The people were arguing over whether Jesus was the Messiah, the Prophet or a crazy man. His teaching was so authoritative and profound that many believed He had to be from God, and many thought He must be the Christ. But some, especially the Pharisees said Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah. The Pharisees tried to sway the crowd against Jesus by reminding them of bits and pieces of the scriptures that fit their opinion. But it wasn’t working. The people liked Jesus and they liked what He had to teach, even if they were unsure of who He was.
The Pharisees were determined to arrest Jesus and stop Him from teaching and stirring up the people. But the officers whom the Pharisees sent to arrest Jesus returned empty handed with the excuse that Jesus’ words had been like nothing they’d ever heard before. This only made the Pharisees angrier and more determined to kill Jesus. One Pharisee among the many spoke up. Nicodemus who had gone to Jesus previously was still a Pharisee but he had not made up his mind against Him said, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” The others just rolled their eyes at Nicodemus and said “Read the scriptures and see for yourself, no prophet comes from Galilee!”
But Nicodemus words and the officers failure to arrest Jesus was enough. Each of them went to their homes.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and early in the morning went to the temple. When He arrived, the people eagerly gathered around Him to be taught. The Pharisees were not too happy and decided they would prove to the people that Jesus was a fraud. They brought a woman caught in the act of adultery and said, “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?” (Ch. 8 v 4-5).
They knew the law backward and forward. They conveniently left the man out of it. They didn’t want Jesus opinion, they wanted to prove to people that Jesus was a charlatan. He preached love and forgiveness and so if He said, ‘yes the law says she is to be stoned’ then His preaching and teaching would be proved worthless and He would be shown as a hypocrite. If He said, ‘no, let her go’ then He would be proved to not care about God’s law. Either way, they would be able to bring charges against Him and arrest Him.
But Jesus didn’t answer them. Instead He bent down and started writing in the ground with His finger. The scribes and Pharisees kept asking. We do not know what Jesus was writing. I like to imagine He wrote Leviticus 20:10 which says that both the man and woman are to be put to death. And that then He then wrote laws that the Pharisees and scribes themselves had broken that morning. We don’t know. Whatever He wrote, I doubt it was His grocery list. Chapter 8 verses 7-8 read,
“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.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.”
One by one, beginning with the oldest, the people, the scribes, and the Pharisees left. No one said anything. Whatever Jesus wrote along with His question convicted them to know they couldn’t be the one to throw the first stone. They were sinners just like the woman. If she deserved death, so did they. Soon it was only Jesus and the woman. Verses 10-11 read,
“Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
The scene I envision, is one of such deep love and gratitude. Jesus gave the woman new life. The Pharisees used her as a pawn and didn’t care about her life at all. But Jesus demonstrated His love and His authority over the law by directing truth into the situation and letting each person be convicted by it.
The Pharisees were so caught up in trying to disprove Jesus as Christ and arrest and kill Him that they let their pride cloud what they actually knew about the law and scriptures. Their conceit wouldn’t let them see the truth of Christ. They looked down at the people who could believe. Knowing the law and the scriptures the way they did should have revealed the truth to them, but instead it made them arrogant and blinded them. It was the people they accused of being deceived without formal education who were able to realize that Jesus was the Christ.
It was people like the woman caught in adultery who experienced the truth in an intense and overwhelming manner. The law condemned her. Jesus didn’t. The law would have killed her. Jesus gave her new life.
Do you have pride clouding your vision? Are you depending on the law to save you? Are you leaving anything out of the law? Are you picking and choosing which scriptures meet your needs and forgetting the ones that tell you that you are hopeless without Jesus?
The law can’t save you. It can only condemn you. Jesus can save you. The law requires you to pay for your sins with your life. Jesus wants to let His life pay for your sins and give you a new life as a new creation.