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John 8:1-11

In this study, we see the pressure rising on Jesus as the religious authorities try harder than ever to get rid of the threat to their rule, popularity and control that Jesus represented. Previously, He had endured a tough day answering questions from the Jewish leaders, knowing that they were trying to destroy Him. At the same time, Jesus knew that He had a job to do: to point these people, whom He loved passionately, to the truth. While everyone else went home at the end of that day, Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives. He knew that He had to draw close to His Father to receive wisdom, refreshment, love and grace if He was to overcome the hatred from all those who were trying to thwart His mission.

A difficult dilemma

Jesus returned to the temple court at dawn the following day and began teaching the people again. They must have been so hungry to hear the truth. Life was tough for people then. Their rulers were corrupt and religion was full of rules and regulations that they could never obey. Their hearts were crying out for a real relationship with God and this rabbi seemed to have something special. He not only spoke to them; the talk among the crowd was all about the miracles that He had been doing as well.

Suddenly the rulers break in on His teaching, dragging a dishevelled woman in front of Him. They have unexpectedly been presented with a tremendous opportunity to bring down this upstart, country bumpkin from Nazareth by forcing Him to offer a legal opinion on what should happen to the woman. She had been caught committing adultery and, according to the law of Moses, should be punished by death. (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22) At that time, Israel was occupied by the Romans who did not allow the Jewish authorities to execute lawbreakers of any kind. Any offenders had to be tried and convicted by Roman courts. Will Jesus put Himself at odds with the Roman occupiers by saying that she deserves to die and, incidentally, also contradict His own reputation for being gracious and forgiving? (Luke 5:20; Luke 7:47) Or will He try to find some way of evading the law of Moses, thus losing all credibility as a Jewish rabbi and leaving Himself open to the charge of teaching people to violate the (Jewish) law?

According to the law of Moses, the authorities should have made sure that the male adulterer also received the same treatment. Since he was not even present, it was fairly obvious that the woman was being used as a pretext in an attempt to discredit Jesus. She was in a dreadful situation: dragged out publicly in front of everyone, terrified, hopeless, a disgrace to herself and her family and now facing a death sentence. (Stoning was - and is - a brutal form of execution. The first stones had to be thrown by the witnesses to the adultery; then each member of the community in which the two adulterers lived had to come forward and throw a stone. The thinking behind this was that, since every person in the community had thrown a stone, no one person could be held responsible for the death of the pair. It also ensured that everyone was required to renew a personal commitment to the seriousness of this offence and to reinforce the malign effect of adultery on everyone in a community.)

Criticism

Pointing the finger at others has always been a comfortable way of shifting the blame from ourselves. In recent years, many Christians have taken to being shocked at all manner of injustices and affronts, often in other cultures and countries, which they have heard about through social media. Yet, when it comes to our own lives, whether at home, work or in church, we often fail to realise that the finger we have been pointing at others is now pointing back at us!

Criticism is such a destructive force in our lives, ungodly and full of pride. We think that we are superior to others but, in our hearts, we know that we have the same problems. Of course, we don’t want anyone to know about our own problems because we are not really willing to deal with them. If only we knew and believed the amazing love of our Father, who gave Jesus so willingly to wash us clean! When we look at others in the light of God's knowledge of us, there is no room for thoughts about (or pleasure taken) in the sins of others. Our greater concern then is the realisation of how long it has taken us to grow to where we are with Jesus. It is only Him who can change us. It is not our hard work that has changed us but only His complete grace. This story urges us to examine our own lives and ask how we ourselves can be better people. This message is aimed directly at each one of us.

Turning the tables

Jesus was well aware of the authority’s motives but He also had a good grasp of the law and uses this to turn the tables on the religious leaders. Under the law, two witnesses were required to substantiate the charge of adultery and these two had to be the first to throw a stone. (Deuteronomy 17:7) It was a basic requirement of witnesses that they should be independent; not necessarily completely sinless, but certainly not guilty themselves of adultery or of having any part in bringing the woman to trial. Jesus knew full well that this was a "kangaroo court". He now throws the dilemma back at the woman's accusers and, one by one, they fold. They walk away, starting with the older ones and continuing until not one of her accusers remains.

