My son has reached the age where he has been taught the classic, "Stop, Drop and Roll" technique for addressing being on fire. This is a good thing. If my son ever finds himself in a situation where his pants have begun to burn and smolder, it will be very beneficial for him to know what to do. Not to mention it is fun to watch him demonstrate his SDaR technique in our living room.
Valuable as it may be, SDaR misses a very important point that ultimately is much more vital to my sons survival. Practically speaking, the likelihood of my five year old spontaneously catching fire while playing on the swing set is highly unlikely. What is much more probable is that while we are sleeping there is an electrical fire that starts somewhere in our house. With our house ablaze my son may very well find some sort of fire on his clothes. And if that is to occur....he has to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!!!
If you were to find yourself in a burning house all the SDaR in the world will not save you if you do not first get out of the source of the fire. No matter how effectively and rapidly you roll back and forth on the floor you will eventually burn up. Get away from the fire, and THEN deal with your smoldering pants. To reverse that vital process is the height of absurdity.
In the Gospel of John the ministry of Jesus really gets going when he comes to the Festival of the Booths and calls out all the hyper religious people for being great rule followers who are still destined for destruction. The Jewish religious establishment prided itself on doing all the right things the right way, but Jesus tells them it is all for naught. Their behavior is not going to stave off destruction.
Clearly he was a popular fellow......
Behaving morally, ethically, kindly, etc, are all nice and commendable things. My preference is to have neighbors who do NOT rob me in the middle of the night and set my house on fire. The reasons that they do not behave in such a manner are, in some ways, immaterial to me. If my neighbor believes he is being monitored by aliens who will shoot him with space lasers if he mistreats me, the end, self-centered result is that my day to day life is more pleasant because I have a neighbor who acts appropriately.
Good behavior is our Stop Drop and Roll. In a vacuum it is a good thing to know and put into practice. But what if we are ultimately in the middle of a blazing inferno?
In John 8 Jesus is beginning to get to the crux of his argument. That these moral and good behaving people cannot follow Jesus and are going to die in their sins(verse 21). To understand the context of what Jesus is saying we must recognize the context of the environment that Jesus is stating this. Everything about this Festival is in proclaiming how righteous and good they all are because of how they follow all the rules. Their self-styled "goodness" is based on the belief that following the clearly laid out rules justifies themselves in the eyes of God. They treat religious law as a sort of road map that guarantees that they will arrive at their desired destination.
With that sort of imagery in mind Jesus says, "You cannot follow where I am going". Which means, "There is no human road map that you can control and manipulate that will save you". What will save them? Believe in the Son of Man who will be raised up(verse 28). Through the finished work of Christ on the cross(the raised up Son of Man) we can be saved from death. There is no other way.
If you are sit in a burning house your inevitable life trajectory is destruction. Before you do anything else, get out! The natural state of our lives is death. No matter what good we do, what rules we adhere to, what ethically justifiable behaviors we practice, we are headed to a fire.
Does this mean that "good" behavior is pointless? Of course not. Even if you get out of the burning house you still have to deal with the embers before they cause you damage. But if you reverse the process of salvation first, THEN regeneration(Holy("good") lives), you aren't doing anything at all. Rolling around on the ground won't get you out of the house. Getting out of the house makes the rolling around effective.
You will never be good enough to get out of the fire.