John 8:12-20 Who’s on Trial?

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Who’s on Trial?

Much of the book of John reads like a legal case, but it is a little confusing who is on trial.  For example, in this passage it looks like Jesus is on trial and in his defence he lacks authority because he doesn’t have two witnesses.  However, as the light of the world, he brings judgement on the darkness.  In particular he is bringing judgement on the nation of Israel (who are called to be God’s light) and on its leaders.  The leaders’ defence is to state that Jesus has no right to accuse them because he doesn’t have the legal number of witnesses to make his case.  He replies that his witness and the witness of his father, God, fulfill the legal requirements in the Bible to condemn an individual.

God is making his case today, too.  He has provided the Bible as a standard to show us how we don’t measure up to his original design for the world.  We can think that’s no big deal or we can see that God has plans for us.  To accept God’s mercy and grace we have to stop our legal defence.  We have to admit that there is nothing we can do except to be saved by God.  We contribute nothing to our own salvation.

Are you able to surrender and admit that the case Jesus makes against us and our world is true.  Can you accept the verdict that we are naturally lost in darkness?  Will you come from darkness to light?


Let us surrender and accept the verdict about our heart of darkness.  Let us crucify the old man and take on the new life of light and peace that you have bought for us.


  1. What does Jesus claim to be?
  2. How does this claim lead to a judicial process?
  3. What is the motive for the Jewish leaders to defend themselves?
  4. How is this world darkened?
  5. If God still sits as judge over this world and its people, what is his pronouncement?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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21 Responses to John 8:12-20 Who’s on Trial?

  1. Lacy says:

    1. He claims to be the light of the world.
    2. He is making the claim that, as such, he has come to judge the world. The Pharisees say that he needs at least two witnesses to make a judgment.
    3. They want to disprove Jesus’ credibility and thus his right to make claims and judgments on their lives.
    4. It has rejected God and is willfully heading towards destruction.
    5. Only those who are in Christ are spared judgment.

  2. Jenna says:

    1. Jesus claims to be the light of the world that exposes darkness.
    2. The Pharisees don’t believe, and they accuse Him of bearing false witness about Himself, since He is only one witness.
    3. They are wanted to discredit Jesus.
    4. We, in our sin, want to reject God and His work in our lives. We want to be like Him in our independence and self-sufficiency.
    5. We are completely dead in our sins apart from Christ!

  3. Rachel says:

    When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the light of the world, he was proclaiming himself as Messiah! No wonder this led to such a strong judicial reaction! The Jewish leaders were used to false messiahs rising up and claiming power, then falling along with their following. However, their eyes were not able to see Jesus for who he really is. It is not only the Jewish leaders’ eyes that have been darkened, there is a shroud of sin covering the truth of the gospel. God judges righteously. I struggle to understand what this means because I am full of conviction and guilt over my sin. I want to be punished and I want others to be punished. At the same time, though, I long for mercy. It is hard for me to imagine anything but Noah’s ark all over again if God were to judge the world today.

  4. Sara Cavitt says:

    1) Jesus claims to be the light of the world.
    2) The Pharisees did not think that Jesus’ testimony was true, so they had many questions for Him.
    3) They did not want to listen to Jesus’ judgment on their lives.
    4) The people in our world are like the Pharisees in that they want to go their own way and reject Christ.
    5) God is the judge over our world, so those who are believers will be given new and eternal life with Him, but for those who reject Him, they will spend eternity separated from Him.

  5. Janice Lee says:

    1. Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the Messiah.
    2. The Pharisees do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
    3. They refuse to accept Jesus’ testimony out of pride.
    4. The world is darkened by sin.
    5. His pronouncement is that the world and its people are condemned to His wrath. He, however, pronounces those who believe in Jesus to be righteous.

  6. Ed says:

    We get to see what happened from a far so we can work at trying to get it right. I have the rest of my life to get as much as I can right, make it count time is short. I don’t beat myself up as much about my hopefully depleting sins because I’m working for God through Christ. I like the questions answered as well as an open dialog, best of both worlds for me.

    Thanks All.

