Theme: Jesus’ Response to the Situation
In this week’s lessons, we see how Jesus offers forgiveness and new life through his death on behalf of sinners.
Scripture: John 8:1-11
If in response to their question Jesus had said that the law should be carried out, the people would have said, “What kind of a Savior is that? Why is he merciful toward some people and not to others?” So not only is it a serious question, but it also involves the status of any human being before God. You may not have committed the woman’s sin, though you may well have, but you’ve committed many other sins—in thought, word, and deed. The law of God, of course, requires death for sin, but a spiritual death, banishment from God forever. And the question is how can God be faithful to his justice and also to his compassion and mercy? How can he save the sinner?
Well, humanly speaking, it’s impossible. There’s no solution. But you see, although there are things that are impossible with men, with God all things are possible. Jesus himself taught it. And that’s what the story begins to unfold. What did he do? Well, he did a number of things. First of all, he stooped over and wrote on the ground. I don’t know what he wrote. He bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. They kept on questioning him, so he straightened up and spoke to them. But then he wrote again. Some people have suggested that what he was writing on the ground was their sins, because he knew their hearts. Perhaps he was, but of course it is impossible to say for sure.
Regardless of what he was writing, when he stood up, he asked the question that we find in verse 7: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then, he stooped down and wrote again. One by one, beginning with the older ones, they started to fade away. Sometimes we’ve seen that happen in crowds. A crowd is about to do something bad, but then somebody has the courage to stand against them or confront them. As a result, one by one they’ll fade away. I don’t know how it happened. It must have been something particularly strong about the way Jesus looked at him—the character in his face, or that conviction that emanated from his person.
But no doubt, convicted of their sin, one by one, they went away. They found themselves saying, “No matter what the others do, I’m not going to condemn this woman. I won’t throw a stone because I’m guilty too. If the truth were known, those stones would be coming at me.” And so they would, and so they would with us all. You see, in their case, as I understand the story, they were guilty in entrapment; they actually caught the woman; maybe one was standing there who had been involved with her in the act—he was guilty of the very sin. But whether it was that or something else, they were guilty, and one by one, you see, standing before him who is going to confront them with the final judgment, they found themselves saying, “Not me—I won’t do it.” And so they slipped away.
Then when they were all gone, there was Jesus with the woman. He asked her, “Where are all those people who were trying to condemn you? Has no one remained in order to make the accusation?” And her response was, “No one, Lord.” And now comes the great climax, because Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” Some people have said that Jesus exercised the law itself. People had come with their witnesses, wanting to condemn her on the basis of the Law of Moses. But now they had all gone away, and there were no longer enough witnesses to condemn. So even though he knew she was guilty, he let her go.
Maybe that’s part of it, but I think the real teaching goes deeper because it’s the teaching of the book. Why did Jesus, the very Son of God, say to this woman, “Neither do I condemn you”? The answer is the same for why he doesn’t condemn us. And why is that? Because we don’t deserve it? No, we do deserve it. Rather, he knew what he had come to do. He had come to save sinners, and in order to do that, he was going to go to the cross, and he was going to die in order to pay the penalty for her sin and the sin of all whom the Father would give him.
How does Jesus answer the religious leaders’ challenge, meant to trap him as either coming down on the side of Mosaic Law or mercy?
What final words does he have for the woman? What do they communicate about both Jesus and the woman?
Application: How has someone wronged you, whether recently or in the past? Even if they have not asked for forgiveness and made things right with you, what does the Lord want you to do in light of how he, in his mercy and grace, has treated you?