New Testament Week 17: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” – John 7-10

The chapters that we are studying from John this week are some of the most important we read for context. He gives us some reasons why Jesus finally decides to head to Jerusalem, shows the intense and growing passion the leaders of the Sanhedrin have in eliminating Jesus, and gives us a real taste for the situation He is facing.

As we have previously discussed, John gives us the most detail regarding the timing of events. The setting of the beginning of the chapters is the Feast of Tabernacles, which is held around September and so that puts us at 6 months until Jesus’s final Passover and the end of His ministry.

The final chapters of all the gospels give us many of the most famous teachings, parables, and confrontations in all of the scriptures. Because of that it is a good idea to select a few of the ones that impact you the most and try to learn more about them and discuss them as a family. I think there is something powerful that comes into our hearts and minds when we study and discuss these experiences and how they can impact our own discipleship.


– We must live the gospel with Christ as our living water for us to receive knowledge that His teachings are from God.

– Comparing sins is problematic, instead we should recognize we all have sin and we all need grace and mercy. This will allow us to feel forgiven and for others to believe they can be forgiven as well.

– Not everyone will embrace Jesus Christ or the gospel, even with signs, miracles, logic, truth, or revelation.

Context and Timeline:
– Brethren in John 7 is translated as Jesus’s actual siblings. They were leaving on pilgrimage for Feast of Tabernacles as most people would have been doing. It is interesting that one of the brothers of Jesus, James, would become leader of Christian church in Jerusalem even though he was doubtful at this time in Christ’s ministry.

– Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, was one of the most popular festivals during Christ’s time. It was celebrating the harvest for the year and occurred during the fall, usually 6 months before Passover. It lasted 8 days and each day had special celebrations and rituals. The final day of was the largest celebration.

– Pool of Siloam was a pool near the temple and its water would have been used as part of temple rituals. It was considered holy ground.

– In John 7:16 doctrine is better translated as teachings and what they mean than what we would use to define doctrine now.

– As mentioned before, when John uses the word Jews he means the religious leaders of the Jewish people. These leaders included the Pharisees and others, but also included local leaders of synagogues.

– The verb for adultery in John 8 is passive and could have meant a rape. In addition, the term “in the very act” was added to later manuscripts as you cannot find it in the originals. It is also important to note that the law to stone an adulterer included the man, yet the man was nowhere to be found. This reflected both the fact that women were treated as objects and not people, and the fact that this woman likely could have been falsely accused of adultery.

– I AM is a statement that would have meant YHWH, or Jehovah. This was a bold statement where Jesus was telling the Jews that He was Jehovah.

– The word fornication is porneia and it means any kind of sexual impropriety.

– Verily Verily is better translated as truly truly. However, its colloquial meaning was closer to what we would say as “Amen Amen” and indicated that the Lord was going to repeat a teaching he had already discussed, but with more depth and detail in the explanation.

– “Stoning” as described by the law required a trial. When Jesus is nearly stoned it is without a trial and that would have been considered murder.

– Feast of the Dedication is the same as Hanukkah. It was an 8 day celebration in the winter that commemorated the rededication of the temple.

– The oneness that Christ describes between Himself and God is considered blasphemy to many Jews. It went against the idea that there was one God. Later Jesus describes that same oneness with His disciples. It seems clear that Jesus and God, and potentially us, can be one with God in many ways. In most ways, just not physically. Sometimes we overemphasize their separateness in LDS culture since it is a difference in our beliefs. However, I think it does us good to focus on the oneness more, especially in how we look at our discipleship.

– It is not a coincidence that John presents the start of Jesus’s ministry at the river Jordan with His baptism and then ends Christ’s public ministry as He crosses the river Jordan after His rejection.

This week as we explore John’s account of the Savior’s return to Jerusalem, we first begin with a telling conversation that Jesus has with his siblings. They are discussing the Feast of the Tabernacles that will be celebrated in Jerusalem. This festival is usually accompanied by a pilgrimage and so Jesus’s siblings are going to attend. There are some who clearly do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah and so they challenge him to go to Jerusalem to show miracles and signs to the people there. The Lord responds that they have nothing to fear for themselves, but that He must be careful in Jerusalem. It seems that Jesus knows that it is not the right time for His death and so He informs them He will not be going.

