Exposure to the Light
Tim Temple


Jesus Christ came to earth primarily to bring men and women to salvation. He came to provide salvation and to show us our need for salvation, but in the process of coming to earth to redeem men, He also came to reveal God and His nature to man. Jesus said, “No one has seen God at any time. The Only Begotten of the Father, He has declared Him.” So, one of Jesus' secondary purposes in coming was simply to show us what God is like and Who God is.

He often did that by using commonplace things like bread and light and water to symbolize Himself. In the passage that we looked at in our last lesson, we saw Him saying that He was the provider of Living Water that would supply the spiritual needs of every person. We came to understand a little more of what God provides and how He provides it by speaking in terms of that spiritual water.

J. Vernon McGee, a great pastor and Bible teacher, speaking of the Lord Jesus, said, “He uses the ordinary to speak of the extraordinary, the physical to speak of the spiritual, the temporal to speak of the eternal, the here and now to speak of the hereafter, the earthly to speak of the heavenly, the limited to speak of the unlimited, and the finite to speak of the infinite.”

John records Jesus speaking of Himself as Bread in chapter 6, verse 35, and in chapter 8, verse 12, as Light. He says in chapter 10, verse 9, that He is the Door. In chapter 10, verse 11, He is the Good Shepherd. In chapter 11, verse 25, He is the Resurrection and the Life. In chapter 15, verse 5, He is the Vine Who gives life to the branches.

In this study, we come to the place where He speaks of Himself as Light. It is to help us understand the nature of God from several different standpoints. That term, which He really doesn't use until we get down to verse 12, actually forms the basis for the outline of the chapter. We have divided this chapter into five parts. First, in verses 1-11, we read about the exposure to the Light, and that is what we want to talk about in this study. Then, in verses 12-20, Jesus gives an explanation of the Light. In verses 21-29, we have a closer examination of the Light. In verses 30-47, we have the extension of the Light to all who would accept it. Finally, in verses 48-59, there is the exit of the Light.

Notice very carefully. It is not the extinguishing of the Light, but the exit of the Light. We find at the end of the chapter that Jesus simply leaves those who were not willing to accept what He said about Himself as the Light of the World, and the Light is removed from those who refuse to have it shine into their lives. The Light goes on shining. It is just removed from those who don't want to have it.

Of course, that is another truth of the Scripture. We will see as we come to that part of the chapter that God does not force Himself upon any person. He woos us; He seeks us; He draws us; but the person who hardens his heart and refuses to accept the Light that God gives will see that Light exit from his life without being realized.

Setting for the Light

Let's begin our study of the chapter by looking at the exposure of the Light, demonstrated in verses 1-11. The first thing that we want to notice is the setting in which the Light was first shown, in verses 1-6a. Notice the congregation that develops, in verses 1-2:

John 8

1Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

In chapter 7 we saw that the Feast of Tabernacles was taking place. It was the most popular of the feasts that Israel observed from time to time during the year. We talked about the various aspects of that feast in our last lesson as we were looking at chapter 7. At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus had done some significant teaching, and many people had listened to Him. Some of them had believed in Him, but of course, His critics had used that teaching as an opportunity to further try to discredit Him.

Now the feast is over. We saw on the eighth day of the feast that Jesus had announced that He would be the source of Living Water springing up in people's lives and hearts. In the last part of chapter 7, it says that everyone went to his own home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. It is interesting to notice that nobody had invited Jesus to come home with them. Nobody offered to give a place for Jesus to stay physically, though some had allowed Him into their hearts. Everyone went to his own home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

The feast is over, but apparently people were still interested enough to come back the next day to hear more of what He had to say to them. Probably most of those people were people who lived there in Jerusalem, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people from other towns had stayed over to hear what He had to say.

