A Bible Lesson on John 8:12-30

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Again, the setting of John 7-8 is Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus encounters sharp opposition and makes claims for Himself that are consistent with who John told us He is in Chapter 1, but that must have been startling to His hearers.  Here in John 8, it’s the middle of the feast and Jesus has begun teaching.

John 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus says again “I AM.”  John told us in Chapter 1 that Jesus is the light.  To hear all of what the 1st hearers heard, we need to know that not only is the “I AM” use of the personal name of God, but we also need to know a bit about how tabernacles was celebrated.  On the first night of the feast there was a ritual lighting of 4 huge candlesticks at the temple in the court of the women.  It was the celebration of “the Illumination of the Temple.”  The top of these candelabra had to be reached with ladders and wicks floated in golden bowls of oil.  When lit, all Jerusalem reflected the light that burned there, and Jesus is speaking where this took place.  He is clearly saying that He is superior to lights that light only the temple and God’s city Jerusalem.  He’s claiming to be God incarnate and the fulfillment of the ritual that they have been celebrating.  The Rabbis sometimes used the word “light” to refer to the Messiah (God’s light).  In all of this Jesus is making no small claims.


Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Isaiah 60:19 The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

Micah 7:7  But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.


Jesus is the light.  To have light is to have Jesus and there is no light apart from Him.  Jesus says “whoever follows me.”  It is “whoever gives himself to Me body and soul.”  The construction implies a continual following of Jesus, not some casual interest.  And the “will have the light of life” is also continual.  Jesus is talking of ongoing relationship.  Too, Jesus is the light of the world.  This is not some narrow thing peculiar to only Israel, but applies to everyone everywhere.

John 8:13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”

The Pharisees clearly don’t want to allow anything like what Jesus has just claimed.  So they make a technical challenge to it.  They implicitly refer to the Old Testament principle that two witnesses were required to establish something legally.  They contend that they therefore don’t need to pay attention to Jesus’s claim.  The ESV says “not true,” but it would be better rendered “not valid.”  They are ignoring the substance of what was said and making a technical challenge.

Morris wrote quoting Wright wrote, “‘There are types of so-called religious apologetic, which, distrusting the intrinsic claims of religion itself, seek to put in its place ‘external evidences’ and ‘institutional safeguards.’  How can light convince us that it is light except by what it does for us?  We do not demonstrate that light is light by treatises, or by analyses of its constituent rays.  It is only light to us when it illumines and quickens us. … Anyone can to his own satisfaction, confute the claim which Beauty makes, by saying, I do not see it; or the claim inherent in Goodness, by saying, I do not hear it; or the self-evidencing nature of Truth, by saying, I do not know it. But man does not create Goodness, or Truth, or Beauty; and to say that he cannot see them is to condemn himself, not them.’ So with Light.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

Jesus replies that He is qualified to speak on this matter while His attackers are not.  They don’t see reality for what it is.  Their blind earth-bound mentality fails to see Him for who He is.  In their foolishness, they judge Him guilty of blasphemy.  He didn’t come to condemn anyone, but nevertheless, their wrong blind judgment of Him boomerangs and condemns themselves.  The judgment of Jesus is so different from the kind of thing the Pharisees are doing that it shouldn’t be called by the same name.

16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two men is true.

18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus says that even if it were His word alone, it would be sufficient, but if they want to get technical and count to two, there is implicit in His words the testimony of the Father.  What He says, He doesn’t say alone, but in complete harmony with the Father.  In verse 17, the testimony of two men suffices.  If that is true, how much more the testimony of the Father and the Son?!

The verbs in verse 18 are in the continuous tense.  Jesus continues to bear witness about Himself and the Father continues to bear witness about Him.

19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

They confirm exactly what Jesus charged in verse 15, that they have only an earthbound human perspective on this.  They really aren’t qualified to judge or even serve as witnesses in this matter.  So they ask this purposely obtuse question, ignoring the obvious in Jesus’s claim that He’s talking about God in heaven.  He tells them that it is possible to know the Father only as we know Him, Jesus.  The Pharisees, who pride themselves on their knowledge of God, in that they know the Scriptures, in their failure to see Jesus for who He is, in fact don’t really know God at all.

20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Jesus is in charge.  This is not some out-of-control series of accidents, and it’s not yet time for Him to suffer and die for us.

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”

If we never get past our human stubbornness and blindness to see things as they really are, we will indeed die in our sin.  Jesus is going to the Father, and on their current path, these folks are headed for destruction.  “sin” here is singular.  The reference is almost surely to the ultimate sin of failing to see Jesus for who He is, God’s own Son, very God of very God.

22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

“Our deaths will differ,” says Jesus, “but that’s not all that separates us.”  The origins and basic concerns of these folks differ from His.  Jesus is from above and is concerned with the will of God.  These Pharisees are from below and are not concerned with the will of God.  These people know neither where Jesus is from nor where He is going.  Their frame of reference is temporal and earthbound.  His is eternal.

24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Literally it is “if you do not believe that I AM.”  (“the one I claim to be” of the NIV isn’t there.  Neither is “he” in the KJV or this ESV.)  There is one way of escape for fallen humans.  That is to cast ourselves on the mercy of Jesus, the I AM.  These guys are in the process of throwing away their opportunity, and dying without hope.  They will die in their sins (plural), the inevitable fruit of the fundamental sin of unbelief.

25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.

“You!  Who are you to be saying such things?”  It’s pretty hard to believe that by now the Pharisees still don’t know what Jesus is claiming.  That they may not believe what He’s claiming and would demand another explanation, is another matter.  And their disbelief brings with it an inevitable and terrible implied judgment.

26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

In the cross it is evident to all, friend and foe, that Jesus was completely submitted to the will of the Father, that He is in complete harmony with the Father.  And the cross is the final definitive answer to the question the Pharisees asked in verse 25, “Who are you, anyway?”  See the cross and it is evident who He is.

29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.


Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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