Her accusers wanted her blood. Jesus wanted her soul. Jesus won – and now He fights for you.
Last week, we explored the story of a meeting between Jesus and a woman at a well in Samaria. Today, we examine the story of a meeting between Jesus and a woman outside the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritan woman had been marked for rejection. The Jewish woman had been marked for death. Once again, the Word of God, as told by John the Evangelist, sets the stage for us and then describes what happened next:
“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (John 8:1-11, NLT)
In both of these stories from actual events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the women who were in the spotlight were not named. Not the one in Samaria at the well, and not the one in Jerusalem outside the Temple. Some say it was because their names were unknown or unimportant. However, I believe it was because you and I and every person born into this world are, together, each – and both – of those women.
In today’s Gospel account from John 8, the woman was a sinner, and her sin carried with it the death penalty under Jewish law. She could have protested by asking, “Where is the man who was also caught in the act of adultery? Why am I alone being sentenced to death?” She could have challenged the fairness of the law itself, asking, “Don’t I need to eat as well?” She did not, however, because what was about to happen to her – death by stoning, a slow and agonizing form of capital punishment – could not be stopped by appealing to human fairness, human justice, or even human mercy. It could only be stopped by the direct intervention of God Himself. And so He did.
The Son of God
When Jesus was presented with the woman and the question, “What do you say?”, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees did not want Him to give her a reprieve, nor did they want Him to countermand Mosaic law. Instead, they wanted to proceed with her execution and show this carpenter from Galilee that there was nothing He could say or do to stop them.
But He did.
Jesus did not engage in eloquent argument or appeal to the crowd’s compassion. At that time and in that place, neither would have done any good. Instead, He simply told them, “Kill her if you must. There are the stones. But let the first one be thrown by someone who has never sinned.”
Then there was silence.
And even more silence.
Heavy stones dropped to the ground. Haughty heads bowed in shame. Hating hearts turned and walked away.
The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees all knew in their hearts that they, too, were sinners.
Then Jesus looked at the woman and asked her, “Who accuses you now?” “No one,” she said. “Neither do I,” said the Son of God. “Now go and sin no more.”
For Whom the Bell Tolls
In his famous prose-turned-poem, John Donne wrote:
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main. …
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know
For whom the [funeral] bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
Just as no person is an island – independent, apart, self-sufficient among all the other members of the human race – so, too, no person is saved without the grace of God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). Let’s face it, we are all in this together, and what Jesus did for the Jewish woman outside the Temple in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, He still does for us all today.
The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees saw the sins of the woman and wanted her blood. Jesus saw His soon-to-be sacrifice on the cross and wanted her soul. Jesus won – and now He fights for you.
You and I Against the World
When those who had arrested the woman realized they had no moral right to impose a death sentence upon her, they left. She then stood before Jesus, the Son of God, the judge of both the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 4:5), but He did not condemn her. He did not rebuke her or reprimand her or test her knowledge of the Ten Commandments. He simply forgave her and, in return, asked only that she sin no more (John 8:11).
That day so very long ago, a sinner was saved. A repentant heart returned to the flock. A life lived poorly became a life lived well.
All because of Jesus.
When you and I stand before God and are indicted for our sins by Satan, the prince of this world who accuses us night and day before God (John 12:31, John 14:30, Revelation 12:10), we can do one of two things. On the one hand, we can hang our heads in shame and accept eternal punishment. Or, on the other hand, we can turn to Jesus and accept His forgiveness. Like the woman outside the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus wants us to choose forgiveness – and Him.
I choose Jesus.
Whom – and what – will you choose?
-- Dr. John Morris