In some of the ancient manuscripts, John 7:53-8:11 is not found. Where it is found, it is not always in this location in John’s gospel. According to Warren Wiersbe, most scholars seem to agree that the passage is a part of inspired Scripture (“a fragment of authentic gospel material,” says Dr. F.E. Bruce) regardless of where it is placed.
As you read this passage in its context, it seems to fit right here! Even if you believe it’s a misfit passage, I’m thankful that God has continually shown Himself to misfits of society (i.e., me). May that be an encouragement to you as you consider your own caste system.
We’re going to read verses 7:53-8:1-11 straight through, then we’ll work through the commentary. This story has a powerful flow, and you can see it playing out in your mind’s eye as you read it. Let’s get started reading this wonderful expression of our compassionate Lord.
Chapter 7:53 Then they all went home,
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
- The Feast of Tabernacles had ended, yet Jesus appeared again in the temple courts—where He could often be found—teaching and ministering to His sheep. [Side note: He taught in the temple courts, which is where women could be, also.]
- It’s highly unlikely that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees just so happened to catch a couple in the very act of adultery. It’s also fascinating that the man was never brought forth—only the woman. Levitical law (Leviticus 20:10) stated that both the adulterer (man) and adulteress (woman) were to be put to death. It seems a bit suspicious that the man went free, so we could speculate that the man was part of the scheme to trap Jesus.
- The scribes and Pharisees thought they had dug the perfect pit for Jesus to trip and fall into. Jesus response goes to prove what is written later in 1 Corinthians 3:19, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness."
- I’m sure the people who brought the adulteress forward expected Him to pass judgment on her; instead, He judged the judges. He spoke to them about the sin of their conscience, not the sin of their body, which Jesus talks about in Matthew 5:27-30. We are so quick to cast judgment, blame, and make assumptions. In John 7, we talked about about 1 Samuel 16:7 where the Lord says He judges the heart, and not man’s appearance.
- We’re not certain what Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger. In Exodus 31:8, God used His finger to inscribe the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets (Exodus 31:18), so I have no doubt it was convicting to hearts since people began to walk away, the older ones first.
- I love how the judges all left until it was only Jesus and the adulteress. Make no mistake, Jesus did not “go easy” on her sin. He was clear in addressing her—with grace—to “go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus still had to die on the cross for that woman’s sin. Forgiveness is free, friends, but it certainly isn’t cheap.
- Where are you in this true story? I trust you can relate to everyone—the Pharisee, the stoning crowd, and the adulteress. We’ve spent time in each of those roles in the story of our own lives. We would be lying to ourselves (and God) if we denied it. Thank God that He sent His Son to save us from this life of sin so that we could freely serve Him. Amen and Amen.
12 When Jesus spoke again to 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.”
- This is Jesus’ second great “I AM” statement. We learned the first one in John 6 when Jesus declared He was the bread of life. Now, He declares He is the light of the world and (again) is claiming to be God.
- Prior to the scene with the adulteress woman, Jesus was teaching in the temple courts. He was ministering to the people, but was disrupted by evil people trying to trap Him. He graciously paused His teaching to minister to a woman in sin (and a lost crowd), and then went right back to teaching again. Even though conflict and disruption are all around Jesus, He never lets it disrupt His ministry. Jesus is never disrupted. He is divinely interrupted and uses that opportunity to bring glory to God.
- Let’s talk about the importance of Jesus being the Light. Warning: this analogy may make you claustrophobic! We were each unsaved at one point, and during that spiritual time in our coffin, there was penetrating darkness. The dirt of our sin was heaped upon us and we were trapped, and no clawing, pounding, or yelling would have broken us out. When we chose to follow the Lord and believe in Him, He raised us to life. He instantaneously dug us out from death, pried open that stinky coffin, and raised us to life. We no longer were held captive in our coffin of darkness. Light and life were now the experiences of our life as a new believer. Jesus was declaring that He was the spiritual Light to people who were in darkness. However, it was difficult for some to comprehend it, so they tried to “snuff” out the Light.
Father, divinely interrupt me each day so I will learn to not allow the circumstances to shake me. Instead, may I shake hell’s gates loose with the power of Who You are. Glory be to Your name.
13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
- Jesus’ light never failed to shine; the Pharisees were simply blind. That is why He was so challenged in ministry—the spiritually blind will bring opposition, while believers should be focused on unity in the body (see Romans 12).
- Light gives witness to itself. Think about that for a moment. When you see light, who tells you it is light? You can see it…it tells you it is there. That’s why it was so sad that the Pharisees couldn’t see the very Light of the world standing right before them.
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.
- Now, we’re getting to some “low blows” here. The Pharisees were certainly digging at Jesus on this point because they knew Jesus’ earthly mother was Mary, and He was born (supposedly) out of wedlock. They couldn’t comprehend that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, so they challenged Him on who His father was (they knew it wasn’t Joseph).
- Jesus doesn’t directly address their question. There’s wisdom in that—when to straight-up answer a question and when to be silent. In this context, Jesus did not avoid the issue; He faced it honestly and explained to them how they knew the law of God, but not the God of the law.
- We’re going to pause here for the week because we’ve absorbed quite a bit. I would encourage you to spend some time being still and allowing God to speak to you, just like He did to the people in the temple courts. Where do you see yourself in these accounts? Are you the sinful woman whose sin is the showcase of someone else’s scheme? Are you the Pharisee whose purpose was to judge v. be judged? Are you the people standing around, with your stone in hand? Has the Holy Spirit has prompted you of your own sin, just like what happened when Jesus wrote on the ground? Or, maybe you’re in that dark coffin right now, buried under the dirt of your own sin. I’ve been there, too. It’s only through recognizing who we were that we can come to fully understand Who He is. After all, He’s light and life, and He died so that you might be raised to life in Him. What a blessed privilege to be found in Thee, Lord. Amen.