, we cannot say. We read this in other places (John 2:23; John 7:31; John 10:43; John 11:45). Judging from the following verses, their impression was more in the head than in the heart.

John 8:31. Our Lord spoke to those who indicated that they believed on him and described the marks and evidences of a true believer. If a man continues through his life believing Christ, loving Christ, and devoted to Christ, then he gives evidence that he is a disciple indeed. The word ‘indeed’ means genuine, truly, and really saved, not just a religious professor. Enduring to the end and continuing in the gospel is not a condition of salvation but is a manifestation or proof of salvation. The one who truly loves Christ will not depart from him: and the one who departs never truly loved him (1 John 2:19; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14).

John 8:32. ‘Ye shall know the truth,’ which is the truth of the gospel, the truth of God's glorious grace to us through Christ Jesus, that truth which is revealed to us by the Spirit of truth; or Christ himself, who is the way, the truth, and the life; or both. For how can Christ and the word of truth be separated? They are one! To know him is to be set free from the penalty of sin, the curse of the law, the power of darkness, the practice of sin, and finally from the very presence of sin; for we shall be like him!


Verses 33-43

If the Son shall make you free

John 8:33-43

John 8:33. This was the reply made by the Jews to the words of our Lord in John 8:32. I'm sure that they were thinking in terms of flesh, for one replied, ‘We be Abraham's seed: we are God's chosen people: we are the kingdom of God and were never in bondage!’ Our Lord speaks here of the bondage of the will – spiritual slavery and captivity. Before a man knows Christ, he is in bondage. Men have no righteousness (Isaiah 64:6) nor goodness (Romans 7:18). Men have no wisdom (Romans 3:11). Men have no strength (Romans 5:6) nor hope (Ephesians 2:12). Men are under the curse of the law – prisoners (Galatians 3:10), therefore in bondage (2 Peter 2:19). Man is a fallen creature, totally depraved, and under the dominion of sin and Satan; and from this bondage and death only the grace of God and the truth of Christ can deliver him.

John 8:34. Our Lord lets them know that he is not speaking of the freedom of men's bodies, but the freedom of the soul. ‘Whosoever,’ whether one belongs to the favored seed of Abraham or is a pagan Gentile, all who are of the seed of Adam (having sinned in him, Romans 5:12; Romans 5:19, and having sinned in themselves) are the slaves of sin and can no more change their natures and do good in God's sight than the Ethiopian can change his skin (Jeremiah 13:23). They are captives of the law, which has been violated, and of the justice of God, which demands their death (Ezekiel 18:20). We are all by birth, nature, and practice servants of sin.

John 8:35. The servant of sin and Satan does not live and abide in the house of God nor in the true church of God. The holiness and righteousness of God will not permit it; the truth and justice of God will not allow it. ‘Two cannot walk together except they be agreed.’ ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ (Matthew 5:20; Psalms 24:3-4.) We must have what we do not have to abide in his house – a perfect righteousness! But the Son of God abideth ever, for in him the Father is well pleased.

John 8:36. Therefore, if the Son shall make you free from sin and death, you shall be free indeed – free truly and in reality, not in mere profession or claim. For Christ, the Son, as our representative in the flesh, has fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law on our behalf and gives us a perfect holiness in God's sight (Romans 10:1-4; Jeremiah 23:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:19). He honored the law and satisfied justice for us before the Father, in order that God may be just and the justifier of those who believe (Romans 3:19-26).

John 8:37. ‘I know that you are descendants of Abraham according to the flesh;’ but he is not a Jew which is one outwardly (Romans 2:28-29), nor is he the true seed of Abraham who is not a believer (Romans 9:7; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:26-29). But what advantage is there in being a descendant of Abraham if you seek to kill your God, and his word has no place in you? Abraham believed God! This was the chief trait of Abraham –he believed God! (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6.)

John 8:38. My Father is God! I declare unto you his mind, purpose, and will. There is no uncertainty, but what I have seen and heard of him. You declare by your attitude and actions who your father really is; it is not the Lord God but the Devil (John 8:44).

John 8:39. They objected and continued to boast of their privileges by birth, being descendants of Abraham. But our Lord destroys their boasting saying, ‘If you were truly children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham.’ His blood in your veins is of no significance if you do not walk as he walked (Romans 4:20-25; Galatians 3:6-9).

John 8:40. I am sent of God, whom you own to be your Father. I have faithfully revealed the redemptive will of God to you and have told you nothing but the truth, for which you seek to kill me; this was not Abraham's practice. Abraham believed God! You declare by your spirit and actions that you have nothing of Abraham's spirit in you.

John 8:41. Your deeds are not the deeds of Abraham but rather the deeds of the Devil, which show him to be your father rather than Abraham (Isaiah 14:12-15). They objected saying, ‘We be not born of fornication,’ meaning either that they were not children of idolaters (idolatry is called fornication in the scriptures) or not children of Hagar, the concubine. ‘We have one Father, even God.’ Is not this the claim of all religions – the fatherhood of God? God is the creator of all, but the Father of believers (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6-7).