A Great Commotion Occurs

The term that is used in verse 2, early in the morning , is translated at dawn in some of the newer translations. So, very early in the day these people get together and Jesus is gracious enough to sit down and teach those who are willing to listen to Him. The people come together and sit down in the temple to listen to Jesus, and in that setting, there is a great commotion. Look at verse 3:

John 8

3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

The verse comes to an end in the middle of the sentence, but let's stop and think about this for a minute. The sense of this verse is that these men—the Scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders—occupied different offices, but they were the prominent, religious people of that day. Here they come, dragging a woman, who was probably struggling with them, into the room where Jesus was already up and teaching in an orderly fashion. There is nothing of politeness or decorum or dignity that you would normally expect from religious leaders. They probably are like a bunch of teenagers just dragging and struggling and bringing this woman into the room in front of everybody. There is no concern for interrupting Jesus' teaching and no concern for the people who had gathered early in the morning to listen to Him, and certainly there was no concern for this woman whom they were dragging into the room. There was just the total setting up of a commotion and a very rude, unruly scene that we see, in verse 3.

The charge that they make is in verse 4:

John 8

4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

That is a very short verse, but there is a lot of food for thought in this situation. This is such a familiar story that it is easy for us to pass over without looking at the things that are really important, so I hope that you will stay with me, though I am sure you have heard the story before. Notice, it says that this woman was caught in the very act. It was not just that they had heard she had committed adultery, but the fact that in the very act of adultery something had happened that she was caught and brought into Jesus' presence. It was the very worst kind of situation that the religious leaders could envision to confront Jesus with.

Think about this: If this woman was caught in the very act of adultery, how could these religious leaders—the very ones who specify that they caught her in the act—have caught her without themselves being involved in some way? How did they know that she was caught in the very act? How did they know the time to come in and invade that, and if they were witnesses to it, what were the circumstances of that? Were they hiding somewhere and watching or, even worse, were they setting the thing up as a trap to catch her? Had they found some man and paid him to come in and be a part of that? You see, to know that she was caught in the very act requires some kind of involvement on their part. Did they bribe the man or were they voyeurs themselves, maybe having heard about this woman's reputation and watching through her window until the precise opportunity came? It is hard to imagine how they couldn't have had some sort of complicity in the situation to be able to make such a definite statement about her. And, by the way, where was the man who participated? Have you noticed that? There is not a word about the man. Why didn't they bring him for punishment if their real concern was the sin that was going on here? Male chauvinism isn't as new as we might think. These men only looked at the woman as being responsible for this kind of sin.

I recently read a letter to the editor having to do with a little baby who was apparently murdered by her mother. The point was made that if that baby had been aborted a few hours or weeks earlier, nothing would have been said about it. It wouldn't have even been an item for the newspaper. But, in this particular case, the baby was born and then killed. A further point was made, based on this very verse, of why has nothing been said or done about the father of that baby? Why has the father of that baby apparently not even been questioned?

You see, we tend to think in terms of certain people being responsible for certain kinds of sin, and we just overlook the fact that somebody else may have been involved in it. God doesn't look at it that way, and we need to be careful, particularly when we are in the business of judging other people for sin, to ask if there is some way that we could have contributed to that. You know, there are sins that those close to us participate in and they are the ones who commit the sins and are guilty before God, but there may be those situations in which we ourselves have contributed to that situation. We are not technically guilty of the sin, but have we done something that made that person feel that they had to react that way that happened to be sinful—not only people within our family, but people in other kinds of relationships with us? These men, typical of most Christians, unfortunately, had only looked at one person in that sin and brought this woman to Jesus.

Their Concern Was to Trap Jesus

In verse 5 and the first part of verse 6, we find what their concern was. We talked about this congregation that they came into and the commotion that they stirred up. They continue talking, in verse 5:

John 8

5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him…

We might have figured it out on our own without John telling us, but verse 6 makes it clear what their concern really was. They did this, not out of concern for this woman. We really don't know anything about this woman. She may have been a hardened sinner. She may have even been a prostitute for that matter, or she may have been some innocent woman duped by some smooth-talking male. Whatever the situation, she had a real problem and needed help, but their concern was not for this woman who had this great need. Their concern was not for the upholding of the law of Moses, even though they quote from it. If they really had concern for the law, they would have brought the man in, too.

The law that they quoted in Leviticus, chapter 20, verse 10, speaks very clearly of the fact that the man and the woman will be stoned to death in the case of adultery. That was a different day from which we live in, but that was what the law said. Their concern couldn't have been upholding the law of Moses because they only brought one-half of the sinning couple to Jesus. Their real concern we can see just looking at the circumstances; but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John tells us, in verse 6, they were just trying to trap Jesus. Their concern was not even just to get the insight of this wise Rabbi that they had come across. Their focus was on Jesus, but it was in the worst sense. It was just to try to get Him in a trap.

