114. True and free – only under God.

How many wars have been fought for freedom? History is full of causes and crazes. People died and people gave up normal living all for the truth they perceived to bring them their desired outcome. Many times a whole new era was introduced as we see in the French, American and Russian revolutions (there are many others) and other times the world reacted and defeated what was threatening to their own freedom (Nazi Germany in the twentieth century).

Freedom and truth are both widely debated philosophical prickly pears as both demand extended definition. They are very old concepts that have to be discussed in relation to each other. This has been happening over many centuries. Freedom can only be lived in relationship with the degree of freedom amongst the fellow free. Truth has to be measured and is therefore always relative to a standard.

Freedom is defined as: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. It includes improper familiarity and boldness of conception or execution. The state of true freedom can impact the people around the free negatively; therefore freedom is always limited by the freedom of the next person.

Truth is defined as: fidelity to an original or to a standard, sincerity in action, character, and utterance, the body of real things, events, and facts.

There is after all only one who ever, in the history of mankind said: I am the truth. (John 14:6)

Here in the well-known words of Jesus about truth and freedom, the Jews take exception with His implication of bondage. (John 8:31 and onwards)

He says they in slavery to sin. For the Jews, freedom was most important. Now they were oppressed by the Romans exactly like they were oppressed by Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. They knew God’s promise that they would not be slaves (Leviticus 25:39-42). Their efforts to be free resulted in many and bloody revolts.

Jesus was talking about slavery to sin. The Greeks said only the wise man is free, the foolish man is a slave.

Socrates said: How can you call a man free when his pleasures rule over him? Paul thanked God for freedom from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:17-20)

When sin rules, sin decides. We have heard of people who said: I can decide what to do with my own life and then live the promiscuous life they think they want. They do not realize that in the end they do not decide, sin decides and deceives them into thinking it is their own decision. In sin you loose the power to decide. People go on with things they know are destroying their lives.

Every Jew believed he was safe because of direct decadency from Abraham. Obedience to God took second place. Jesus is blunt about this. In the modern life it is possible to live by descendants, name, reputation, wealth, history and tradition, but true life cannot come from the glory of the past.

A real descendent could only be one who acts like Abraham – not flesh and blood but spiritual fidelity. They want to kill Jesus, but when a messenger from God came to Abraham, he extended his best hospitality (Genesis 18:1-8).

He insults them by saying they are doing the works of the devil (8:44). Kinship with God must show in life and conduct.

God cannot be your Father if you do not recognize Jesus and His works. They claim pure birth, not born from adultery. The Old Testament is full of the symbolism of the unfaithful Israel in an adulterous union with pagan gods.

They cannot understand that they are spiritually deaf and blind and intellectually handicapped. They are so ruled by religion that they cannot see God.

The devil is a murderer. He murders truth, knowledge and understanding. This leads to death. The devil is a liar – every lie on earth is inspired by the devil. The maintaining of the false in religion is the work of the devil.

Jesus dares them to point at evil in His life (8:46,47). If they could find no charge, why don’t they believe?

The Spirit reveals truth and enables man to grasp it. When you shut the door to the Spirit, you will not recognize anything of value. One cannot be religious and have the Spirit. When you clung to religious beliefs, you are dead. You can serve God in a godless way and never know Him. If you shut your heart to the Spirit of God, you remain a stranger to God even though you are religious. Religion is human and human ideas about God. It is not true knowledge.

To be told they were strangers to God, was a deep insult.

The Hebrew word for Samaritan is Shomeroni (8:48). It could also mean the prince of the devils. They accused Jesus of being mad, and made mad by the devil. He answered by asking how could a devil honour God. His aim was to honour God. They had the devil not Him – and He said it in so many words.

He was not looking for worldly honour. He knew He would be insulted, rejected and crucified. His supreme faith was in God to lift Him up.