  7. karas says:

    it’s kind of funny that these human Pharisees were accusing Jesus of not having authority or testimony. We are very bold at times. God is definitely judge and that should give us reason to fear and respect Him. I become very uncomfortable when a TV show or something mocks God, just because it is not a laughing matter. We will all stand before Him and give an account for every careless word, every action, even motives. That is a weighty thought.

  8. zacbodine says:

    It is super cool having Systematic Theology with Clark as I read this passage because we are covering the Trinity. This passage is amazing as it points out the triune relationship of the Messiah. I love too how Jesus himself testifies who he is multiple times. He gives us no room to call him by anything that we want to call him. We can only say what he is which is the light of the world, Son of God, the True and only way.

  9. Ashley says:

    1. Jesus claims to be the light of the world!
    2. The Pharisees argued that Jesus couldn’t be trusted since he was talking about himself and not bearing witness to someone else.
    3. The Jewish leaders must defend themselves, for if Jesus is God and the light, then they walk in darkness and blindness, unable to see God as he truly is.

    This world is darkened by the sin that weighs on our shoulders. Our vision is clouded by pain, tragedy, deceit, and selfishness. We are sinners, groping about in the darkness, unable to grasp the light until it reaches out to us.

  10. Beth Coale says:

    1. The light of the world, the Son of God
    2. because His Father is God, and because He is the light that reveals all things, He can judge things correctly
    3. well, they think they have an easy defense because they have only one accuser
    4. we can’t see or think clearly because we don’t see the whole picture, we don’t want to see what we don’t what to see (like being wrong)
    5. it’s condemned, the possibility for forgiveness has been opened but the need for it has to be acknowledged and humbly received

  11. Mary says:

    Didn’t we just have this conversation? It seems like Jesus and the Pharisees keep going around in circles about the same thing: Jesus’ authority to speak and to judge, Jesus calling God his father, and Jesus saying that they do not him or God. When are they going to get it?

    Jesus says that he is the light of the world; he “came into the world as light, so that whoever believes in him may not remain in darkness.” Likewise, we are called to let Him shine through us in the world (Mt. 5:13-16). As I reflect on the loss of a brother in Christ this week who dedicated his life to sharing the gospel in Guinea, I am encouraged by his faithfulness and also reminded of the darkness we live in. Where we are faithfully shining our light before others, Satan is hard at work trying to foil our plans. But God is sovereign and just, and nothing is outside of His control.

    I did not know this brother, Moise, but if you would like to read his story and be blessed by the way God reveals himself in the darkness, here is his story:

  12. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    1. What does Jesus claim to be?
    The light of the world
    2. How does this claim lead to a judicial process?
    The Pharisees get on his case because he is making claims about himself.
    3. What is the motive for the Jewish leaders to defend themselves?
    They see themselves as the ultimate religious authority of Israel and so must defend themselves as such.
    4. How is this world darkened?
    This world does not know the True Light, they stay in the darkness of sin, life without God.
    5. If God still sits as judge over this world and its people, what is his pronouncement?
    He would condemn us all apart from His Son Jesus Christ.

  13. Dylan says:

    1. Jesus claims to be the light of the world.
    2. Jewish leaders claimed Jesus was bearing false witness, speaking of himself.
    3. Jesus is the light, but the Jewish leaders loved the darkness more than the light.
    4. This world is darkened by the sinful nature of human hearts and the works of Satan and his legions.
    5. God is calling the world back to him, through Jesus, so that they might be spared from the final judgement.

  14. Kathleen says:

    Jesus claims to be the light of the world. The Pharisees accuse him of bearing witness to himself. The Pharisees did not want Jesus talking about what they believe. They see themselves as having high authority. The world is darkened by sin. Sin deserves death. That is why Jesus came: to die for us so that we may be made right with God.

  15. Amy McCashen says:

    1. Jesus claims to be the Light of the World and the Son of God.
    2. The Pharisees accuse him of bearing witness about Himself.
    3. They are the spiritual leaders of Israel. They think they have authority from God.
    4. This world is darkened by the stain of sin. Every single person on the planet darkens the world by their sin.
    5. Guilty. We are all guilty of sin. HOWEVER, Jesus came to restore that relationship with God.