Let me move over to another angle on this. As we study the Scripture, our focus always needs to be on what this says to me. How does this impact my life? Let me ask you this question, because it is a question that came to my mind as I studied this passage. What is your concern in using the Bible? These people had a particular objective in mind. They were studying the Word of God. How could anybody say that was bad? They knew what the Word of God had to say, and they wanted to apply the Word of God to an individual in a specific situation. How could anybody say that's bad? But, of course, it was the worst kind of situation. It was total hypocrisy, because they studied the Word of God, but they only wanted to use it to trap Jesus and get Him in trouble.

One Bible scholar said, “These men were not concerned with trying to stone this woman; they were really trying to set it up so that they could stone Jesus.” Why do we use the Word of God? Do we use the Word of God to impress other people with how much we know about it? Do we use the Word of God to pressure somebody to do something that we think they might not do for us otherwise? You see, the knowledge of the Word of God is an extremely important thing. It is a wonderful thing that God has put His Word before us in such a concise little form, but we need to be extremely careful that we use the Word of God in the way that God intended it to be used and not for some twisted purpose or even some selfish kind of purpose that will accomplish our agenda.

Purpose of the Word

The purpose of the Word of God is to change our hearts and lives. Sometimes I am afraid that we take the Word of God and instead of letting it change our hearts and lives, we use it to pound somebody else over the head and try to change their lives to suit our purposes.

Some years ago a Bible teacher who was speaking in a camp where I was, made a statement that hit me right between the eyes, even though it was a very simple statement. It is something that the Lord has brought back to my mind a number of times through the years since I first heard this older Bible teacher say it. That statement was: “God is much more interested in what He can do in you than He is in what He can do through you.”

Now, think about that for a minute. “God is much more interested in what He can do in you than He is in what He can do through you.” So many of us as Christians are so busy. We are sincere in it, and we mean well, but the focus is on what God can do through us—how we can reach other people, how we can influence other people for Christ, what we can do for Him. That is not God's focus. God provided the Word of God that we might have all things that pertain to life and godliness (I Peter 2). God gave us His Word to change us. God gave us His Word to work in us. God is much more interested in what He can do in us than in what He can do through us.

Don't misunderstand me. That doesn't mean that God is not interested in what He can do through us, but God knows that if He can't do something in our hearts through His Word, if we don't allow His Word to work in our hearts, then He really is not going to be able to do much through us. We get the cart before the horse, and carried to its logical extreme, we could wind up just like these Pharisees, using the Word of God for our purposes. I think that we all need to think carefully about what our focus is in the Word of God. Are we allowing the Word of God to work in us? If we allow the Word of God to work in us, then God can take care of using it to work through us. That is important because the people involved in this are supposedly religious leaders. They are not spiritual people, but they are religious people. There is a difference.

There was no doubt that this woman was guilty. In verse 11, Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus recognizes that she is guilty, and, as I said a few moments ago, the law of Moses very specifically in Leviticus, chapter 20, verse 10, calls for stoning in a situation like this. Their concern was, would Jesus contradict the law of Moses or would He give some new kind of teaching that they could entangle Him in? Their concern was not about this woman and what could be done for her. They were hoping that somehow they could find a little toehold to do away with the Lord Jesus.

Jesus Shines the Light of Wisdom

In the last part of verse 6 and going on through verse 9, Jesus shines the light of His wisdom into this contorted situation. In the middle of verse 6, it says:

John 8

6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

The verses speak for themselves, and you have heard the story many times, but think about this: First, Jesus just seems to ignore them. I think that it is significant that Jesus doesn't say anything to the woman. Apparently, He didn't even look at this woman, who must have been humiliated and embarrassed, no matter how hardened she may have been. It is very possible that she wasn't a hardened sinner and was just a person who fell into sin or was tricked into sin by some other person. Jesus leaves her completely out of the picture. He just stoops down and writes something in the dust of the floor of the temple, as verse 6 says, “…as though He didn't hear them.” He seems to just ignore them.

