Today’s reading is drawn from John 8:2-11.
Jesus feeds five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and later catches up with his disciples on the lake by walking to them on the water. The crowds are puzzled about how Jesus got to the other side of the lake. He points out that they’re looking for him because he multiplied bread and warns them not to let the miracle distract them. He is the bread of life; and if people eat this living bread, they’ll live forever.
Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles, but lays low except for teaching in the temple. While there, Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to trap him. The law says to stone her. As Jesus writes on the ground with his finger, the woman’s accusers walk away one by one. Soon Jesus and the woman are alone. There are no longer two witnesses to condemn her, as the law requires. Jesus doesn’t condemn her either. He keeps the law and shows the woman grace.
Jesus continues teaching the crowd. They claim to be children of Abraham who have no need to be set free. Jesus responds that their rejection of him shows that they’re actually children of the devil. When Jesus says, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), the people pick up stones to kill him, but he escapes.
The King’s Heart
“[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
This is a terrifying character description from the One who is anciently familiar with the accuser. Satan is, and has always been, a liar.
John positions Jesus’ description of Satan shortly after a woman was brought to Jesus, guilty and accused. She had sinned, yes, and Jesus didn’t make light of that fact. But the shameful, public example the Pharisees were making of her was not his intention. It seems whatever Jesus wrote in the dirt caused the accusers to realize they stood in precariously sinful positions themselves, with no room to throw stones.
Both Jesus and Satan identify sin. But while Satan harps on it to condemn, Jesus diagnoses it to heal.
When Jesus says, “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) he isn’t simply claiming to be thousands of years old. He says, “I am,” which is God’s personal name that he shared with Moses (see Exodus 3:14). Jesus is claiming to be the One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush — God.