Summary: Jesus reveals that He is the Light of the World and that He came to save sinners and not to judge them. This is made plain when the promised Messiah suffers on the cross and anyone who believes on Him is saved!
Jesus was teaching in the temple when He was interrupted by some of the scribes and Pharisees; they had found a woman in adultery and wanted to know whether He would obey Moses and stone her or disobey and be the friend of sinners. But Jesus didn’t fall for the trap and instead only said, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” When they realized their hypocrisy they all left until only He and the woman stood before the temple crowd. Since there was no one left to accuse her, then “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The woman leaves and Jesus is left standing before the rest of the temple audience:
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
In verse 20 we’re told that Jesus was standing in the treasury when He said this. This area was in plain sight of four lampstands that stood 86 feet tall. You can picture Jesus pointing at one of these as He speaks.
This isn’t the first time “light” has been mentioned in John. Earlier it was said that “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (Jn. 1:4-5). It also said, “that was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn. 1:9). A little later we’re told, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).
So on one hand we see that the Light is hated by wicked men because it shines on their evil deeds and exposes them for what they are. This was the case with the woman’s accusers. He shined on them and they were convicted. But rather than showing the repentance that comes with godly sorrow, they went home to plan another way to kill Him; they want to extinguish the Light.
But there’s another side to the Light that’s shown in how Christ deals with the woman.
First there’s “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness.” This goes with “go and sin no more.” She’s seen the Light and will no longer walk in darkness.
“He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” (Jn. 12:35).
“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Mt. 15:14).
“The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Pr. 6:23).
To heed His instruction is to follow the way of life. The wicked can never find their way because they are blind and hate the light. But the sons of God who are sent into the world are lighted that they may see and know. We who follow Him walk not in darkness.
Second, he that follows “shall have the light of life” which goes with “neither do I condemn you.” This Light is the Light of life. In her case, she will not be stoned today! But in the broader sense, none of us are condemned because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1)!
But the Pharisees don’t believe Him:
13The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.
The Pharisees were legalists and so they applied the Law: “You can’t just say you’re the Light of the world; you have to have a witness or it’s not true.” But it’s sort of a stretch on their part because this wasn’t a court proceeding. But it’s even worse because it’s false: John was a witness, the Father testified at the baptism, and the miracles were evidence to support His claims. There were a whole lot of other people who believed and also testified that this was indeed the Christ.
14Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
It doesn’t matter if they say He’s lying because they don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s come from heaven and He’s going back there. He knows this but they don’t:
15Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
They wanted to see this woman executed for her sin and they condemn Christ because He didn’t join them. But they don’t understand true judgment and they don’t understand His purpose. He didn’t come to judge the world (that time is coming), but for now He’s here to save. And so when they bring her and they want to throw stones He shows grace because He is the Light of the world and the Light for this woman. He has given her life though she deserved death.