These Scribes and Pharisees were asking for it, literally. In verse 7, they continued asking Him. The tense of the Greek in the word continued means they were asking it over and over again as He was stooping down and writing. They continued, demanding that He give them an answer. They didn't realize what they were about to get. Be careful what you ask for. God may just give it to you. Here they were, asking and asking Him to make a comment, and so, in the second part of verse 7, He gives it to them. He makes that famous statement: “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” He then stooped down and began to write again. He interrupted His writing to make that statement in verse 7. Then He continued His writing.

Of course, the age old question is, what did He write? I imagine you have heard whole sermons on what Jesus wrote on the ground that day. Incidentally, this is the only record that we have that Jesus ever wrote anything. Jesus was not a great author. He did His teaching verbally. As far as we know, He never wrote anything, even though He is considered, even by unbelievers, to be one of the greatest teachers of all time. What He did write was wiped out within a few minutes by the feet of the people walking across that dusty temple floor. I think there is one little clue to what He might have written. Turn to Jeremiah, chapter 17, verse 13. Jeremiah is praying, and down in verse 13, he says:

Jeremiah 17

13O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.

Notice there in the middle of the verse, the statement, “…all they that depart from Me shall be written in the earth…” Let's think about this in relation to this situation. Who had departed from the Lord here? Certainly these Pharisees and Scribes had. They were experts in the Old Testament, but of all people, they should have known that the Old Testament was not written in order to trap people in sin and to beat them over the head with it. They had departed from God's purposes in giving the Word of God. Obviously, this woman had forsaken the Lord. She had witnesses to the fact that she was involved in sin. In fact, everybody in that room, except Jesus, had departed from the Lord. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Jesus was literally writing in the earth. Jeremiah said that the day would come when those who departed from the Lord would be written in the earth.

I have always thought it interesting that it specifies that Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground. It was technically on the floor, but it was a dusty, sandy floor. People had been tracking in dust and dirt from outside, and Jesus wrote in the dirt.

I don't want to stress this too much and try to carry something farther than God intended, but what Jesus was doing was writing in the earth. Jeremiah makes this kind of odd statement that the names of those who depart from the Lord will be written in the earth; so I believe that Jesus may have been writing in the sand the names of people who had departed from God—more specifically, maybe the names of people whom these accusers had associated with. Maybe He was writing down the names of some old drinking buddies. Those pious Pharisees, looking over His shoulder, would see a name that they recognized and realize that if that person were called to testify, his reputation as a Pharisee would be over. Maybe He wrote the name of an old girlfriend, and another Pharisee realized that there but for the grace of God, if that girl were brought forward, I would be up here being asked what to be done with. It may be that Jesus was just writing names in the dirt, not the names of people there, but names that those people had had relationships with who could testify that they were sinners.

That is a guess, but it is possible. It seems to fit the situation. Of course, that comes back again to the question of our testimony. If you were accused of a certain kind of sin, how would the witnesses react? Would they be on your side? What would be the circumstantial evidence?

Convicted By Conscience

Going back to John, chapter 8, whatever He wrote, verse 9 says that they were convicted by their conscience. Here is an example of the use of the conscience. These people were not believers in Jesus Christ at this point, but their conscience still functioned. The conscience is God's way of working even with unbelievers. The conscience is the mechanism that God has included in human beings to keep law and order. We have studied the conscience in other settings, and we know that the conscience can be seared as with a hot iron and become unusable if people continue to ignore their conscience; but the conscience is that which God has included in human beings, whether they become believers in Jesus Christ or not, to be able to steer them between right and wrong.

These people were convicted by their conscience as their conscience took in what they saw Jesus writing on the ground. You see what happened was that Jesus shined the light of God's omniscience into the souls of those people who were there that day, into their innermost being, their moral compass. Jesus is the Light of the world.

