As chapter 7 ends, we see the Sanhedrin in a meeting about Jesus and his teaching. The temple guards have returned empty-handed, unable to arrest Jesus. And Nicodemus has spoken up for Jesus by saying it is wrong to condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out the truth. Both Nicodemus and the temple guards are ridiculed by the Sanhedrin. The chapter ends by saying: “Then each went to his own home.” So a long day ends and as night falls everyone returns home, but Jesus.
John 8: 1 tells us: “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” The Lord who is maker of heaven and earth, had no earthly home. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8: 20)
(Now your copy of the Bible may add a note, this account of the woman caught in adultery was not in some of the earlier manuscripts. This account is present in over 900 early manuscripts, but some omitted it. Augustine said some omitted it because they feared it would encourage adultery. However, it follows logically from the preceding events in John 7 and is consistent with Jesus’ teaching and fits in this location as Jesus issues the statement: “I am the light of the world.”)
At dawn, Jesus was in the temple courts teaching with a crowd of people gathered around him. It is in this early morning setting, the story takes place. “The teachers of the law (scribes) and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in the before the group and said to Jesus: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question to trap him in order to have a basis for accusing him.”
Now let’s follow the time line. The Sanhedrin was in a late night meeting. They went home, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and had returned to the temple courts at dawn. I believe, this whole thing was planned, a set- up, in which the man is conveniently not arrested. Since she was ‘caught in the act’, there had to be a man present when they took the woman.
In John 1: 17, John writes: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Christ.” The law was given to reveal sin, to uncover it. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”(Romans 3: 20) When God gave the Law through Moses it was given to show man his inability to keep the law and thus, ‘all sinned.’ The ceremonial law, the instructions for sacrifices were given also so that guilt could be covered until it was cancelled at Calvary.
The law and grace do not compete, they complement. One cannot be saved by the law by keeping the law. Jesus was the only one to ever keep the law, every jot and tittle. But no one can ever be saved by grace, without first being convicted of sin by the law.
Moses and the law were very, very important to the Jewish people and the Sanhedrin now wanted to trap Jesus with this obvious act of law breaking for which the punishment was death according to the Law of Moses. Either way Jesus decided had repercussions. Remember Jesus is not only grace, he is truth. He cannot set aside the law of Moses and set the woman free. Her sin must be paid for, and this is just what Jesus would do at Calvary. He came not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. If he says stone her, he would lose the support of the people, the sinners and publicans who were his friends. He would also be arrested by the Romans for they did not allow the Jews to carry out executions. If he ordered them to free her, he would be guilty of not keeping the law of Moses. If he said nothing, they would accuse Jesus of not having wisdom.
The case is laid out before Jesus. The law is clear. The trap is set. What will he do? Surely He cannot escape this cleverly laid trap must have been the thoughts of his accusers. “But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” We can visualize their smug faces, their knowing smiles, the sly wink of the eyes, the nodding of heads implying we have him now. They think he is stalling trying to decide how he can get out of what appears to be an ‘airtight case’. We do not know what Jesus wrote in the dust that dawn morning. We do know it was by the ‘finger of God’ which carved the Ten Commandments given to Moses.
Jesus straightens up and says: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw as stone.” The law required the guilty woman be stoned and the man also. The law required that witnesses be produced and that a witness begin the execution. The accusers are the ones breaking the law. The law says the man must be stoned also. If caught in the act, as they said she was, the man was present, but let go. The law required the man also to be stoned, and called for witnesses to cast the first stone as testimony. In capital cases, the law required there be two witnesses plus the man who also committed adultery. So guess who had also broken the law? The very ones accusing the woman and trying to trap Jesus. As they considered what Jesus had said, they realized they were not without sin, for they had broken the law’s requirements.
Notice Jesus stoops again after he makes this statement, which probably gave them time to consider what they had done. The scribes were the experts in the law, and they knew Jesus was absolutely right. If Moses himself had been there, he would have consulted the written law and thrown the case out of court, because they had not produced the man or the two witnesses.
