Free to go but not to sin- 5th Week of Lent- Monday- John 8: 1-11
This seems like a set up from the word go.Jesus has returned to the temple after spending the night at the Mount of Olives and now settles down to teach. They bring to Him a woman who had been caught in adultery and parade her in front of everyone.
Common sense would wonder how come they ‘caught her in the act of adultery?’ Surely her sin could not have been committed in full view of every one. This is no act that one commits in a public place, which begs the question, ‘where is the man?’ There is no such thing as adultery where only one party is guilty. Yet only she is brought before Jesus, ‘caught’ as it were, in the act.
The Pharisees seem to have found company in their attack against Jesus. They are joined by the scribes. These men are mentioned 58 times in the gospel, usually in opposition to Jesus. The scribes were not a religious group, but simply secretaries who copied and kept records. At the time of Jesus, they were called to assist the Jewish religious readers by reading and explaining the Jewish scriptures.
They now join hands with the Pharisees to ‘trap Jesus’ (Verse 6). We are told from scripture that their line of questioning was relentless (verse 7) and their case hinged on the Law of Moses who according to them ‘commanded them to stone such a woman.’ So what law are they referring to?
The law said, “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die” (Deuteronomy 22:22; Leviticus 20:10). So for starters, where is the man? And if they were ‘commanded to stone’ her, why are they here, asking for Jesus opinion? Why not follow the command of the law? The answer lies in the prohibitions set by the Romans.
It was the Romans that had deprived the Jews of the right to carry out the death penalty in cases where Jewish Law required it. And so the trap becomes clear, shedding a shadow of similarity to another question asked to Jesus, ‘should we pay taxes’.
If Jesus should permit such a one sided condemnation of an adulterous woman based on the Law of Moses, then the Pharisees would have tattled against Him to the Romans. If Jesus ruled in favour of mercy for the woman, which He was most likely disposed to, then He would be presented as a ‘destroyer of their laws and traditions’.
Jesus writes on the ground. This is one mystery to which no scripture scholar has an answer; why did He write and what did He write? His answer is pastoral, “let him without sin, cast the first stone.” Is Jesus saying that only a sinless one could cast a stone? (in which case He could).
The Jerome Biblical Commentary explains this line.To their question based on Mosaic Law, Jesus responds to the Pharisees and scribes with another Mosaic Law, namely Deuteronomy 17:7. It acknowledged that those who are witnesses against an accused person, have special responsibility for that person’s death. In short, Jesus was asking them, ‘is this a real case or a fictitious one’; for the death of this woman would not be on His hands but on them and their false witness.
I love the way the narrative ends. ‘They walk away, one by one, beginning with the elders’. It must have been a long walk of shame. It’s like they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar on the Sabbath.
Now we have the moment of truth. Jesus, the sinless one, could have now picked up a stone and flung it; but rather picks His words, carefully. There is no permission given to sin anymore but there is no condemnation either. You’re free to go but not to sin!
Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit
References from the Jerome Biblical Commentary.
The Little Black Book
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