The Light of Forgiveness

A woman was caught in the “very act” of adultery and brought to Jesus. She was thrown at His feet right there in the Temple, in the house of mercy.

A number in the mob there had started to gather stones to throw at her. Tragically, as we read through the pages of human history, there are accounts that indicate a strange and evil curiosity tied to public demonstrations of judgment, especially ones that involve execution. Crowds gathered for these bizarre spectacles, and if we read the passage from John 8 carefully, Jesus tells us why.

What had been a regular morning of ministry for the Christ was roughly interrupted. He had come early to the Temple from the Mount of Olives, which was one of His usual places of prayer.

A crowd soon gathered around Him, and so He sat and taught.

It was then that the scribes and Pharisees showed up with their catch. Using this woman, these religious leaders had an object lesson that they used to confront Jesus. They trumpeted the Law of Moses:  “Such women are commanded to be stoned, but what do You say about it?” (see John 8:5).

There was an ulterior motive at work here. Should Jesus sanction this stoning, He would have set Himself as an enemy of the Roman imperial authorities who governed the region. The Jewish community in Judea and its environs were permitted some measure of self-management through the Sanhedrin, a council of leaders who advised the governors.

Capital punishment was not part of this council’s purview. Only Rome could administer this brand of justice. This reality served to set the stage for the Crucifixion of Christ by the decree of Pontius Pilate, who governed Jerusalem.

Scribbling in the Dust

“What do You say about it?”

They pressed Jesus as He lowered Himself and stuck His finger in the dirt before them. “He wrote on the ground,” reported John, the Apostle who penned this gospel.

Here we have the only recorded incident of Jesus doing some writing. What He put down there in the dirt, we do not know. Many have made their speculations, so I will reveal mine for you.

To me, it would be just like Jesus to challenge these religious ones on their own terms. These men formed a gaggle of self-proclaimed defenders of Moses and his writings. So I think the Lord could have made reference to Leviticus 20:10:   “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

Perhaps, Jesus was more succinct with His jots and scribbles. Could it be that He just posed the obvious question:  “Where’s the guy?” The very act of adultery does require both adulterer and adulteress, and the Law required both to be put to death.

At last, Jesus stood. This marks a change in the dynamic of the confrontation. He was about to make a declaration of truth from a position of authority. The command with which Jesus spoke astonished those who heard Him. His message came straight from the Father – He made this clear about Himself and His words in the latter portion of John 8 (see verses 18-38).

His declaration was this:  “…He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7).

Those words cut straight to the core of everyone present. Listen to the stones as they fall to the ground. See the accusers walk away – one by one, oldest to youngest – as these words jabbed conviction into their consciences. At least these consciences were still a bit tender to truth. By the time Jesus was turned over to Pilate on His way to the Cross, these very ones were too hardened to do the right thing.

This mob had been drawn to the scene because of a thirst for vengeance. The real reason for these feelings came from the deficit motivation lurking in their own selves. Their hearts hurt, wounded and scarred by the fallout of their own failures. They were pained by guilt. They did not know what to do with the hurt, except to come and watch someone else take punishment.

No Condemnation

Jesus returned to His writing in the dirt and soon He and the accused woman were left alone. None remained to accuse her. All had come see their own sinfulness in the presence of the Son. Again, He stood to make another statement of authority, a pronouncement of forgiveness and release and responsibility.

 “… 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 8:10-11).

No condemnation! Paul would write of this great truth in his letter to the Romans. His master treatise on the unrighteousness that lingers in all human beings and its answer in the work of the Person of Christ expands on what we read in John 8. None can excuse himself, wrote Paul. All fall short of the glory of God. Everyone needs a Savior; each of us requires a Redeemer who will announce:  “Neither do I condemn you.”

All fall short of the glory of God. Everyone needs a Savior; each of us requires a Redeemer who will announce: “Neither do I condemn you.” Click To Tweet

This passage in John has been analyzed and some view it as something added to John’s gospel at a later point in church history. The character and style of the writing is clearly John’s with the attention to detail and the focus on conversation. Some claim these words are from God but that they are out of place in this context.

Me? I agree with the late Warren W. Wiersbe, onetime Moody Church pastor and host of the Back to the Bible radio show. He says in The Bible Exposition commentary:  “The story fits right here.” And Dr. Wiersbe says this encounter sets up what comes next in the chapter.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The accused woman was deep in the darkness of sin. Her desperate condition came before Jesus. She stood accused. She was guilty. She had violated the Law that the Lord had communicated through Moses.

Jesus, however, flipped the script on the accusers. He turned on His Light. The Light shined into the accusers. Each of them had to face the record of sin written upon his own dirtied heart. They could have stayed with Him and with her, the one caught in the very act, because now their very acts — their very sinful thoughts even — had been exposed to them as they had exposed this woman.

The Savior went on to describe the power of His Light. It shines the Way to forgiveness and release. Abide in the Word, He told them and “you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

The Son came for them all; for all stand accused before our Holy God. He longed to see every one of them receive His love and be free for “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:37).

The Son, the Truth, Freedom. All can be ours. Thank you, Jesus.

Steve Andrulonis
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