Here in the last verses of the chapter Jesus makes claim after claim, almost as if to annoy them. He appeals to Spirit-insight, which He knew they did not have. How could anyone not die? Abraham and all the prophets were dead. (Zechariah 1:5)

Jesus talks about spiritual things in a physical realm. To us He is saying: see everything spiritually. Every day of your life should be lived with an eye on eternity.

What is death? Physical death is just one more intimate experience with God.

We live in the invisible Kingdom of heaven. We talk the language of heaven where problems are possibilities and we walk in the footsteps of the Almighty God.

All true honour comes from God. Worldly honour means nothing. There is nothing like self-approval – it does not last into eternity.

Jesus claims unique knowledge of God, in contrast to what they claim to know and unique obedience to God, because He knows exactly what God wants Him to be.

Jesus makes another outrages claim (8:56). He said He was before Abraham – it is like a fire-statement.

The Jews believed Abraham was in paradise and could see earth. Jesus implied that because He was born of Abraham, Abraham would rejoice in this day. It was by the birth of the Messiah that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham was given a vision of the Messiah (Genesis 15:8-21). Abraham laughed the laugh of joy when he heard that he would have a son. The Rabbi’s believed that Abraham rejoiced in the promise of the Messiah and that is why he laughed.

To a Jew it was easy to see that Abraham saw the Messiah. But they could not understand that Jesus said He was before Abraham. Fifty was the age at which the Levites retired from service. Jesus was much too young for the wisdom of age. Jesus said that He is timeless.

By saying that, He claimed to be God. He truly knew the Fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the faith heroes of old. He became a man to show us what God is like. This is the claim He makes and they want to kill Him for that. He simply walks away, since the time for killing Him was not yet.






113. Woman, you are worthy.

We have talked about this. Old Judea by the turn of the first century was almost as bad as in some countries we read of today. Women had no rights and were mostly ignored as second rate citizens and wives to be used and abused. We in the Western World read about it in horror and wonder how it can be changed. The rabbi’s did not think it was worth it to teach a woman the law. Still, during this time an extra space was added to the original plan of the Temple – a court for the women, as they were not deemed worthy to worship with the men.

It is very important to know exactly how God views women. He created mankind – man and woman he created them (Genesis 1:27). Many false teachings and distorted perspectives have developed over the years to reduce women to a second rate place in this world. Still the Bible tells of strong women throughout, playing pivotal roles in worship (Miriam), leadership (Deborah), as ruler amongst kings (Esther) as well as evil influence in the lives of kings (Jezebel and Athaliah).

As the people of Israel drifted away from God, so their views on women were influenced by the idolatry of paganism, degrading women. God created men and women equal and never intended that a woman should be submissive, except to her own husband who loved her as his body (Ephesians 5:28,29) and as Christ loves the church for whom He has laid down His life.

Our story of the informal hearing of the woman caught in adultery, takes place in the Court of the Women. Women could not pass the altar except for sacrifice. Around the Court of the Women there was a porch with thirteen chests for the offering shaped like trumpets – narrow at the top and swelling towards the bottom.

Every chest was allocated for a specific offering. The first two were for the half shekel for the upkeep of the Temple. The third and fourth were for the money to buy a dove for sacrifice after childbirth. The fifth was for the wood for the altar, the sixth for the incense, the seventh for the upkeep of the golden vessels and in the remaining six for everything else a person felt the need to contribute.

The Temple treasury was a busy part of the Temple with a constant flow of people – a good place for teaching.

Jesus makes the statement: I am the Light of the World. (John 8:12) The background made it doubly vivid and impressive. The Festival of the Tabernacles had a ceremony on the first night. In the Court of the Women, four gigantic candelabra were lit as soon as darkness came. The dark night made the light travel to every courtyard in Jerusalem and for the whole night the men danced before the Lord in joy and praise.

Jesus is saying that He will light up their lives for more than just a night. His Light will bring joy everlasting. [See the link to a sermon on the discipline of joy at the end of the piece.]

He is the Light of Life: – the light source or the light that gives life. Jesus is both. Jesus is to life what the sun is to plants. He is the source of light as well as the light itself to give life.

The word follow was used for soldiers following the captain on long marches, a slave accompanying his master, in attendance, working. It was also used for accepting a wise counselor’s advice, the expert knowledge or obedience to the laws of the city or state. The same word indicated that one was following a teacher’s line of argument, taking the message into his heart and obeys.

To follow in all these ways is our safe passage through life into the glory of God.

Light was especially important in Jewish thought. To the Jews, the words of Jesus were a claim to be God Himself. (Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 60:19; Job 29:23; Micah 7:8)

The Jews argued that this statement of Jesus had insufficient witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; 17:6)

Jesus makes a statement about His own authority. (John 8:13-20) He was sure where He came from. Jesus was certain of His closeness to God, the highest authority. Therefore He had the witness of God Himself. God was to be known in the words of Jesus, the deeds and wonders of Jesus, His effect upon men and their reaction on Him. The overwhelming response to Jesus could only have been from the Holy Spirit.

Only God can enable men to see Jesus.

Jesus emphasized His right to judge in love and lastly told the leaders they had no knowledge of God (8:15-18). Their whole history and knowledge of their scriptures should have prepared them for Him. No theology can ever prepare you for recognition of the Son of God, only a humble decision to invite Him into your life. (Luke 24)

Jesus is speaking prophetically (8:21-30). There are opportunities for all men to meet Jesus and an opportunity to miss the opportunity. Time is limited. Because of opportunities there is judgment.

 God gives each man enough opportunity to meet Jesus.

Going away meant His return to His Father into the unseen realm.

We can follow in obedience. Only the disobedient cannot go. Pentecost brought the birth of the church and the spiritual dispensation. For the Jew, the depths of hell awaited those who killed themselves – they could not, nor wanted to follow there. Today we can freely discard the shame that accompanies suicide. We know that God in His perfect love, receives those whose desperate moment leads to such a drastic step.

Die for their sin means missing the mark, target. Refusing Jesus would rob you of real life, not entering into the higher life of God here on earth, staying separated from God, hidden from God like Adam. To die in Christ is to be a friend of God and therefore not afraid of death. Without Jesus you will be paying for your own sin in this world. It is your choice.

The word for world is kosmos (8:23). Jesus uses it in His own way.

The kosmos is the changing, transient life that we live; it is all that is human as opposed to all that is divine. [Barclay]

The kosmos is God’s creation, so Jesus bridges the gap. The kosmos is the object of His love and the recipient of His greatest gift. The creator came to the world and the world rejected Him. This rejection shows that something is wrong and that the people suffer blindness with no knowledge of the truth. (John 1:10; 14:17; 17:25; 15:18-19; 16:33)

Christ rights all the wrongs. He can be the answer to everything, but men can refuse His cure.

Jesus speaks the heart of the Father to the world.

We will see the real meaning of Jesus in the Cross, the Resurrection and the will of God when the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of words that didn’t make sense before the Cross. What Jesus said, was only the beginning of a whole new era. (8:28-30)


NEXT TIME: The last words of Chapter 8 (31-55).



A sermon by Bill Johnson of Bethel church: The discipline of JOY



112. Free to face the world.

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. (Psalms 3:3)

The story of the woman caught in adultery is one of my favourite illustrations of grace, mercy and judgment and how it all works together in our favour when the world turns against us in all its cruelty and prejudice. It is a remarkable story of probably the most dramatic street encounter in the history of mankind. There near the steps of the Temple matters of life and death are determined in the dust of Old Jerusalem.

The issue described in the first twelve verses of John 8, is a dilemma either way. The leaders thought they could trip Jesus up on this one. There was no way out. Adultery was a serious crime, punishable by death. There were differences in the way the death penalty had to be carried out.

In Leviticus 20:10 both the man and the woman should be put to death. No method is specified. Deuteronomy 22:13-24 lays down the penalty for a girl who is already betrothed. She and the man, who seduced her, should be stoned outside the city gates. The Mishna (commentary on the Talmud) prescribed strangulation, something the Old Testament never ever even mentioned. From a legal point of view, the woman caught in the act, should be stoned. The absence of the man in this instance is glaring and a sign of the times – the woman took all the blame.