It appears as if Jesus’s intent in saying He was not going to Jerusalem was a feint. We know he travels outside of Jerusalem at this same time, and then John begins to show us how right Jesus was to be weary of the people of Jerusalem. In these chapters Jesus will survive four attempts at arresting Him, and two murder attempts over the course of 3-4 months.

The first attempted arrest occurs during the Feast of the Tabernacles. Jesus sneaks into the city and begins teaching at the temple, but the people do not know who He is at first and are amazed at His teachings they cannot believe someone that is unlearned can read, but Jesus explains that if anyone wants to know if Jesus teachings are correct they must live them and God will reveal it to them. He attacks the people by saying, “If you believe in the Law of Moses then why are you seeking my death? And for what? The one time I healed a man on the Sabbath in Jerusalem? You guys circumcise children on the Sabbath, and you think it is wrong for me to heal?”

At that point many of the crowd recognize that this is Jesus, the one who the Jews (leaders of the Jews) are seeking to arrest or kill. The Pharisees are quickly alerted to Jesus’s presence and send for Him to be arrested. He explains that they will try to arrest Him many times but will not find Him until it is time for Him to return to God.

A few days later, at the end of the Feast, Jesus declares to the people of Jerusalem that He is the source of Living Water. To them on this day it would have been a very Messianic thing to say. The crowd then began debate with some people believing He is the Christ, others thinking Him a great prophet, and some disbelieved because they thought He was from Galilee and not Bethlehem. At this point the crowd seeks to arrest Him again but no one was able to get him. Jesus’s escape infuriates the Jews and they accuse the crowd of being deceived, yet Nicodemus is there to ask them whether it is lawful for them to arrest Jesus without having first actually heard His words and seen His deeds. The Pharisees criticize Nicodemus as they regroup in their mission to arrest and kill the Savior.

John explains that Jesus spent time in the Mount of Olives before returning to the temple to teach. This time the Pharisees were waiting for His return and they brought a woman with them, who they claimed had been caught in the act of Adultery. In an effort to trick the Savior, they ask him mockingly as “Teacher” whether she should be stoned. We all know what happens next as Jesus pierces their souls by saying that “Whomever is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” All of the accusers leave the woman and Jesus where He extends compassion and an exhortation to change her life.

Jesus follows the Pharisees to the treasury outside the temple and He then continues His messianic message by saying that He is the light of the world. They fight over the law of witnesses, but Jesus simply informs them that they do not know God, but that God is His Father. The Pharisees try to arrest the Savior a third time. However, He continues by explaining to them, more clearly this time, that He is come from God and that whatever He says or does it is from God. He then explains that when they kill Him, they will know that it is from God. Many in the crowd are being converted to Jesus at this point.

The Pharisees are getting worried, so Jesus continues by accusing the Jews of abandoning Abraham and God by lying about Jesus and seeking His death. He tells the crowd that they are afraid of His words because it condemns them and frees the people from their lies. They claim that Jesus is possessed by a demon and He responds that if anyone will obey the Savior’s words they will live after death. The argument is reaching a fever pitch when Jesus says that Abraham knew of Jesus and saw His day and rejoiced. They are confused and ask how Jesus could know anything about that since Abraham was dead before the Savior’s time. He responds by saying, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” claiming that He in fact is Jehovah. Immediately, the Jews seek to murder the Savior, but he flees the temple.

It seems likely that some time would have passed between that heated confrontation and the next story as it would have been very dangerous for the Savior to be in or around the temple. Also, when we read chapter nine of John, it feels like the Jews have regrouped and know that if they don’t want to lose the people, they need to have some witnesses against Jesus when they bring Him to trial.

On a certain Sabbath day, the disciples ask Jesus a philosophical question about a blind man and whether his condition was caused by his own sins or the sins of his parents. Jesus explains that it was not for sin and tell him to wash in the pools of Siloam and his eyesight will return. The man does this and the people who are the pool marvel that the man can see, so they take him to the Pharisees. Immediately they question the man and how he was healed. The leaders are divided, with some claiming Jesus could not be a man of God since He was not obeying the Sabbath, and others claiming that no sinner could perform these miracles.

