Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
John chapter 8 opens with the story of the woman caught in adultery. It goes like this: The Pharisees and teachers of the law brought a woman to Jesus and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses commands us to stone such women. What’s your take on this?”
Clearly, the Pharisees had invented the mother of all technical questions to stump Jesus. And in a stroke of genius, they had a guilty woman available for immediate stoning. “Since you teach Moses’ law,” they said to Jesus, “will you obey the law by endorsing capital punishment for this woman? Or are you just playing at teaching scripture, and you wimp out at tough judgments like this?”
When people like the Pharisees and Jesus set out to interpret scripture, I find it helpful to know what they are willing to sacrifice in support their position. The Pharisees, to prove that Jesus was not a credible teacher of the law, were prepared to sacrifice a woman, exposing her to shame and public humiliation and possibly even capital punishment. But their approach ignored relationship and compassion, which are also in the law.
In contrast, Jesus wasn’t prepared to sacrifice the woman. We don’t find out until later in the Gospel of John what he was prepared to sacrifice.
In the end, Pharisees weren’t prepared to sacrifice the woman’s life either. After demolishing her dignity and reputation, they walked away without throwing stones.
Because Jesus turned their argument on its head saying, “Let one who is without sin throw the first stone.” Jesus confronted them with the same problem they had put to him, namely, “Do you take Moses’ law literally enough to implement the death penalty right here?” One by one they drifted away. Perhaps because they understood their own failures . .. perhaps because they knew the law provided mercy as well as judgment . . . perhaps Jesus’ convinced them it was unwise to execute uncompromising judgment on the woman when they themselves needed all the mercy the law could give them.
When they were gone, Jesus said to the woman, “Does no one condemn you?” She answered, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus, how often we sacrifice others on the altar of our own righteousness. How quick we are to argue our interpretation of scripture. How quick we are to judge the wrong we see in others and in their view of scripture.
Jesus, help us to turn the technical questions on their head. Whether we are right or wrong, teach us not to use scripture as a tool to win arguments or throw stones at sinners. Teach us to use the scriptures as a tool to expose our own narrowness, to expose us as just another sinner in a world full of them, to expose us to God’s judgment and mercy.
Jesus, when we act like Pharisees, help us see the weakness of our arguments, and to walk quietly away from the traps we set for ourselves and others. And when we are caught in sin like the woman, help us to receive your words, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.”
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.