  16. Bethany says:

    3) They think of themselves higher than everyone else because they are the spiritual leaders.
    4) This world is so dark because it is rejecting God. Everyone is a sinner, therefore we have such a strong tendency to react out of sin and hurt the people around us. Also, the world is becoming incredibly individualistic which rejects building each other up and being selfless.

  17. Elizabeth Nova says:

    What does Jesus claim to be? – Jesus is claiming to be the light of the world, who is to shed light on the darkness (sinfulness and evil) of the world.

    What is the motive for the Jewish leaders to defend themselves?
    They are in darkness, blinded by their sinfulness and unable to see the Truth – that Jesus Christ is God and savior, able to reconcile man into relationship with the Father through and in Himself. For this reason, their motives are
    How is this world darkened? -When Sin entered the world, man was separated from God – from having an intimate relationship with the Father. For this reason, society naturally repels God. In its sinfulness, man is blinded – in the dark – unable to recognize the Father as Creator and Lord. Man is essentially enemy with God, and this evil that rules the Jewish leaders is the motive for their self-defense.

    If God still sits as judge over this world and its people, what is his pronouncement?
    God is at the right to rule according to justice. This means that this world in its entirety deserves His wrath – we all deserve eternal death and punishment for our sinful nature and the evil that is in us. But God in His graciousness and loving mercy sent Himself – The Son – as a living sacrifice to enter the dark world, to shed light that gives life, to provide for man reconciliation to the Father to once again be able to come to the Father and be in relationship with Him and to save us from eternal damnation which we so strongly deserve.

  18. Austin Brose says:

    Jesus claims to be the light of the World and the son of God. This claim leads to a judicial process because in order to make a claim, one needs a witness to back them up, which Jesus claims he is his own witness. The Jewish leaders wanted him to have a testimony and facts to back them up. The motive for the Jewish leaders to defend themselves is to protect and defend themselves because Jesus threatens their power. The World is darkened by those who want control, control over their own lives and not have anyone threaten that. This selfish conceited mindset is what is wrong with the world. God’s pronouncement is that He is ruler, He is above everyone and rules all. If someone does not follow Him, then they are destined to an eternity of darkness.

  19. nataliaria says:

    As He continues to teach the people, Jesus claims to be the light of the world, a title that John ascribed to Him in the opening verses of this book. The Pharisees who are listening to Him declare that this claim does not hold up legally, because He it attesting to Himself, or serving as His own witness.

    The Jewish leaders defend themselves by asking Jesus where His Father is. This is a direct challenge for Jesus to produce His Father, and therefore prove His claim. I also like to think that this harkens back to Jesus’ mention of God as His Father.

    I believe that this world is darkened when humans, who are image bearers of Christ, made uniquely by God, choose to degrade and devalue themselves and others, and to turn their backs on God and His will. When this happens, we make decisions based on fulfilling our immediate desires, and drag those around us into the darkness of our individual pursuit of happiness or satisfaction.

    We talked about the wrath of God in Romans class, where it was asserted that the wrath of God can be seen in the sicknesses, deaths, wars, and other evidences of sin that plague our world. I am unsure if this would have been my answer before that class discussion, and I am little dubious even now, but I do not have a better answer, either.

  20. Nick says:

    Jesus claims to be light of the world. The Pharisees believed that Jesus was bearing a false witness about himself. They want to discredit Jesus’ testimony and therefore prove themselves as authority over him. Sin has darkened the world in that it has and continues to separate ourselves from God.

  21. Rebekah Thompson (Bekah) says:

    1. The light of the World
    2. The religious leaders object to Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah
    3. Their own selfish pride
    4. By sin and those who try to make their sin okay until they finally believe that what they are doing is not sin but a way of life and just a typical thing that everyone does…or even go so far as to say it is right and anyone who doesn’t believe it is right is wrong.
    5. He does still and always will. Those who are not saved; death

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