What Do You Believe About
The Wise Teacher?
The wise teacher had to prepare for His class. His early arrival marks Jesus as being a diligent teacher who is prepared and anxious to teach His pupils. The last verse of the previous chapter tells us that all the pupils went into their own houses. The first verse of the eighth chapter tells us that Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives. The Scriptures do not even hint at the reason for the contrast found in the closing verse and the first. We can only speculate as to the reason why Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. One strong reason is that He had no other place to reside. Just as possible, Jesus went to prepare for the obvious encounter that He was to have with all those who would come to the Temple as He taught. The preparation involved much prayer. There is no greater preparation for the ministry than that of prayer. Verse two tells us that "all the people came unto him." The word "all" here is not all without exception; it is all without distinction. This use of the word "all" means that people of all ethnic, cultural, social, age, and religious persuasion could have been represented. With this great representation of people, the Teacher is going to be challenged by the scribes and Pharisees. Yet, Jesus will handle the challenge brilliantly.
May we consider: I. The Interruption of the Teacher (vv. 1-6a); II. The instructions by the Teacher (vv. 6b-9); and III. The interrogation by the Teacher (vv. 10-11).
I. THE INTERRUPTION OF THE TEACHER vv. 1-6a
The presentation of the woman – The scribes and the Pharisees have used every ploy and trap to cause Jesus to stumble. This attempt is certainly no exception. As they bring the guilty woman to Jesus, they bring her not as a person that they would like to rid themselves of, because of her immoral and wicked lifestyle, but as an object to entrap Jesus. Their reasoning is thus. If Jesus is to release her only out of sympathy, He will have violated the law of Moses. If Jesus required her to be stoned, then He would not have exercised compassion. Certainly there is a dilemma, but not for Jesus. He will not violate any facet of the law, but will let the law be interpreted and carried out with wisdom and fairness. He will be the wise Judge as He handles this case.
The woman was set in the midst, being accused of adultery, having been caught in the very act. The woman who was presented is a representative type of us all. We are all guilty; we are all sinners; we have all come short. Jesus knowing that this lady was a terrible sinner, must have still looked upon her with compassion. The Jesus, whom I know, is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The most wicked sinner cast into hell will still have the compassion and love of Jesus, but without pardon. To reject the grace of God in this life is to forfeit the mercy of God for all eternity. This John study will continue to remind us that there is an age of grace, a time to turn from our sins to Him.
The accusation of the woman – The setting of the woman in the midst to be judged was such a pathetic display of hypocrisy. Her accusers were not in the least concerned about the woman’s wicked lifestyle, they were only intent on taking Jesus. Their own wickedness would equal or surpass the accused. The reason that she was caught in the act, likely was due to her accusers familiarity with her behavior, as possibly contributing to it themselves. They wanted to victimize her only to get to Jesus. That is not to say that she was not guilty, for she was. It is like "the pot calling the kettle black."
The Pharisees were so religiously deranged, yet in their proud and prating ways were not even aware of it. They could not accept Jesus as the Messiah and could only accuse this woman to implement their devilish scheme. The blindness that covered their eyes would not let them discern spiritually what they were really doing. They thought what they were doing was proper. Very similarly, our President has introduced wicked laws and committed impeachable offenses thinking that he is doing a service to our country. As sincere as he may be, his agenda is not at all Christian.
The woman’s accusation was based upon the law of Moses, "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" (v. 5). The law of Moses was not evil; the Scriptures tell us quite the contrary, saying that the law is good. The law has a strong moral purpose. The law also gives its provisions for dealing with the lawbreakers. Some feel that Jesus’ dilemma comes from having a law that he does not wish to have. They forget that the law given to Moses originated with God. Therefore Jesus will not at all violate even the spirit of the law. The way that Jesus handles this situation is not a compromised solution. He will keep the law completely, and instruct the sinning woman not to sin anymore. We will note later how this is done.
The temptation by the wicked – Though the accusation is proper and even necessary in the interest of enforcing the law, their motives were corrupt and wicked. They were not interested in pursuing justice, they were interested only in persecuting Jesus. The world has not changed. The Altogether Lovely One would be on trial today if He were here. Those who embrace Christ Jesus also would be on trial with Him.
Though the accusing of the woman is a trap, there still must be a legal resolution involving the accused verses the accusers. Even if their motives were improper, the due process of the law must be carried out. Jesus will take the evidence and then wisely implement the law. He will pursue a course of action based upon truth and fairness.
II. THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE TEACHER vv. 6-9
Though Jesus, the Master Teacher, was rudely interrupted, He continued to teach. The students were able to observe an on going class in Old Testament law. The brilliance of the teacher was put on display as He simply sorted out the diabolical dilemma presented by the scribes and Pharisees. Their flimsy trap would not hold, but neither would the legal system be compromised by incorrectly executing the law.
The mystery of His writing (v. 6b). Many scholars have attempted to extract a proper interpretation of why Jesus stooped and wrote and what was written. Some are even "sure" of their reason and logic. There is certainly a mysterious element to this action of Jesus. "Why did He stoop to write?" or "What was He writing?" These questions have been on the mind of every serious reader of this section throughout the ages. It very well could have been on the minds of those who were the accusers. Yet in their case it could have been like this, "Does He know about me?’; "Is He writing my name?" Again, at the best, we can only imagine and speculate as to what Jesus was doing.
