Thursday, March 15, 2012

John 8:1-11

Isn’t it amazing how we love to point out the sins of others? We almost take delight in their failings. Witness the obsession the public has with figures like Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen. We all love a train wreck when we’re not in it! This begins at a very early age! Having taught first grade years ago, I can tell you there is nothing children love more than to tattle on another! Why are we like this? I believe it’s because we want to take attention away from our own faults. If we can keep people distracted by the sins of others, maybe they won’t see ours! In today’s passage we witness men eager to pounce on a woman caught in adultery.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8:1-6a)

After preaching to the crowd at the temple the day before, Jesus sought some quiet time on the Mount of Olives. But he returned the next day to teach once again. The religious leaders show up dragging a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery with them, hoping to trap Jesus. They bring up the Law of Moses which required that BOTH the man and the woman caught in adultery must be put to death (Lev. 20:10). So where was the man? If she was caught in the act, he had to have been there, too!
They wanted Jesus to decide her fate, knowing that if He agreed she must be killed, all those He came to save, those He hung out with, the prostitutes, tax collectors, etc., would probably be afraid to be around Him. If He brushed it off, He would be denying the Law. Only Jesus could have been wise enough to silence them without a word:

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (vs. 6b-9)

I love that John doesn’t tell us what it was that Jesus was writing on the ground. If, as most speculate, He was writing down in the dirt the many sins that those accusing the woman had committed, it reminds me that while He wants us to confess our sins and be cleansed, He doesn’t desire to make a public spectacle of us and have us wear scarlet letters on our chests announcing our sins. Whatever He wrote, it was enough to stop the hypocritical outrage of these religious leaders and send them home to contemplate their motives. And after they had left, one by one, the woman remained with Jesus.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (vs. 10-11)

I love the quietness that is in this ending. You can imagine the noisy scene as they initially brought her out of that bed (most likely screaming), dragged her through the streets to the temple, and shouted accusations as they brought her before Jesus. Jesus brought calm and peace to the situation. He did not resort to yelling at them because of their obvious hypocrisy. He calmed everyone down by His own demeanor and was able to allow the woman some dignity. In fact, Jon Courson points out that when He called her woman in verse 10, it was the same term He used later for His mother when she was at the foot of the cross. Rather than condemning her, He exhorts her, “Go and sin no more.” (KJV)

Doesn’t this just make you adore our Savior even more? There is such a sweetness here! Jesus’ point here is just like the point He made in Matthew 7:3-5, where He reminds us that, before we try to point out the tiny speck in someone else’s eye, we need to first remove the log from our own! Our response to someone else’s fall should be one of compassion, one that compels us to pray for the redemption of that person. We have all been there - on a daily basis! How grateful I am for a Savior who died to silence the accusers in my life!


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