Bible Reading: John 7:53-8:12
The scribes and Pharisees increasingly hated Jesus because everything He did cut across their preconceived ideas of God and His ways. As Augustine once observed, religious people are always startled by God’s grace.
The religious leaders, in their anger, became increasingly inconsistent in their statements from Scripture as they attacked Jesus. In countering Nicodemus they had said, “No prophet has arisen from Galilee” [John 7:52]. This was not true because Jonah came from Gathepher, a village only three miles from Nazareth. It is believed that Nahum, Elijah and Hosea were also from Galilee. The religious leaders also seem to have disregarded the Scriptures by arresting the woman without the man. The law required that both parties to adultery should be stoned [Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22].
These “religious” but not spiritual leaders now try to trap Jesus [verse 6]. If Jesus said that the woman should not be stoned then He could be accused of rejecting the Law of Moses. If Jesus agrees that she should die, then He causes conflict with the Romans who did not allow the Jews to carry out the death sentence. Either way Jesus would be in trouble, but He knows the Scriptures better than the religious leaders, and the Holy Spirit gives Him a word of wisdom.
There are various suggestions about what Jesus wrote in the dust. Some say that He was writing to comfort the woman, and others say to point out the pride and self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. But Jesus might well have been writing the words of Jeremiah, “Those who turn away from you [commit spiritual adultery] will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water” [Jeremiah 17:13 NIVUK]. The religious leaders had forsaken the spring of living water but were demanding the death of an adulteress.
With supernatural wisdom, Jesus then said to the religious leaders, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” [verse 7]. Interestingly, the word “sin” in this verse is the Greek word ‘anamartetos’ which is better translated as “sinful desire”. Their consciences were convicted, and beginning with the oldest they left one by one until only Jesus and the woman were left. Tomorrow we will see what happened to the woman, but today it is good to learn that you will never win if you oppose Jesus, so it is best to surrender to Him and not mess with Him!
When the religious leaders were angry they misquoted Scripture. Why is it that anger always perverts clear thinking?
Why do you think that beginning with the oldest the religious leaders all went out one by one?
Why is it that religious people are always startled by God’s grace?