At the end of John 7 there is one of the most controversial passages in the whole Bible. In certain translations you won’t even find it in the body of the text, but in the footnotes. St. Augustine had such doubts about this passage that he said it should be considered subscriptural for fear that women might use it to justify their infidelity. How could he say such a thing? Before his conversion, Augustine and infidelity were close friends.
Even a Bible scholar with the theological acuity of Alexander Maclaren writes, “The story of the woman taken in adultery is judged by the best critics to be out of place here…” And yet, the context is crucial.
Think of it. Two chapters earlier Jesus pronounces the first of His seven “I am” statements. He says to the gathered crowd, “I am the Bread of Life.” It’s only hours after He fed 5000 men and who knows how many women with five loaves of bread and two fish. So, when He sees the crowd, many of whom He had just fed, He says to them, “Why labor for bread that doesn’t satisfy…I am the Bread of Life.” You see, the context is essential to properly understanding His name – “The Bread of Life”.
The same is true in John 8. Now notice He doesn’t say, “I am the reflector of light. He says, “I am the Light.” It’s His second “I am” statement and it comes on the heels of His encounter with the adulterous woman and her wicked accusers. The context is critical. The first revelation of Jesus’ identity comes as He faces the starving masses. The second revelation comes on the heels of a perfect portrait of human darkness. It’s hard to imagine darkness much greater than the spiritual darkness of those religious accusers. The woman comes to acknowledge Him as Lord, and her accusers simply slither away to fight His lordship another day.
But there’s more to the context than that. The Bible says in verse 20, “Jesus spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put.” There are no wasted words in Scripture.
The temple treasury was located in the court of women, inside the court of the Gentiles. Around this court, against the wall, were thirteen trumpet-shaped containers into which worshippers would drop their money. Into the first two trumpets the Jews would drop their half-shekel temple tax for temple upkeep. Into the next two they deposited their proceeds for the purchase of sacrificial pigeons for a woman’s purification. Into the next trumpet-shaped container would go money to purchase the firewood for the sacrifice. Into the next two would flow funds for the purchase of incense and the use of the golden altar vessels. The court of the Gentiles was a busy place and any Jew wanting communion with God had to pay his dues to get it.
But there’s something even more significant about this place. On the first night of the Feast of the Tabernacles, four great candelabras were lighted in that same court. It’s said that when they were lighted the light from these candelabras was so bright that it bathed every street and every corner of Jerusalem. They burned these candelabras from sundown to sunup that first night of the Feast, and while the light poured forth the greatest, wisest, “holiest” men in Israel would dance before the Lord singing songs of praise while all the people waited.
Now think of it. Why would Jesus come here to announce that He is the Light of the World? To testify to all of creation that there is no greater than He. For notice what He says, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
So take all of that information and come to the cross. Come to the place in time when that Light is extinguished. In Matthew 27:45 we see that in the third hour, half say through the six hours of the crucifixion, the land is plunged into a deep darkness. And near to the third hour of darkness the once quiet Son of God cries out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Now think of it. What we will see on Sunday is that the heart of Christianity is the Gospel. The heart of the Gospel is the cross. The heart of the cross is this utterance. And the heart of this utterance is the incontrovertible evidence of His victory (and through Him ours) in the midst of the spiritual war.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to read Matthew 27:45-51 and I John 1:5-9 and consider the following questions:
1. When is the first time “darkness” is mentioned in Scripture?
2. What role does darkness play in the Exodus? (Exodus 5-14)
3. What are the theological implications of darkness?
4. How does God demonstrate His consistency in Egypt and at the cross?
5. What is the answer to Jesus’ question in Matthew 26:46? (See Psalm 22:3)
6. How is the punishment of God on the Light of the World greater than His punishment of the “bearer of light”?
7. How do these words of Jesus fulfill the instruction of Leviticus 16?
8. What does the torn curtain indicate in verse 51?
9. How do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit accomplish their victory over Satan in the midst of the darkness?
10. How do the words, “Jesus is watching you,” move from fear to faith?
See you Sunday as we continue looking at more evidence of victory.