The Woman Caught in Adultery (v1-11) This story is a bit of a lost tale. It was known as a true story from Jesus’ ministry, circulating in the earliest churches throughout the Roman Empire, but it wasn’t included any of the four Gospels at first. When is was included, it some times got put in various places in various Gospels. Though the writing style is Luke’s some how it ended up finding a home here, in John. It is still God’s word, accepted by the earliest churches, everywhere. It can be validated as a true story from Jesus’ life, despite its textual history.
And it is a beautiful story. Christ’s opponents are at their worst, bringing a sinful woman to be stoned, as a test of Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus demonstrates how God can be righteous and merciful at the same time.
As he writes on the ground, many have speculated about what he wrote. Did he write out the sins of her accusers? Did he write out the words of the Law saying both the woman caught in adultery and the man with her should be stoned? Did he write just to have them take their lustful eyes off the woman (who had presumably been pulled naked from her bed?) Or did he write just to give them time to think with out challenging them with a ‘just try something’ stare?
Whatever the writing, while he wrote the crowd slowly dispersed, oldest to youngest, as they considered the blasphemy of claiming that they did not need God’s mercy. Finally only Jesus is left with the woman. ‘He who is without sin,’ Jesus, could have condemned her, but he did not. He commands, “Leave your life of sin.” This is enough. This is his mercy and his judgement.
Why should anyone Believe Jesus? (v12-30) When Jesus says he is the light of the world, the Pharisees ask, “Why should we believe you?” It is a good question, even if the Pharisees do not want to hear the answer. Jesus' answer still holds true for us.
- Jesus knows who he is, and where he comes from. His claim is not proof in itself but it is valid.
- The Father witnesses that Jesus is true. The miracles are indisputably from God, and God’s own voice spoke from heaven at his Baptism and Transfiguration. By Jewish Law The Father and the Son are two witnesses who agree, and establish something as true.
- Jesus prophesies about his death again, and says when he goes where they can not follow, (and returns from death), they will know he is telling the truth.
Some put their faith in him right then and there. Many others put their faith in him after he died and rose from the dead. (3,000 on the day of Pentecost alone!). But those who would not acknowledge him as God, would never be reconciled to God, and would indeed die in their sin – for they refused God though they had met him face to face.
Children of Abraham, or Children of the Devil? (31-47)
One of the ways of rejecting Jesus is deciding you don’t need what he is offering. Some, who had believed in him, took offense at the idea of being set free. “We’re children of Abraham, not slaves. We are already free.” Jesus explains that they are slaves to sin, but they are not buying it. He says, “You have no room for my word.” Their pride in their identity was greater than their devotion to Jesus.
Any one who rejects Jesus is, in Jesus’ eyes, demonstrating that their true spiritual father is the devil, who was the first to reject God. They accept all sorts of lies, instead of the truth God speaks.
Our pride may not be as children of Abraham – it might be in our own wisdom, our 21st century culture, our heritage, or the belief that we more rational, compassionate or stable than those who need Jesus. If that pride causes us to reject Jesus, or think we know better than he does, we are acting as children of the devil.
The time is drawing near for Jesus. He is pushing people to make a real choice, knowing that half measures won’t save anyone. It doesn’t matter that he is offending some people now, if don’t fully believe in him, they may as well go, for now. After he completes his work, many of them will realize that Jesus was right about everything.
Jesus claims to be God (v48ff.)
The most controversial claim, is the most important. This conversation escalates quickly: on the one hand some say Jesus is crazy, or a devil, on the other hand Jesus says that he existed before Abraham. His wording is a deliberate if subtle claim, “Before Abraham was, I am.” That is not bad grammar, “I am” is the name of God as declared at the burning bush to Moses. They are ready to stone him.
C.S.Lewis taught that Jesus claim to be God is either 1) the ravings of a Lunatic, 2) the deception of an evil monster, or 3) the truth spoken by the God incarnate. There is no middle ground where 4) Jesus is just a nice guy. The crowds seem convinced that Jesus is #1 or #2. The disciples believe #3. Jesus never intended to leave us the choice of #4.