Bible Reading: John 8:2-20
As part of our Sermon Series, The 'I AM' Sayings of the Jesus Christ, we'll be looking Jesus statement 'I AM' the Light of the World. This occurs right after Jesus forgives the adulterous woman from death by stoning, saying “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn. 8:7) In this way, Jesus is the Light of the World - who else would have stood up for a convicted woman in that day and age? Jesus examplified what God wants us to be, faithful to Him but also advocates for justice and His love for humanity.
Now, we've established what occurs in this passage, but did you know this passage (Jn. 7:53-8:11) is a controversial one in the Christian world? This passage is controversial because this story does not appear in the earliest manuscripts of John! This is a difficult one for some Christians to understand, questions like ‘is it authentic?’ or ‘was this just made up?’ come to mind.
The truth is that the Gospels were composed in a very different time to today. In the Ancient world, things were written on fragile manuscripts and had to have much care and consideration taken for them to survive. In fact, in some cases the ‘proof text’ was not text at all, but an ‘oral record’ which kept the narrative in living memory and held the standard by which recorded copies (written down) were tested. i.e. if Cornelius in Rome who knew the story really well from hearing it all his life; approved of the written copy, only then would it be distributed. This is very true of the Gospel accounts – there was an oral tradition that is attributed to John the Evangelist, a disciple of Jesus Christ.
It was probably a reflection of his sermons and anecdotes, which he shared during his many travels in the Ancient world. Certainly the beginning chapter of John sounds like a sermon – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” (Jn. 1:1) Unfortunately John is not around to tell us if Jn. 7:53-8:11 was in his original draft… but we do know that there are many elements about this story that echo other aspects of John’s depiction of Christ in his Gospel.
So rest assured good reader, you have not had the wool over your eyes and the Light of the World has not been snuffed out! Rather, let us rely on Christ's Light to illuminate our way in those times of uncertainty. Just because some theologians and pastors are debating the relevance of this passage's existence in earlier manuscripts does not mean it cannot speak to us today! Jesus’ comment ‘I am the Light of the World…’ is very true of John and very much in keeping with John’s narrative of Christ.
We do not know why this section is not found in earlier manuscripts – its possible these were a draft that John had not corrected but were so popular that many copies were made. It is also possible that John might have forgotten to include this but decided to include it in a later edition – whatever the reason, the Spirit has clearly spoken through this passage many times and in many ways – sermons, songs, Christian literature… even the odd blog! So let us not be dismayed, instead we should focus on the Spirit at work through these words. #seekthelight