They attempt to settle their differences by asking the man his opinion, to which he claimed Jesus was a prophet. (As an aside, it is important to note how few of people would have known Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. Word did not travel then like it would now.) Instead of believing the man, they decided to claim that he had never been blind in the first place. They call upon the blind man’s parents to discover if he were truly blind from birth. They confirm that he was blind, but they do not answer how it would be done, as they were afraid to be kicked out of the synagogue. Again, the Pharisees interrogate the man and their erratic behavior strengthens his confidence in the Savior. He resists them, and even testifies to them that Jesus is good, to which they kick him out. Jesus finds the man and comforts him.

The Jews follow Jesus and engage with Him again seeking something to use against Him. Jesus then teaches them the parable of the Good Shepherd. In the parable and explanation Jesus makes it clear that the only way into the fold of God is through Jesus and His teachings. Anyone who attempts to get in or lead others in another way is a thief. The reason this is true is because the Shepherd is willing to give His life for the sheep and God has given the Shepherd the power and authority to take up His life again. He is informing them that they cannot take His life, but He will willingly give it and will by authority from God be raised again from death. Of course, the Jews had no idea what He was talking about and began arguing again among each other while Jesus went away again.

After another month or two winter arrives and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) is being celebrated. Jesus walks right into the main area of the temple where most of the leaders of the Jews are gathered. They surround Him and confront Him plainly as to whether He is the Christ. He responds by saying He already told them that He is the Messiah, but only His sheep will hear His voice and Christ will give them eternal life. He then again states that He and the Father are “one”. Many who are gathered pick up stones in a second attempt to murder Jesus. Undeterred, the Savior asks which of His good works they seek to stone Him for. In response, they claim they are not seeking His death because of good works, but that He is a man and claims to be God.

Of course, this would have been the most blasphemous thing Jesus could be saying to them, yet it was the truth. Jesus exposes their false traditions by using the scriptures to defend His claim that not only Jesus, but all of us are gods. Then He goes on to explain that His works show He is the Son of God and therefore God. This time they had thought better of the murder, as many people were believing more in Jesus as time went on, and instead sought to arrest Him for the fourth time.

Jesus, again, slips out of town and this time He heads back to cross the River Jordan, where He began His ministry. Many people believed on Him after these events in His last fall and winter on earth. The Jews were losing the trust and confidence of the people and this was worrisome for them. In the next few weeks we will read the fall and winter accounts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We will get some more information from them, and many other parables during Jesus return to Jerusalem.

In what ways has living the teachings of Jesus Christ made your life better? In what ways has it presented challenges? Do you think those challenges are for your long-term benefit? Why?

How can we make Jesus our living water? What does that mean to us? Is it the same as Him being the light of the world? What are the differences between light and water in our lives? In what ways can Jesus affect our lives as light and water spiritually?

Why do you think Jesus was so overtly combative with the leaders of the Jews? Do you think He was influencing them to arrest and kill Him?

Are there times when you feel like your sins or weaknesses make you worse than other believers? Do you feel others are below you when they commit sins you find revolting? What does Jesus interaction with the woman who was caught in adultery tell us about our sins and those of other people?

Key Moment or Scripture: John 8:3-11 NIV
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 
and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 
In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I want to point out a few things about this famous story. It might be one of the most famous stories in Jesus’s ministry.

1. Jesus treats the woman and the accusers as equal, their sins being equal, and their status with Him being equal.

2. God and Jesus never condemn us, but they do ask us to repent. Condemnation is typically our own doing or the doing of others.

3. The feeling we all get when enforcing a law or rule is typically not a righteous feeling. Mercy and Compassion despite the terribleness of sin is the righteous feeling. The first is accompanied by enmity, the second by love and reconciliation.

I think we do ourselves, those around us, and especially children and teenagers a disservice when we hide our sins and point out other people’s sins including theirs. It creates a relationship that is not conducive to love, repentance, grace, or mercy. The law of justice can handle justice on its own, I think we should stick to the forgiveness, mercy, and grace side of things.

Final Thoughts:
This week and next the next two weeks are the final public teachings of the Savior. I think it is good to try and put ourselves in the shoes of His disciples as they could feel the pressure on them, they had heard Jesus talk of His death. They must have been worried, afraid, and even doubtful as to Him truly being the Messiah. I think it is easy to discount the power of fear and doubt even when compared to the miracles, signs, and love that we can feel from the Lord. I am sure for them, and for us, remembering the beauty that comes from Christ’s teachings and goodness can help brighten the feelings of faith and hope. I hope that the study of these chapters helps us feel those feelings as we deal with all that comes with our own lives.