What Jesus did, though it remains a mystery, may be considered a classic. From the literary standpoint, what He did is not an expected progression of events. Instead of Jesus being startled, dumfounded and distracted by His dilemma, He is in control. The accusers have brought to Jesus their toughest case that seemingly had a no-win solution or at least a no-easy solution and He does not even appear to be focused on the questions that they were asking Him. Perhaps in His calm handling of the very difficult, He was speaking volumes by what He did not say. When the time is right, at His perfectly calculated moment Jesus lifts Himself, and said unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (v. 7) Jesus at this prescribed moment renders the execution of the law. We may refer to it as the beginning of "due process."
The manifestation of His wisdom (v. 7). He wisely grants the witnessing accuser without sin the right to cast the first stone. This was done in the spirit of Deuteronomy 17:6-7, "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward, the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you." Ryrie has an interesting note concerning the custom of executing the sentence. "A minimum of two witnesses was required, and they had to be sure enough of their own testimony to be willing to cast the first stones. In a stoning, the victim was stripped naked and his hands bound; then he was paraded out of town, where he was placed on a scaffold about nine feet high. The first witness pushed him off the scaffold; the second dropped a large stone on his head or chest. Then bystanders pelted the dying man with stones. No mourning was permitted for the dead man." If the fornicator and adulterous had to face this degree of punishment today this wicked sin would not be nearly as common. Some would deem it too harsh, but think of the terrible heartbreak and suffering that occurs because of this terrible sin.
The movement of the witnesses (v. 8-9) After Jesus wisely instructed the one without sin to cast first the stone, He again stooped down and wrote on the ground. What God wrote in the presence of Belshazzar caused his knees to "smote one against another." In Daniel 5:5-6 the Scriptures tells us about this, "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another."
Whatever Jesus writes after He instructed the one without sin to first cast a stone at her, convicted them. They went out one by one as verse 9 tells us, "And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." Not one person remained as an innocent witness. They were admitting that they all were guilty of the same sin. Could have the God of Omniscience have been writing out the evidence of others breaking the same law? We must remember there is nothing that escapes the mind of Christ. He is all knowing.
III. THE INTERROGATION BY THE TEACHER vv. 10-11
Jesus originally came to the Temple to teach some element of theology. At least it was of some spiritual purpose, even though the Scriptures do not tell us what He was teaching. Very likely it was a continuation of the debates that had previously been the subject of His discourses. When He was interrupted by the scribes and Pharisees, He taught much in the realm of theology and demonstrated the correct way of processing Old Testament law. Not that the accusers were dismissed, Jesus reveals another necessary aspect of the law. This was crucial to the actual execution of the law. This aspect involved the requirement of the witness. Many misinterpret this portion of Scripture in thinking that Jesus had an ultra-tolerant and ultra-forgiving attitude towards the sinning woman. The misinterpretation of this very demanding portion of Scriptures conveys the false message that sin does not have its consequences. That is not at all what is being taught here. Instead, a correct and impartial rendering of the law is what is being considered here. How do you properly execute or process Old Testament law? One ingredient that we have emphasized is that the witness is to be an executor of the sentence. Jesus called for the executor to step forward. The only problem was that the executor of the sentence also needed to be executed.
Notice the questions asked (v. 10). The witness or accusers had all disqualified themselves, leaving the accused behind. In their doing so a major issue of Old Testament law was at stake. There were no witnesses to the crime. Jesus asked, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" (v. 10). According to the law of Moses there had to be at least two and preferably three witnesses. The wisdom of God requiring this number was to protect the innocent from being falsely accused. Remember, this woman was caught in the very act. She was guilty but could not be condemned unless there were the required number of witnesses. Though the witnesses did not stay to have a part in carrying out the execution, that is not to say that she got away "scotch free." The agony of having to live with the thoughts of having sinned and hurt so many must have constantly plagued her. It may have been more humane had she been stoned, at least she could have trusted Jesus and went to Heaven. Those who are on death row for murder often plead with the court systems to speed up their execution to free their minds of the horrible crimes that they have committed. Many turn to Christ before their execution.
The question answered (v. 11). The woman answered Jesus’ question, "Woman, where are those thine accusers?
Hath no man condemned thee?" In verse 11, "She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Jesus who is all knowing could have constituted a legal witness, had only one other witness remained. Yet because that one witness did not remain, Jesus. in fulfilling the requirements of the law could not have condemned her. Had He done so, He would have destroyed the law. He did not come to destroy the law. When Jesus said, "go, and sin no more" He was telling her that he knew that she was guilty but could not be condemned for lack of a legal number of witnesses. Some may say, that the law is imperfect. This is not so, the law is good. The element of human weakness spells failures not only in the breaking of the law, but also in the execution of the law.
As we concluded in an earlier study, whether it be the keeping or the execution of the law, everything must be relative to one’s attitude towards the law. Paul to the church at Rome explains this concept in Romans 3:19-20, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
Relative to the law the blessings come when our iniquities are forgiven, and our sins covered (Romans 4:7). Romans 4:8 says, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." May we have these blessings on each of us.
Study By Dr. Max Alderman, Ph.D.