In vs. 1-11, after the Feast of Tabernacles ended, Jesus began to openly teach in the temple (Lk. 21:37), near the court of the women (vs. 20), where the scribes and Pharisees began their plot by bringing an adulterous woman to him. Well, the Law required that both guilty parties be stoned (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22) and not just the woman. Yet, the scribes and Pharisees bring only the woman and as they interrupted the Lord while he was teaching the crowd, they wanted to know what he would do. Well, if He said, “Yes, the woman must be stoned!” then what would happen to His reputation as the “friend of publicans and sinners”? But, if He said, “No, the woman should not be stoned!” then He was openly breaking the Law and subject to arrest. So, what did he do? Instead of passing judgment on the woman, Jesus passed judgment on the judges! No doubt He was indignant at the way they treated the woman and was also concerned that such hypocrites should condemn another person and not judge themselves. Now, it was required by Jewish Law, that the accusers cast the First stones (Deut. 17:7). But, Jesus was not asking that sinless men judge the woman, for He was the only sinless person present. So, being convicted by their own consciences, the accusers quietly left the scene, and Jesus was left alone with the woman. He forgave her and warned her to sin no more (vs. 11).
Well, as this scene closes, John introduces us to the second great I AM statement in vs. 12-20. Perhaps the sun was beginning to come up (vs. 2) so that Jesus was comparing Himself to the rising sun. But this would mean He was once again claiming to be God, for to the Jews, the sun was a symbol of Jehovah God (Ps. 84:11; Mal. 4:2; 1 Jn. 1:5; Eph. 5:8-14). But perhaps, our Lord’s I AM statement was related to the Feast of Tabernacles, during which the huge candelabras were lighted in the temple at night to remind the people of the pillar of Fire that had guided Israel in their wilderness journey. In fact, John has combined three wilderness images: manna (Jn. 6), water from the rock (Jn. 7), and the pillar of Fire (Jn. 8). Now, during this time, the Pharisees had left (vs. 9), but some returned and debated with him again (vs. 13). This time, they accused Him of bearing witness to Himself by claiming to be the Light of the world and Jewish courts would not permit a person to bear witness to himself. Well, Jesus quickly refuted their argument because the Pharisees judged on the basis of externals (vs. 15) as Jesus judged on the basis of spiritual knowledge. So, Jesus used the Law of Moses and quoted a principle found in Deut. 17:6 and 19:15 and Num. 35:30, that the testimony of two men was required to validate a judgment. Well, Jesus had those two testimonies: Himself and His Father (vs. 16). How tragic it is that these experts of the Law did not even know their own Messiah as He stood before them! They claimed to know the Law of God and the Father, but they did not know him and Jesus said that their “father” was not God, but the devil (vs. 19, 44)!
Well in vs. 21-30, Jesus had already mentioned His leaving them (Jn. 7:34), but the Jews again misunderstood what He said. So once again, He warned them: He would leave them, they would not be able to follow Him, and they would die in their sins! Sadly, they were wasting their God-given opportunities by arguing with Him instead of trusting Him. And then again, they misunderstood His teaching and thought He was planning to kill Himself (vs. 22). Suicide was an abhorrent thing to a Jew and so if Jesus committed suicide, he would go to a place of judgment and this is why they thought they could not follow Him. But, Jesus was returning to His Father in heaven, and nobody can go there who has not trusted the Savior (Lk. 10:20; Phil. 3:20-21). Thus, after saying such things, it marvels me that these religious “experts” should ask, “Who are You?” He had given them every evidence that He is the Son of God, yet they had deliberately rejected the evidence (vs. 26) and would also later reject the “lifting up” meaning, the glory and suffering of Jesus on the cross (Jn. 3:14; 12:32; Acts 2). Well, as Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father (vs. 29), no doubt, His enemies reacted violently to these words, but some of the listeners began to believe.
So, in vs. 31-47, Jesus addressed these “believers” and warned them about continuing in the Word of God (vs. 31-32), which leads to spiritual knowledge, and then leads to freedom from sin. It is interesting that these believers were the same unbelieving Jewish leaders who early opposed him (vs. 13, 19, 22, 25). But as before, they did not understand all His message, which is why they claimed Abraham as their father (vs. 39). So, Jesus explained the difference between spiritual freedom and bondage and essentially said that a servant can live in the house, but he is not a part of the family and has no guarantee of a future (Isaac and Ishmael in Gen. 21). Thus, they would die in their sins if they did not allow themselves to be freed by the Son through the power of his word (vs. 32). So, while they claimed Abraham, they were very unlike him because they wanted to kill the Messiah while Abraham was the “friend of God” and fellowshipped with God (Isa. 41:8). Abraham also listened to God’s truth and obeyed it, but these religious leaders rejected the truth, were counterfeits, the children of the devil (vs. 44) duped by Satan (2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gen. 3) having a false righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4). So, they might have religious traditions, but they had no understanding of the Word of God and they were prisoners who did not even know it. They thought they were free, but they were actually enslaved in terrible spiritual bondage to sin and Satan.
These leaders could not refute our Lord’s statements, so they attacked His person instead (vs. 48-59), calling him a Samaritan (the grossest of insults) and demon-possessed. They had dishonored him while Jesus was honoring the Father (Jn. 5:23). Still, Jesus invited them to trust His Word and “never see death” (vs. 51). Again, he claimed to be God by claiming to be the Lord of death (Jn. 5:21-29). So, how did the Pharisees respond? They looked at Abraham. But, he lived by faith (Heb. 11:10, 13-16), saw Calvary when he offered Isaac to God (Gen. 22), saw the priestly ministry of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-24) and saw the marriage of Isaac, which was a picture of the marriage of the Lamb (Gen. 24). But knowing this Jesus said, before Abraham was, “I am” (vs. 58). He had once again made Himself equal with God (Jn. 5:18), and this was the sin of blasphemy, worthy of death (Lev. 24:16). But, as this chapter closes, while the people wanted to stone him (vs. 59), Jesus seems divinely protected and simply walked away. His hour had not yet come. And, we cannot help but admire His courage as He presented the truth and invited blind religious men to trust Him and be set free.