Religious leaders bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. He points out their hypocrisy by challenging the one without sin to cast the first stone (8:1-11).
Everyone else went home, but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. Early the following morning he returned to the temple courts. The people soon gathered, so he sat down (as rabbis do) and began to teach them.
The legal experts and the Pharisees brought a woman to him who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand where everyone could see her, and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses tells us to put a woman like this to death by stoning. What do you say?" (The question was posed as a trap. They intended to use his answer as a basis for bringing charges against him.)
Instead of answering, Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.
So they kept posing the question about the woman. Finally he straightened up and said, "Go ahead and stone her; but let's have the man who has never sinned throw the first stone." Then once again he bent over and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they began to slip away one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally Jesus and the woman were there alone.
"Woman," asked Jesus, "where did they all go? Is there no one left to accuse you?"
"No one, sir," she replied.
Then Jesus said, "I am not going to accuse you either. You may leave, but from now on you must stop sinning."
Jesus declares himself to be the light of the world but the Pharisees reject his claim on the superficial basis that he is testifying on his own behalf (8:12-20).
Once again Jesus spoke to the Pharisees. He declared, "I am the light of the world. Follow me and you won't stumble along in the dark. You will have the light that leads to life."
"You are testifying on your own behalf," the Pharisees protested, "so whatever you say about yourself is not valid."
Jesus answered, "Even if I do testify on my own behalf, what I say is valid because I know where I came from and where I am going. You haven't the slightest idea about my origin or my destiny. Your judgment is superficial, but I pass judgment on no one. However if I did pass judgment, my verdict would be trustworthy, because I am not alone when I judge; the Father who sent me is with me. According to your own law there must be two witnesses before something is accepted as fact. I am one of the witnesses and my Father who sent me is the other!"
"And where is this 'Father' of yours?" they asked.
Jesus replied, "You haven't the slightest idea as to who I am, or who my Father is! If you knew me you would know my Father as well."
Jesus said these things while he was still in the temple precincts, near the place where the offerings were collected. But no one arrested him because his time had not yet come.
The hostility of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus increases as they resort to mockery and derision. Although at the present time they do not know who he is, they will after his crucifixion and resurrection (8:21-30).
Jesus went on to tell them, "I am going away, and where I am going you are not able to go. You will try to find me, but you will die in your sin."
The Jewish leaders mocked, "Perhaps he intends to kill himself and end up in Hades. That would explain why we can't go where he is going!"
"You are from below," replied Jesus; "I am from above. You belong to this world, but I do not. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am who I say I am, you will die with your sins unforgiven."
Caustically they responded, "Just who do you think you are?"
"I am what I told you from the very beginning," said Jesus. "There is a lot more that I could say to condemn you, but the Father who sent me is reliable and I say nothing but what I have heard from him." (Jesus was implying that God was his Father, but they didn't catch on.)
Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will know that I am who I say I am. I do nothing on my own, and speak only those things the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him."
Many who heard him say these things came to believe in him.
Jesus teaches that his truth sets a person free, and, unlike a slave who has no permanent status, the true son (the believing Christian) remains forever (8:31-38).
To those who claimed to believe in him, Jesus said, "If you let what I say control your every action, you will show that you really are my disciples. You will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
"But we are descendants of Abraham," they boasted. "We have never been in bondage to anyone! How can you say, 'You will be set free'?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, everyone who keeps on sinning is a slave to sin. A slave does not remain permanently in the home, but a son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
"I know that you belong to the lineage of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me. My teaching has not changed your heart. I am telling you the things my Father has shown me; just as you are doing what your father has taught you."
The Jewish leaders taunt Jesus by questioning whether or not he is legitimate. Jesus boldly declares to his adversaries that their father is the devil, who has been a liar from the beginning (8:39-47).
"Abraham is our father!" they claimed in anger.
Jesus calmly asserted, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be conducting yourselves as Abraham did. Instead you are bent on killing me for telling you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham would never have done anything like that! You are doing what your father does."
"We were not born out of wedlock!" they jeered. "We have one Father and he is God!"
"If God were your Father," said Jesus, "you would love me, because I came from God to be with you. He is the one who sent me. I didn't come on my own.
"Why can't you understand what I am saying?" Jesus asked? "The answer is that even before you hear me you are convinced that I am wrong. Your father is the devil, and you like to please him. From the very beginning he has been a murderer and a liar. There is nothing truthful about him. He tells lies because he is by nature a liar. In fact, he is the father of all lies.
"For this very reason, when I speak the truth, you do not believe me. Can anyone of you prove me guilty of sin? If not, then I must be speaking the truth. So why don't you believe me? The children of God listen to the words of their Father. Since you don't listen, you must not be his children."
The Jewish authorities lash out at Jesus claiming that he doesn't even belong to their race. They say that he is demon-possessed. Jesus responds by pointing out that before Abraham existed, he was the eternal "I AM," the name of the God who revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3 (8:48-59).
The Jewish people around Jesus snapped back, "We have been right all along. You are not one of us. You are a Samaritan, and what's more, you are demon-possessed."
"I am not demon-possessed," answered Jesus. "By my words and actions I honor my Father, but you dishonor me. I am not seeking praise for myself. There is one who wants me to receive praise, and he is also the one who judges. I tell you the truth, if a person obeys my teaching, he will never die."
At this the people exclaimed, "Now we know you have a demon. You say that if a person obeys your teaching he will never die, yet Abraham and the prophets died. Apparently you think that you are greater than Abraham, because he died. So also did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
Jesus replied, "If I honor myself, that honor is self-serving and worthless. My Father is the one who honors me. You say that he is your God, although you do not know him at all. I am the one who knows him. If I said otherwise, I would be a liar just like you. But I know him and I do what he says. Unlike you, your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad."
The people replied, "How could you have seen Abraham? You're not even fifty years old!"
"I tell you the truth," said Jesus, "before there was an Abraham, I AM." At this they picked up stones to kill him, but Jesus slipped away into the crowd and left the temple.