Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

The woman caught in the act of adultery

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Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” {John 8:2-11 ESV}

It’s a familiar story for anyone who has become familiar with the gospels. A mere 9 verses, yet there is so much to be gleaned from it.

That the narrative states that the scribes and Pharisees hoped to trip Jesus up with this matter has led some to speculate as to whether the woman was entrapped. We aren’t told that, but it’s a minor discussion point. Perhaps they caught her in the act and drug her to the Temple with the intent to carry out what the law prescribed, not expecting Jesus to be there. Who knows? More likely is that either they planned it or they grabbed her up, after catching her in the act of that sin, and took her to the Temple when they knew Jesus was there.

What do the scribes and Pharisees hope to gain by this? They are intimately familiar with the law of Moses, so why ask Jesus what He thinks about the matter? I would guess that they expected one of two answers, both of which would give them ammunition against Him.

If Jesus said that the law was clear and that the woman should be stoned this would serve two purposes for the scribes and Pharisees. First, it would outwardly contradict the message He’d been spreading. Not once do we find Jesus preaching that harsh penalties for sin should be carried out. His is a ministry that expounds the ways of God, and that teaches repentance and fellowship with the Father. Also, if Jesus stated that the law must be followed He would be subjecting Himself and His ministry under the law. Bear in mind that the scribes and Pharisees were the overseers and translators of the law, so Jesus would therefore be under them in authority.

If, however, Jesus said to let her go, or were to tell the woman her sins were forgiven (something He’s done in the presence of the religious rulers elsewhere) they would have Him on two counts. The first would be as a violator of the law, for failing to uphold the required punishment for adultery. The second, and greater offense, would be of blasphemy, for claiming to be God (only God can forgive sins).

The greatest fault–nay, sin–of the scribes and Pharisees was that their hearts were so hardened that they were incapable of seeing Jesus for who He was. He had made claims to deity before, and they recognized them when they happened. But their hearts were so hard they could not pause to reflect upon whether such claims were legitimate or not. In the next chapter of John a man who was born blind is given his sight by Jesus. When testifying as to the events before the religious leaders the man even points out that such a miracle has never been heard of before, and yet those hard-hearted men fail to ponder such a thing. They see Jesus as nothing more than a threat to their positions of importance; a nuisance who must be done away with. How sad for them.

Not recognizing Jesus as God the Son they foolishly engage in a battle of wits. They have no hope of winning. When pressed to answer whether the law should be followed and the woman stoned to death Jesus answers them brilliantly: He tells the crowd that whoever is without sin can hurl a stone at her. None of them do, and they all depart, even the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus’ remark has convicted them of their sins and taught a lesson in humility. He has also taught a lesson in legalism, though who knows how many then, or now, grasp it.

When Jesus looks up every one is gone, save for Him and the woman. It is worth noting that the woman never denied the charge, or tried to make excuses for it. In fact, she only is mentioned as speaking once. When Jesus questions where everyone has gone and asks the woman if anyone remains to accuse her of her sin she answers, “No one, Lord.” It is here the marvelous occurs! Rather than punishing her for her sin, or berating her for it, Jesus exhibits grace. He tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Some may ask, “But the law required she be put to death, and Jesus said He had not come to change the law.” It’s a fair question, if asked without a hardened heart. Yes, Jesus said that, and added that He would not change one jot or tittle of the law, but He also said He had come to fulfill the law. So what is the fulfillment of the law? Grace! The law showed us God’s absolute justness and righteousness. It showed us the black and white way in which God views sin. But, and Paul points this out in Galatians, the law was meant to steer us to Christ. You see, the law was harsh and rigid, but Jesus was the personification of grace. The law identified sin, but Jesus completed it by showing that grace was where the law was meant to lead believers to. We see how ugly sin is, and the penalty for it, but we also see that Jesus stepped in and paid that penalty. The end result is that I recognize the horrors of sin and want no part in it, and I know that my sins are paid for by Jesus Christ. Amazing! Incredible! Awesome! Our words do not even begin to approach how wonderful this is!!

Imagine that one of my sons committed an act worthy of the death penalty. I tell my son that I forgive him, but more than that…I tell him I will accept the death penalty in his stead. This is essentially what God did, and He did it for us. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

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Written by Shawn

March 13, 2010 at 6:15 am

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