Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 14 2013 - John 7:53-8:20 – Go … and leave your life of sin

John 7:53-8:11 presents us with some interesting issues. The earliest manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not include these verses at all. A few manuscripts include this passage, with some variations, after John 7:36, John 21:25 or even Luke 24:53. Is the passage genuine?

The story has the ring of truth. It reflects the character of the Lord Jesus that we see portrayed elsewhere in the Gospels and contrasts starkly with the strong discipline that developed in the church during the first few centuries – it is unlikely to have been ‘made up’. It may well have circulated as an isolated story of Jesus before eventually being incorporated into John’s Gospel. Let’s see how it fits within John’s message.

John tells us that Jesus came not to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. This is certainly illustrated in the account of the woman taken in adultery. The Jewish leaders sought to undermine Jesus’ authority with the people by forcing him either to contradict the Law of Moses or to condemn this woman. Jesus responded by saying that someone without sin should throw the first stone at her. At this, all of the accusers slipped away and Jesus was left alone with the woman. None of that crowd had the moral right to condemn the woman: Jesus alone had that right for he was the only one without sin. He refused to condemn her, saying rather that she should go on her way but leave her life of sin (John 8:11).

Jesus’ refusal to condemn does not mean he turns a blind eye to our wrongdoing. On the contrary, Jesus offers costly forgiveness – it took him to the cross. And with the offer of such forgiveness he calls us to live a new life; “Go now and leave your life of sin”.

This theme is picked up in the verses that now follow this story. Jesus speaks of himself as the light of the world – he is the light that shines in the darkness. It’s a light that gives us no place to hide – it shows us up for who and what we are – and yet it does not condemn; Jesus says, “I pass judgment on no one” (8:15). He draws us out of the darkness to walk in the light of his presence.

Jesus says that those who follow him will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. He reveals something of the light and beauty of the world to come, a world that will be filled with the light of the glory of God and of the Lamb. Something of the character of that world also marks the lives of those who follow him. More than that, it will shine from their lives; they also are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), for they have the light of life.

To follow Jesus is to walk as he walked. Our lives are to be marked by the compassion that characterised his life; avoiding harsh and quick judgments upon others while never condoning wrongdoing. We need to learn the habits of those who walk in the light of Christ.

Heavenly Father, I bless you for the light that has come into the world in the Lord Jesus. Help me to walk in the light as I follow him. Help me to leave behind all that displeases you, whether obvious wrongdoing like that of the woman taken in adultery, or the smug self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Fill me with the light of the presence of the living Saviour. May his Spirit shine through me to draw others out of darkness into light.

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Peter Misselbrook