So the truth was upheld according to God’s law. And grace was about to be extended to this woman. She had certainly been humbled by this public display of her sin and God gives grace to the humble. Finally when all of her accusers have left, Jesus says to the woman: “Woman where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord. (KJV) And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Remember what Jesus said earlier in John 3? He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be saved. Jesus did not dismiss this woman’s sin, He died for it! She now had a new Lord and a new life. How ironic: her accusers left guilty, she left forgiven and with joy in her heart for her guilty stains were washed away. Want some more irony? Theologians believe this took place in the Court of the Women. It was also there a huge candelabra provided light. This great golden candelabra was a great golden piece of workmanship which symbolized the shekinah glory of God which guided the Israelites in their wilderness journey.
THE WILDERNESS JOURNEY
This whole week which had just passed in this account in John 7 where the nation of Israel celebrated the Feasts of the Tabernacles was a remembrance and a memorial to what God had done in Israel’s deliverance out of slavery in Egypt. How Jehovah God had provided for them in the wilderness journey. Providing a pillar of fire at night to lead them. His Shekinah Glory filling the Tabernacle. How he provided manna, bread from heaven and water from the rock which Moses struck. How fitting now as perhaps the sun is rising as dawn gives away to a new day, the morning light is now lighting up the court and Jesus makes the third “I am” statement. Each of these statements coincided with three of the wilderness journey miracles or as John would call them- signs.
“When Jesus spoke again got the people, he said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus had performed a miraculous sign when he fed the thousands with the five loaves of bread. He said I am the true bread of life which comes down from heaven. He cried out with a loud voice on the last day of the festival when they poured out the water, which symbolized, the water which came from the rock which Moses struck. That water symbolized Jesus who was smitten for our sins, and from his side came water and blood. Blood to cover our sins, all our sins. And water which symbolized the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent and is sending, a stream of living water which will flow within each Spirit-indwelled believer.
The Lord Jesus came to redeem mankind and reveal God to mankind. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, used the ordinary things to speak of the extraordinary, the physical to illustrate the spiritual; and the temporary to explain the eternal. When we get saved, we receive the Spirit who teaches us and reveals to us those things which God has freely given us.
We will hear more of these great “I Am” statements. For God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 as “I AM THAT I AM.”
I AM THE LIGHT is the highest claim Jesus has made so far in the Gospel of John. As the sun is the center and source of life for all things on the earth, so is the Son the center and source of life for those of us who believe in Him. In 1 John 1: 5, we are told “God is the light of the World. In Him there is no darkness at all. Physical light is essential for all life. Physical light is a very complicated subject. It travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, which means in the snap of your fingers, it has traveled around the earth 7.5 times. We cannot see light, we can only see what it reveals. It is such a mystery; Albert Einstein came to a point in his career, when he stated: “I will do nothing but study light from now on.”
Light is characteristic of God. It was the first thing God created in Genesis 1. Before light came into the world, the earth was without form and void, empty and in darkness.
This was my life before God came into it- without purpose and empty. A vacuum of emptiness in my life the devil told me he could fill. He is a liar. He is a deceiver. He is an imitator. I believed him, so have each of us. I saw the light- have you?
So we begin to see through Jesus’ teaching and miraculous signs who God is and what He wants to do for each of us.
He wants to take us out darkness into the light. In Him, Jesus, was life, and that life was the light of men.
He wants to set us free from the sin which enslaves us. The Jewish people had just celebrated one of the three festivals which memorialized their delivery from slavery in Egypt and their wilderness journey. Egypt is a picture of the World, which is under the influence of the evil one as the Pharaoh in the time of Moses illustrated. The Egyptian slave master which held the Israelites in bondage represented the sin which held us in bondage. Moses was sent by God to deliver God’s people from bondage, out of darkness into light; out of slavery into freedom.
Jesus who is the Word of God is a light upon our path and a lamp unto our feet. We are to look to Him as the children of Israel looked to the pillar of fire. We are to follow Him in like manner, looking to Him as the Light of the World.