Qualification for Passing Judgment

In the last line of verse 7, Jesus gives the one qualification that is necessary for passing judgment on another person. What is that? You must be without sin. If you are going to be the judge of how guilty a person is, then you have got to be without sin yourself. Otherwise, in God's sight, you are not allowed to do anything about it. There are many differences between all of us, but the one thing that we have in common is that we are all sinners. Your sin may be different from mine. Mine may be different from somebody else's. Their sin may be different still from somebody else's. There is enough sin to go around. Regardless of what we may not be guilty of, all of us, in one way or another, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Jesus said, “If you are going to be the decision maker about who is forgiven by God and who is not forgiven by God and who is usable to God and who is not usable to God, then you have got to be without sin yourself.” We are all sinners and in need of a Savior, so who are we to judge someone else for their sin? Should we help each other when we fall into sin? Yes. Galatians, chapter 6, verse 1, very clearly says:

Galatians 6

1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Do we get involved when another person is sinning? Yes. Matthew, chapter 18, tells us in several very clear steps what we do when someone sins against us. In Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus told what to do when we realize that we have sinned against someone else. This is not saying that we just ignore sin. Do we confront each other when we have sinned against each other? Yes. Do we try to help when someone else sins? Yes. But do we condemn and judge one another? Never. That is never the proper response to sin. Jesus took care of that at the Cross. We can't condemn another person, because Jesus took the condemnation.

Remember that this situation that we are looking at was technically still in the Old Testament. It is written in the New Testament, but the Old Testament standards and principles applied until the day Jesus died on the Cross, and that is still several months away in John, chapter 8. This was an Old Testament situation in which Jesus gave this teaching, and so if it was true, even in the Old Testament days in which Jesus lived, how much more true is it for us who live on this side of the Cross, where Christ's accomplishment on the Cross is a matter of historical record and not just something that we look forward to symbolically?

Light Brings Safety

What does light do? It exposes things that are harmful to us, doesn't it? That is why when we hear a noise in the house at night we at least turn on a flashlight so we can see if it is something that is going to harm us. Light shows us the right path. That is why we have little night-lights in our bedrooms—not because we are afraid of the boogie man that might get us, but because we know that when we have to get up and go to the bathroom, we need to be able to see where that footstool is or that shoe is that was left in the middle of the floor. So, light not only exposes things that might harm us, it shows us the right path to take. In short, light brings safety, and that is what we see, in verses 10-11:

John 8

10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Now, think about this: This woman was guilty of a sin for which the Old Testament law prescribed the death penalty. She knew it, and Jesus knew it. Was Jesus nullifying the law? Was Jesus saying, “This one time we are going to let you off the penalty of the law.”? Was Jesus soft on crime? No. He was forgiving her of her sin, and there is a tremendous difference.

Back in chapter 3, Jesus Himself said that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Jesus didn't come to condemn the world. He didn't come to condemn this woman. He came into this world to be a Savior, and that is why He dealt so harshly with those critics that day. He publicly humiliated the Jewish leaders. They had great reputations as Bible scholars, and in front of a group of people interested in spiritual things enough to come and hear this kind of outlaw rabbi, Jesus exposed them for what they were. That would have been an embarrassing thing. Jesus came to be a Savior, not to be a technician on the fine points of the Old Testament law, and He wasn't going to let anybody else get by with that either.

God Forgives Sin

There is one last thing that I want to say about the thing that this passage emphasizes, and that is that many people think they are lost because they have committed one sin or another. They have picked out some particular sin that they think is the unpardonable sin. A few weeks ago, I spoke in a weekend meeting. One of the men at that meeting said, “I came to this meeting this weekend thinking that I had committed the unpardonable sin, and I had resigned myself to getting through the rest of my life the best way I could. I had a horror of having to stand before God.” He was a Christian. He had trusted Christ as His Savior. He went on to say that through the course of the weekend, he had realized that God had forgiven every kind of sin, even that one about which he had given up.

I have no idea what that sin was that he had in mind, but I wondered, as I heard him say that, how many other people in that room that day might have felt that way and just didn't have the occasion to say so. I wonder how many Christians there are and certainly how many unbelievers there are who think that they have committed the unpardonable sin or sins that God just simply is not going to forgive.


Listen to me. This passage teaches us that people are not lost because they have committed a specific sin or sins. They are lost because they are sinners. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners, and Jesus Christ forgives sinners. He hates the sin. He does not let the sin go by lightly. God punished sin to the nth degree when He allowed Jesus Christ to die on the Cross. God punishes sin. God punished it once and for all, but He loves the sinner. He died for your sins, and He paid for your sins, even the worst ones that you can imagine. Any person who comes to Jesus Christ in faith is forgiven, even a woman like this, even a person like me, even a person like you. Praise God for the Savior who shined the light of that wonderful truth into the hearts and souls of men and women.

Home Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting