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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

The Light of the World.

After this, |seated in the Treasury -- either some special building of the temple so-called, or that part of the court of the women which contained thirteen chests with trumpet-shaped openings, into which the people, and especially the Pharisees, cast their gifts -- he taught as recorded in the present section. In this court were two gigantic candelabra, fifty cubits high, sumptuously gilded, on the summit of which at night during the feast, lamps were lighted which threw their light over the city.| In the presence of these lamps, so admired by the throng, probably because attention was just then drawn to them, he exclaimed: |I am the light of the world,| in accordance with his custom of fixing his words indelibly by referring to surrounding objects. His statement, fitting from the grandest character the earth has ever known, seemed to the Pharisees presumptuous, but he declares that he had the support of his Father's testimony. This statement led to various questions which resulted in their claim that Abraham was their father and the discourse that we now are called to study. (Joh 8:12)

12. I am the light of the world. If the account of the woman is in the right place, it would seem that, after that case had reached its settlement, he began his discourse to the people. He had said to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount that he was the light of the world; now he declares it to the Jewish nation in the temple. It is to be remarked that light was regarded as an accompaniment of the presence of the Lord. Moses beheld the burning bush in Horeb; when he returned from the presence of the Lord on Sinai his face was shining with heavenly radiance; the pillar of fire that lighted Israel on the pilgrimage was the emblem of the presence of God; the Shekinah descended into the Holy of Holies in a blaze of light. While the fiery cloud had lighted Israel Christ makes a more stupendous claim and asserts he is the light of the world. It is easy for us to understand that he is the Sun that chases ignorance, the clouds of doubt and the darkness of despair away, and who fills the soul with the light of heavenly knowledge and hope. When he uttered these words three of those who heard him must have thought of his radiance as they had beheld him shining on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is to be noted that Christ always rises above the thought of being only a national Savior. He bore on his heart the woes of humanity. Other religious teachers have come as |the Light of Asia,| or of a particular race, but he came as the |Light of the world,| and hence he bade, |Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.| He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness. The pillar of fire is referred to which lighted Israel on the march. So shall his followers be lighted by him, and shall have not only light, but |the light of life.| |In him was life and the life was the light of men| (John 1:4). His disciples are not in darkness because be imparts to them the new life which fills the soul with light in the reception of the word of God. (Joh 8:13)

13. Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Perhaps these Pharisees have in mind what is recorded in Chap. V.31. Had they said, |The testimony is not sufficient to convince us,| they might have merited more respectful treatment, but they bluntly affirm that his statement is false. (Joh 8:14)

14. Though I bear record of myself, my record is true. A man is not usually competent to bear witness of himself on account of the frailty of human understanding and must have corroborative testimony. I suppose that Mahomet, Ellen Smith, and other enthusiasts really thought that they were inspired. But Christ was not subject to human limitations. He knew himself, what he was, whence he came, whither he would return, the secrets of his Father, was dowered with omniscience, and hence, was qualified to speak absolute truth. No man understands even his own being, but Christ knew all things, and hence never spoke doubtingly, or hesitatingly, never stumbled, or had to change his answers. |He spake as never man spake.| (Joh 8:15)

15. Ye judge after the flesh. They looked upon outward appearances, material forms, and judged, like the world, from a superficial examination. They had not the spiritual discernment that was requisite to the recognition of Christ as one that came from God. Some |have eyes and see not,| because some things have to be |spiritually discerned.| There must be a certain preparation of heart before one can receive or comprehend Christ. To coarse, sensual, worldly hearts he is an enigma; to |Greeks| of every age, |foolishness; and to Jews a stumbling block.| I judge no man. Re knows men, but he lets their own deeds judge them. When he sits on the throne of eternal judgment and the |books| are opened and men see their lives, they will not need that he judge them. Their consciences will approve or condemn. (Joh 8:16)

16. If I judge, my judgment is true. He came not into the world to judge the world, but to save it, but he does not refrain from judging because he could not pass a judgment that was infallibly true. His Father would judge in him, and all lives were |naked and opened| to the sight of the Father. (Joh 8:17)

17. It is also written in your law. The Jewish law which they accepted as divine. It declared (Deut.19:15) that the testimony of two witnesses was to be accepted. In this case, besides his own witness, there was other testimony to confirm it. It will be noticed that Jesus does not say our law. He never classes himself with the Jews. (Joh 8:18)

18. The Father that sent me beareth witness of me. There was his own testimony that he came from the Father. Then, there was in addition, the testimony of the Father. The witness of the Father was given in all the Prophets who spoke of Christ, was given at the Baptism by testimony from heaven, was given in the divine wisdom, sinless nature, and mighty works of Christ, for |no one could do these things unless God was with him.| The divine presence was manifested in his life to such a degree that when Philip inquires for the Father (John 14:8) the Savior's reply is in a tone of sorrow: |Have I been so long time with thee and hast thou not known me?| (Joh 8:19)

19. Where is thy Father? This question is asked, not for information, but in a scornful spirit. They could not see his Father, therefore they disputed his words. The Savior strikes at the root of their difficulty in his reply: Ye neither know me, nor my Father. Had they known Christ this would have led them to a knowledge of the Father, for it is thus we learn to know God, by beholding him manifest in the flesh. The mighty Jehovah, clothed in majesty and sitting on his throne in the heavens, may be above our comprehension, but the Savior, weeping with tenderness and beaming with love, we can comprehend. On the other hand, it is a demonstration that men know not God who do not recognize Christ, for |in him is the fulness of the Godhead.| By their rejection of Christ these Pharisees demonstrated that they |knew not God.| (Joh 8:20)

20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury. The treasury of the temple was in the court of the women, the most public part of the temple. See Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1. The mention of the locality shows the boldness of the Lord's teaching. The Sanhedrim held its sessions, usually, in the hall Gazith, which was situated in the wall between the court of women and the inner court. Jesus was teaching within hearing of the very headquarters of his enemies, from whence had issued the orders, shortly before (Chap. VII.32, 45), for his arrest. |Yet no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.| Until the passover, six months in the future, that the plans of his enemies should all fail, and |his hour should not come,| was clearly known to the Lord. (Joh 8:21)

21. I go my way, . . . ye shall die in your sins. We now pass to another stage in the discourse, either continued at that time, or resumed by a connection of thought, afterwards. His words are no longer confined to the Pharisees, but addressed to |the Jews,| the whole class of official opposers, and he carries them forward to judgment. He will depart and they shall seek him when it is too late and shall not find him but die in their sin (see Revised Version), the sin of rejecting the only Savior who could save them from their sins, and the result will be that where he is they cannot come. The meaning of his words is plain in the light of subsequent events.1. He went back to heaven from the cross, the tomb, and the Mount of Ascension.2. These Jewish hearers will die in their sin.3. Therefore, they cannot go where Christ will have gone.4. In other words, those who die in sin cannot find entrance into heaven. Coupled with the next three verses it is strongly opposed to the doctrine of universal restoration, as it is also, to an effectual repentance upon the death bed. It teaches us to |seek the Lord while he may be found,| for the time comes when men shall seek him and not find him. (Joh 8:22)

22. Will he kill himself? I do not suppose that these |Jews| were so dull as their question implies. They probably asked this question in scorn. They did not understand the Lord because they did not want to understand. They mean that, as he proposes to go where they cannot come, he must be going to Gehenna, where all suicides go, rather than to heaven, where all Pharisees expected to go. The Jews placed suicides along with murder and held that the darkest regions of the under world were reserved for those who were guilty of the crime. (Joh 8:23)

23. Ye are from beneath. Their words were full of mockery and the Lord increases his severity. Understanding their allusion to the world beneath in their question, he replies, |You are from beneath,| earthly, fleshly, worldly, of a spirit that will cause you to go to your own place, but I am from above. Hence, when he |goes away,| he will return whence he came. (Joh 8:24)

24. I said therefore, ye shall die in your sins. Because |they are from beneath,| |of the world.| The only way that there is of escape from the fearful fate that he predicts is stated: |If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins.| Their unbelief was due to their obstinacy and wilful blindness; there is still one door of hope; that is belief on him. He who dies in unbelief dies in sin. (Joh 8:25)

25. Who art thou? He had said, |believe that I am;| they said, |believe that thou art what? Who art thou?| Their words were no doubt spoken with a sneer, as though they said, |Whom, then, dost thou fancy thyself to be?| His answer is not such as he was wont to give to honest, earnest seekers, but such as mockers merited: |Even the same that I said from the beginning.| I refer you to my words and what they testify of me. His teaching was a demonstration of his character. This answer of Christ has provoked much discussion, not so much concerning its meaning, as its proper translation. The early Greek Fathers, such men as Chrysostom and Cyril, men who spoke Greek as their native tongue, held that the Savior said, |Why am I even speaking to you at all?| Or, in other words, Why will he condescend to speak at all to men upon whom his words are wasted? This gives a clear and harmonious idea. (Joh 8:26)

26. I have many things to say and judge of you. Still he continues to speak. His words will only make them more bitter, but he represents divine truth and the message must be given to the world. He will only speak what he |has heard| of God, though he has much to say in the way of admonition and censure. (Joh 8:27)

27. They understood not that he spake of the Father. They were so pre-occupied with thoughts of earthly things that they did not perceive what is so plain to us, that he declared that he would not speak his own words and judgments, but only what he |had heard of the Father.| He had not designated by any title the One who had sent him. His meaning, to them, was partly veiled, as in his parables, in order that unawares, some seeds of truth should find a lodgment in their hearts. As Alford says: |There is no accounting for the ignorance of unbelief, as any minister of Christ knows by painful experience.| (Joh 8:28)

28. When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am. Though his Jewish hearers did not understand the import of his words, they are clear to us. The |lifting up| always points to the cross, and this victory of his enemies and humiliation of the Son of God, is always pointed to as the crisis in which his cause is won and his salvation made sure. Two years and a half before, in the interview with Nicodemus, he had said, |As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life.| He taught in these and other passages that his |lifting up| would be the means of breaking down unbelief and leading men to |know him.| The prediction was realized. His disciples were few in number until after he died, but the very act that his enemies fondly hoped would blot his name from history was the means of filling the world with believers. Fifty days after his crucifixion thousands of those who had |crucified and slain| him, cried, |Men and brethren, what shall we do?| A few weeks after thousands more of those concerning whom Peter said, |I know that through ignorance you crucified the Lord of life and glory,| became believers. Thus the work went on until the cross became a badge of honor, instead of a symbol of shame. The Lord, and indeed the whole Scripture, points to the death of Jesus as the central act of the Christian religion. It is his death that gives life to the world. (Joh 8:29)

29. He that sent me is with me. He always has a sense of the presence of the Father. He was not so much an ambassador from God, as |the Brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person,| the manifestation of God. I do the things which please him always. |Always| is emphatic. He was completely resigned to the will of the Father. Even in Gethsemane his prayer was, |Not my will, but thine be done.| Because his will was lost in the will of God, the |Father did not leave him alone.| So, too, every child of God can have a consciousness of the presence of the Father if he will always do those things that please him. (Joh 8:30)

30. Many believed on him. From the instructions that follow it is evident that they did more than give assent to the proposition that he was an inspired man of God. They were evidently moved in heart to trust and follow him.

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