Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
Jesus is in the temple, teaching (John 8:2). He had come early in the morning. And all the people had come unto Him.
Beautiful picture here of true worship! People worshiping God in Jesus. No brass bands. No need of liturgical dancing. They worship through hearing His Word. And all come. There is no distinction. One and all who believe on Him, and who will learn of Him and His gospel – all these come. They come “early in the morning” — first thing. Worship is their priority in life! In Him who is the way, the truth, and the life!
Look who else come. They are the scribes and Pharisees. They are doctors of the law. They are the intelligentsia and the recognized leaders in things religious.
They hate Jesus!
They come to tempt and to discredit Jesus!
They say they look for Messiah. But they do not see him in Jesus. They want a man with form and comeliness. But Jesus has none of that earthly beauty that we should desire Him. They want a king to deliver from Caesar and other nations’ oppression. They want not the Lamb of God who delivers from sins. They hope in a kingdom to which they have a right by virtue of their noble lineage and punctilious obedience. But Jesus establishes a realm of grace. They want a Solomon, and the wealth and prestige of this world which the Jews enjoyed under him. Spiritual blessings in heavenly places? In Christ Jesus?! For such precious and heavenly things they have no appreciation.
Other people are worshiping God in and through faith in this Jesus. They have come with the burdens of their sins. They are learning from Him who is meek and lowly in heart. They are finding rest in this Jesus, rest for their weary souls….
But watch out! Here comes a wave of the restless sea! The wicked scribes and Pharisees crash unbidden into the worship service Jesus is leading. They will not worship at Jesus’ feet. Rather, they seek to prove Him to be an imposter. Him whom they will crucify when they get the opportunity they now seek to pierce on the horns of a dilemma. They drag an adulterous woman into the service and set her in the midst. They pose a hard question to Jesus. With every venomous word they show their rejection of God and His Christ and His law called love….
Can you not see? Here are devils in the temple – roaring, raging, reviling the Christ of God!
Jesus? Is He nonplused? Does this wave of wickedness knock Him over? Does He need some time to figure out how to answer the Jews? Is that why He says nothing at first but simply draws with His finger on the ground?
Jesus?! See Him now, the consummate Teacher! He will teach of sin and grace! He will show true righteousness and divine mercy!
1. One of the qualifications of Messiah was that He have “the spirit of wisdom and understanding” (Is. 11:2). Certainly Jesus needed that now! For the scribes and Pharisees come tempting Jesus by asking His judgment on a very difficult matter. They bring to Jesus a woman who has been caught in the act, the very act, of adultery (v. 4). They ask Jesus what He thinks of this, what justice requires be done to her? They remind Him that Moses’ law required that adulterers and adulteresses be stoned (Lev. 20:l0; Deut. 22:22-24). But Jesus faces a problem here. Roman law at this time forbade anyone but the Roman government to execute criminals. If Jesus then would say that the woman ought to be stoned, He would by this pronouncement be promoting rebellion against the Roman law. At the same time, Jesus would ‘probably incur the wrath of the common people, whose champion He was, if He would demand that the woman be stoned. On the other hand, if He would say that mercy ought to be Y shown to the woman, then would He not be going against the law of Moses?
2. Jesus needed the spirit of wisdom and understanding! Prove from Scripture that Jesus, in fact, is the wisdom of God? How did Jesus show wisdom in answering this question of the Jewish ‘leaders?
3. At issue here were both the righteousness and the mercy of Jesus. If Jesus would advocate disregarding the law of Moses, He would be sinning, He would be unrighteous. If He would not show mercy to the adulteress, this would seem to contradict Jesus’ ministry of mercy in calling sinners to salvation in Himself. The question is, therefore: how are righteousness and mercy to “meet” to harmonize in Jesus? How will the Savior act in this situation to show He is both perfectly righteous, and wonderfully merciful? These questions have to do, of course, with the broader question: How can God in righteousness and mercy justify the ungodly? Certainly the question of the ages! Ask and answer this question for yourselves, considering, among others, the following passages: Ps. 85:l0; Matt. 5:17, 18; John 1:17; Rom. 3:21-26. (Note too, the Heidelberg Catechism, LD 4.)
4. Many have been the suggestions as to what Jesus wrote on the ground (vv. 6, 8). Some, for example, say that Jesus wrote the names and sins of the men who brought the woman to Him; others, that Jesus was at a loss for what to say, and so merely scribbled in the sand. One commentator suggests that Jesus here by this symbolic act was ratifying the law which He Himself had written with His own finger. Exactly what and why Jesus wrote on the ground we do not know. But the fact that He did not say anything right away is, I believe, significant. Implied in the silence was holy revulsion at sin – not first of all at the sin of the woman taken in adultery, but at the murderous self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and at their seeking to tempt Him and to thwart His mission to seek and save that which was lost. Comment, in this connection, on Jesus’ words in John 12:47, that He came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
5. Jesus is the forgiving Messiah. This is the truth front and center in this passage. His gospel of forgiveness is expressed in His words to the woman: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (v. 11). Explain how we have, in these words, the truth of justification and sanctification. Be able to define these doctrines. Show from Scripture the relationship between the two. Answer the slander of the doctrine of free justification that it gives people the freedom to sin that grace may abound.
6. Jesus is the merciful Messiah. Did He show mercy to the scribes and Pharisees at this time? Explain how Jesus’ showing mercy to the woman is an example of His mercy towards all His own.
1.The scribes and Pharisees are the very opposite of what true disciples of Jesus are. They show this in their attitude towards Jesus. They pretend to want to learn from Him, but instead seek to tempt Him that they might have to accuse Him (v. 6). They show this also in their treatment of the adulterous woman. Reflect upon the injustice of these leaders who claim to be advocates of strict justice. Think on the several ways these church leaders show disdain rather than love for this woman. In a very real way the devil was in those scribes and Pharisees, tempting the Holy One, and accusing one of God’s elect! Show from Scripture the character of the devil reflected in these Jewish leaders. In this connection consider the meaning of the text: “Charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8). How do we show love and righteousness in dealing with fellow sinners?
2.The Jewish leaders, upon hearing the soul-searching words of Jesus, are convicted of their own sins. Is there any evidence that they were sorry for these sins? Is there any evidence of unrepentance? What are fruits of repentance in our lives? Did you ever think of yourself as an adulterer or adulteress?
3.Worldlings love to quote Scripture and twist it for their own ends. Quoting Scripture gives such people an air of authority, and .at the same time an opportunity which they so cherish to mock the Word of God. That is why many quote Jesus’ words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” in order to prevent justice from being done. So Matthew 7:1 is often (mis)quoted in the faces of God’s people when they rebuke sin. Explain how these verses do not prohibit brotherly admonition and church discipline.
1.The adulterous woman was an elect child of God. She had to be. For Jesus forgave her. This must mean He would lay down His life for her on the cross, and pay for all her sins, establishing the ground for her forgiveness. This pronouncement of Jesus absolving the woman of guilt certainly must have changed her life. How? What part of her life did it change? Was this forgiving act of Jesus the very beginning of her life? In other words, did regeneration occur at this time?
2.Meditate on and discuss the blessings of God’s free justification in Christ. Quote Scriptures which speak of the joy and security believers have knowing the mercy and forgiveness of the Savior. How in your life do you experience that you are forgiven? What is your response to this? Do you consider it a privilege, having been forgiven, to “go, and sin no more”?