The dilemma for Jesus was this:

If He said she should be stoned and upholds the law of Moses, His message of love and mercy would suffer greatly and He could never again be called the friend of sinners. He would also be in collision with the Roman law that prohibited any execution by the Jews. If He said she should be pardoned, He would be breaking the law of Moses and therefore condoning people committing adultery. It was a theological, moral and political trap.

He stooped to write with His finger in the ground. The various commentaries name as many reasons as they can think up. Here are a few:

He may have given the people and the accusers the chance to repeat the charges and hear the cruelty of their words.

It could have been that the desperate fear of the woman, the cruel lust in the faces of the accusers, the unsympathetic stares of the crowd all combined, filled Jesus with shame for these people who      were supposed to be the children of God and He hid His eyes from them.

There is another interesting suggestion. One commentary writes that Jesus wrote the sins of the accusers with the finger from heaven on the stones they were holding or in the sand as each one peered over His shoulder. The Greek word for write that is used here is not graphein, that means write, rather katagraphein, which means record against someone.

Nevertheless, they insisted on an answer and He gave it: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

The words without sin, was so emphasized that it also meant without sinful desire.

Jesus was left alone with the woman and asked here where her accusers were. Remember men did not speak to women in public.

Her first and only words in the trial of her life, was her answer to this question.

Jesus sends here away with His words of a fresh start. He did not send her into the local church to brush up on the law of Moses, or into community. How could He just send her into the world of chaos and sin without the modern tools that we would like to set up around people to help them with their sinful nature and desires?

Jesus knew that He would be dying on the cross for her sin, very soon.

He also knew and fully trusted His father to keep her safe and teach her His ways by the Holy Spirit. We should also trust the Holy Spirit fully. As soon as the church wants to build walls around people to “help” them please God, corruption and legalism set in.

The Pharisees and scribes were convinced that they were in a position to judge as the legal experts at the time. Their authority brought them to the place of condemnation, criticism and censorship and they were quite comfortable in that role. Sympathy and love to reclaim the sinner were long lost. They did not feel any obligation to “cure” sin, only to descend in judgment and punish. They never thought that they too might be in a position to be judged.

Think of the difficulty the world has to redeem sinners. Rehabilitation of criminals in prisons is a burning issue, with little success. If anything, punishment brings bitterness and often descent into worse crimes.

The woman, as a human being and a child of God, had no place in the application and teaching of the Pharisees and scribes. They used her as an instrument to get to Jesus, their own purpose.

She is a nothing without a name.

People are never just a thing to be used. God uses our names. There are pages and pages of names in the Bible. The Bible has people first and foremost in focus.

God said to Moses: I know you by name (Exodus 33:17). He says to Cyrus: I the God of Israel, call you by name (Isaiah 45:3).

When people are things – Christianity is dead.

Do you think the Pharisees in this instance knew her name? How did this woman feel? One is told so little about her. Has she heard of Jesus? Did she see Him as part of church leadership and was dragged into His presence with fear and desperation?

Only the perfect man can pass judgment onto others. The Pharisees lived so meticulously that they considered themselves perfect to judge. Jesus warns that we should not judge (Matthew 7:1). When we judge we see the speck of dust in somebody else’s eye and not the plank in our own. (7:3-5). We might condemn somebody’s faults while missing the glaring faults in our own lives. No man can judge another.

Our first emotion towards a mistake should be pity. We bring relief, consolation and healing. Revulsion disappears in the desire to help.

Jesus did not condone her sin. He postponed judgment for after the opportunity of redemption. He gave her a second chance to give her hope of a new life. He wished to forgive and therefore felt pity towards her, born of love.

He gave her a challenge. He said that she should go out and do not wrong anymore. It was probably not easy, but her life was saved and given to her to make new decisions.

He believed she could do it, because He knew His father and how much His father loved her. The Father’s love will keep us from the snares of sin and the world.