Finding a good partner

Again Jesus protects, elevates and shows great love towards a woman. He certainly transformed the thinking amongst the men of His day towards women and showed them how women should be treated. To the women themselves, He demonstrated that there are men who walk in obedience to God's word and by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we are in the position of choosing a husband, it is vital that we look for a man who is obedient to God's word and being led by the Holy Spirit, long before we enter into a close relationship with them. Praying together is a great way to check out a relationship for a suitable husband. A good test for a "Boaz" quality man, rather than a "Bozo" man, is that given by Gary Chapman in his book, "Five languages of Love". He talks about five points to look for in a prospective partner:

  1. Does he affirm you? (Be wary of shallow words designed just to get you into bed.)
  2. Does he give you quality time? (Or does he have to be surgically separated from his 'phone, computer screen or TV?)
  3. Does he bring you gifts? (Not necessarily expensive ones, but well thought out.)
  4. Does he do things for you? (Or does he expect you to run round after him all the time?)
  5. Does he touch you gently and not sexually? (Or is his touch always out of control and, if you refuse, does he try to get round you, become aggressive or sulk?)

If you want to know more about Boaz, read the beautiful love story in the book of Ruth. Surely, if you are going to have a long-term relationship, it is helpful to be speaking the right language of love.

Affirming our partner

Criticism can be particularly destructive within a marriage. If we are married (as this woman probably was), it is so important that we do not listen to the lie that "any man would be an improvement" on the one we have. Every time we want to criticise our husband, we need to choose instead to think about some good point in him and focus on that. If that is difficult, it can help to remember the day that you first got together and what it was in him that attracted you to him! All men have some negative character traits; that is guaranteed, but we don't have to dwell on them. Equally sure, is what happens if we have an affair with someone else: our own guilt and the effect of what we have done on others will reamin with us. In this day and age, men and women are not stoned physically for adultery, but so many women have talked about how their reputation has been ruined, so many of their relationships affected and how difficult it can be to forgive themselves, let alone find forgiveness from others.

Mercy when we least deserve it!

We are totally responsible and accountable to God for our attitude towards people we know who have fallen into any kind of sin. As Jesus showed mercy to this woman, saying to her the most exciting words any of us will ever hear: "neither do I condemn you", so we also have no right to do anything but show mercy to every person we live with, have fellowship with, or share our life with.

"His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His loving kindness begins afresh every day." (Lamentations 3:22-23) If it wasn’t for the mercy of God, we would all be wiped out. Our enemy would love us to be wiped off the face of the earth before our time. Remember it over and over, so that we may stop ourselves from judging anyone. All the characteristics that God, in His mercy, shows to us, we should show to others. (Matthew 25:40-46) Mercy is shown in so many ways: faithfulness, love, forgiveness, grace, kindness, endless care.

Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of His deep love and concern for you, you should practise tender-hearted mercy and kindness to others.” (Colossians 3:12)

Don’t worry about making a good impression on people, but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently, so they can receive mercy. We must die daily to our fallen, human nature and its own cravings, desires and opinions. How do we show the mercy of God to others daily?

  • Imitate Christ’s compassionate, forgiving attitude.
  • Let love guide our life. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
  • Let the peace of Christ rule in our heart; act as umpire continually. (Colossians 3:15 - Amplified Version)
  • Always be thankful.
  • Keep God’s word in your heart at all times.
  • Live as Jesus Christ’s representative. (Luke 6:35-36)

Daily, we must give sincere love to all people, especially in the body of Christ. This requires effort, time and money - not just a superficial interest. We know that God is full of mercy but we need to recall it every day. For example, we can look at some of His promises to us in Psalm 103. "Father I come to You in the name of Jesus and praise You because You forgive all my sin; You heal all my diseases; You deliver me from hell. You surround me with loving kindness and tender mercies; You fill my life with good things; You give justice when I am treated unfairly and reveal Your will and nature to me."

As we remind ourselves over and over of God’s great mercy to us, we rekindle our hope, stir up our faith and increase our confidence in His love. We don't just need to know about God’s blessings - we need to be part of them. As we agree with His word and our faith rises, we see these blessings come to us: "new every morning".

Jesus did not condone what this woman had done, or dismiss her sin as unimportant or even understandable. He knew, as she did too, that what she had done was wrong. But He condemns the sin, not the sinner, so He commands her not to sin again. This woman is called to change after one very close, intimate contact with Jesus. He saved her life and risked His own, but now she would know - for all time - true love.


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