John 8:42. This statement agrees with 1 John 5:1-2. If God is a man's Father, the man will love Christ; for the Lord Jesus is one with the Father. He is the brightness of his glory and the exact image of his person (Hebrews 1:3).

John 8:43. The reason they could not understand the meaning and sense of his gospel was because, though they heard the sound of his words, they did not hear nor discern the spiritual sense and meaning of it. Blinded and deafened by nature, tradition, and prejudice, they had eyes but could not see, and ears but could not hear (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Matthew 13:15-16).


Verses 44-59

He that is of God hears God's word

John 8:44-59

These Jews heard the Master's words, but they could not hear nor understand the spiritual sense and meaning of his message. Blinded and deafened by nature, religious tradition, and prejudice (as are all men), they rejected him and his gospel of redemption (1 Corinthians 2:7-14; John 3:11-12). The word ‘hear’ means to receive and believe.

John 8:44. This is the key point our Lord had been leading up to.

1. He had denied their claims of being the children of Abraham (John 8:39).

2. He demonstrated that God was certainly not their father (John 8:42).

Now he tells them in plain language who their father really is, even the devil. Their character had been formed not under divine influence, but under satanic influence (Ephesians 2:1-3). The moral likeness of Satan is stamped upon all men.

John 8:45. It is the truth and the God of truth which men hate. There can be no greater evidence of men's hatred for the truth than their hatred and rejection of those who tell them the truth, and only for this reason, because they do so! (John 5:43; John 10:33.)

John 8:46. Many of them had called him a wine-bibber and a glutton. They had charged him with blasphemy and sedition; but he declared that not one of them could bring forth any proof of immorality, of sin in his life, nor of corruption in his doctrine. Since not one sin could be brought against him in life or doctrine, it was unreasonable for them not to believe him (Hebrews 4:15; John 19:6).

John 8:47. ‘He that is of God’ – belongs to God by eternal election (John 6:37; 2 Timothy 2:19; John 17:9) and has been born of God, is in the family of God, and is indwelt by the Spirit of truth. These will all receive God's word with affection, reverence, and obedience (John 10:26; John 18:37). The reason the Jews did not believe him was because they were not God's children.

John 8:48. These men were unable to answer Him, so they resorted to vulgar and blasphemous charges. They looked upon Samaritans as detestable enemies to their national faith and intimated that a demon had possessed him and made him insane (John 10:20).

John 8:49. He gave no reply to their first charge (some of the Samaritans were his elect and had believed on him); but to the second he replied, ‘I have no demon, but I honor my Father.’ I honor my Father by ascribing all things to Him, by doing his will, seeking his glory, and honoring his name. This a man possessed of demons could not and would not do! You prove that you are not of God by denouncing and dishonoring me (John 5:23).

John 8:50. As our representative and the servant of the Father, Christ did not seek honor and glory of men. He was the humble and obedient servant (Philippians 2:5-8). ‘There is one (meaning the Father) who seeks my glory, and he is the supreme judge’ (Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:18-20).

John 8:51. Christ had pointed to the fearful consequences of rejecting him and his words –there was one who would judge them! Now in sharp contrast he declares, ‘If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death.’ The body shall die because of sin (Romans 8:10), but he that believes shall have eternal life (John 11:25-26).

John 8:52-53. Here again is their ignorance of spiritual truth shown. No matter how simple and plain spiritual truth is expounded, the unregenerate do not understand. They said, ‘Now we know you have a demon and are insane. Abraham and all the prophets are dead; are you greater than Abraham?’ ‘They understood not’ spiritual life and resurrection, therefore thought he referred to living always on earth in the flesh.

John 8:54. In reply to the question, ‘Whom makest thou thyself?’ He replied, ‘If I honor Myself, it is worthless; it is my Father that honoreth me.’ The Father honored him at birth by angels and the star, at his baptism with his voice from heaven, by works and miracles which he did through Him, after this honored him by raising him from the grave and exalting him to his right hand, and will honor him throughout eternity (Revelation 5:13-14).

John 8:55. The one who honored Christ they knew not, despite the fact that they claimed to be his children. Knowledge here means more than mental acceptance of facts and natural understanding (James 2:19). It signifies spiritual understanding (1 John 5:20), affection, approval, and obedience (John 17:3).

John 8:56. You glory much in Abraham and claim him as your father. Abraham foresaw my coming into the world, dying upon the cross for sinners, and the preaching of my gospel to all nations. He saw it by divine revelation and with the eye of faith. He saw, believed, rejoiced, and was glad (Romans 4:17-22). Abraham saw his day by faith, in type, and by special revelation.

John 8:57-59. Our Lord speaks here of his eternal existence. Christ is the everlasting I AM, the eternal God, which is, was, and is to come (Exodus 3:14). When they took up stones to stone Him, he departed from their presence (Luke 4:28-30).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 8:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/john-8.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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