Translation and commentary on John’s Gospel
JOHN 8: 12-
Then Jesus spoke to them again, “I am the light of the world; any follower of mine will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
So the Pharisees said to him, “You are giving testifying about yourself; your testimony cannot be accepted as true.”
Jesus answered, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true because I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by flesh and blood standards; I judge no one. But even if I do judge my judgement is true because I am not alone but I and the father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people can be accepted as true. I am the one testifying about myself and the father who sent me also testifies about me.”
So they said to him, “Where is your father?”
Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me you would know my father also.”
He spoke these words in the treasury as he taught in the temple, but no one arrested him, for his hour had not yet come. Then he told them again, “I am going away and you will pursue me and die in your sin; for you are unable to come where I am going.”
So the Judeans said, “Maybe he’ll kill himself since he says, ‘You are unable to come where I am going.'”
He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; for if you do not trust that I am, you will die in your sins.”
Then they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “Exactly what I have told you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the one who sent me is real, and I tell the world what I have heard from him.”
They did not realise that he had been speaking to them about the father.
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Humane Ruler, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing of myself, but speak these things as the father has taught me. He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone; for I always do what is pleasing to him.”
As he said these things, many people put their trust in him.
Again Jesus’ opponents try to pin him down. Surely he can’t expect them to believe him just because he announces that he is the light of the world! Jesus answers by asserting his relationship to the father as a witness but when asked to produce this father he argues that of the knew him they would also know the father. The Pharisees and the reader come back to the mystery of the human being who claims divine authority.
The reader should not rush to condemn the questioners. Here is a person in society who claims the right to lead others by exalting his own connection with God. How often in our own have we seen bogus leaders doing the same and taking people to their deaths. Jesus’ reply, in which he takes the name of God “I am” to himself, is not re-assuring. If Jesus can only be known through the father; and the father who is with him can only be known through Jesus, we have a classic lock-out mechanism which renders any argument from outsiders invalid.
The only exit from this stand-off is Jesus’ claim that when he, the humane ruler, is lifted up – on his execution stake/ by God to his side – they will be able to identify him as he truly is. Again, all the weight of evidence to support Jesus’ self-witness is placed on his “hour”, that is, on his death and resurrection. In John’s gospel the ministry of Jesus is no more than a series of pointers to his identity, which only takes on concrete character in the narrative of his arrest, death and resurrection.
Yes, precisely. Everything hinges on the cross and resurrection! I think your treatment of the pharisees is fair, a rare thing among Christian interpreters and preachers. But even on the cross, it will not be self-evident, it will happen behind the scenes – as Col 2:13-15 puts it: And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
By the way, I notice you skipped the first part of chapter 8, the episode with the woman caught in adultery. I know the scholarly consensus, but it’s still a great episode in Jesus’ life.
But if you take the episode of the woman brought by the Pharisees, which I omitted because it is not part of the gospel, you can see what John doesn’t give us, that Jesus began the process of cancelling the bond in his ministry; so the words of Colossians are justified by his life as well as his death.