Some scholars over the centuries have questioned whether the story of the woman caught in adultery was originally in the Gospel of John. In response, Dr. Wilbur Pickering notes that it’s found in 85% of the surviving ancient Gospel manuscripts. For most people that’s pretty convincing evidence! But even more convincing to me is that Christians through the centuries have discerned both the wisdom and the heart of Jesus in this passage.

Regarding wisdom, we discern that Jesus knew the hidden motives of the scribes and Pharisees who accused the woman before him. They weren’t actually seeking “justice” under the Mosaic Law for her adultery; they simply wanted to spring a trap upon Jesus. Decades earlier Roman authorities had stripped Jewish leaders of their right to inflict capital punishment. According to Pastor Skip Heitzig, historical documents reveal that Jewish leadership felt that loss of authority represented “a departure of the royal scepter from Judah” (Gen. 49:10). If the woman caught in adultery had been stoned with Jesus’ approval, the Pharisees would have used it to implicate Jesus in a crime before the Romans. Jesus was too wise for their trap.

The story also shows the heart of Jesus through his grace and mercy toward the woman. Jesus lovingly shifted attention off the woman by leaning over before the crowd and writing in the dirt. He knew she was a victim of entrapment by the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus did not excuse the woman’s sin but he simply commanded her “go your way and sin no more.” Obeying Jesus’ command and turning from her sin was an act of repentance. Jesus’ words affirm that both her sin and her guilt would be removed.

But while the woman left forgiven, her accusers walked away in guilt. They had laid a trap for the woman then accused her alone of sin. They brought no accusation against the male partner who participated in this sin. And they turned a blind eye to their own sins of deceit, manipulation and seeking to turn Mosaic Law into a weapon against the woman and Jesus. The one person on earth who could release them from their sin was standing right there before their very eyes. Yet, when their plot was foiled, they simply turned and walked away. Tragically, they missed the opportunity to know Jesus as savior!

May we guard against every temptation to judge a sister or brother in Christ. Rather, let us point people to Jesus for mercy, forgiveness and renewal.

Pastor Dave Korinek

Subscribe to the Daily Fill