The Book of John

Wednesday: Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery


Theme: The Horror of Sin
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
Those accusing this woman of adultery had to have seen every single detail. How would you ever accomplish that? How would you ever get witnesses to see the very act? The only way that could possibly have happened is that it must have been a setup. You have to have had your witnesses there ahead of time. You had to put them in the room, hiding behind the drape or station them at the door, peeking in the keyhole. It couldn’t have happened in any other way.
That’s why the legal requirements were written as they were. They wanted to avoid an unjust accusation and the condemning of someone who was innocent. This is because in the law, life was highly valued. There’s a statement in the Talmud that says of the Sanhedrin, which passed the death penalty, “A Sanhedrin which so much as once in seven years pronounces a death penalty is a slaughter house.” The idea was that a death penalty was not to be carried out rashly. A great deal of care had to be taken to make sure that justice was being done, and that one was not being executed on insufficient evidence.
This goes back to my point about it being a setup. At this point we need to ask an important question: they claimed to have caught the woman in the act of adultery, but where was the man? The law stipulates that both are to be killed for the sin. Why isn’t he here? Well, either because there was no adultery in the first place, meaning that the whole thing was a lie, or if there was a seduction, maybe he was one of their own number. Could they have actually arranged such immorality in their effort to get to Jesus and trap him?
One lesson we learn from this story is the horror of sin. Because you see, that’s what these teachers of the law were. They were sinners, great sinners. They had a reputation for godliness because they were the defenders of the law. But what they were trying to do was trap Jesus Christ, the only holy, righteous, perfect man who ever lived. When you begin to think in terms of their actions versus the actions of Jesus Christ, make sure that you’re on the side of Jesus Christ in a situation like this.
Don’t find yourself in the position of trying to catch somebody in some sin. That’s going to happen soon enough; if they don’t find Jesus Christ as Savior, they will meet him at the final judgment, and so will we. Make sure that you’re on the side of the gospel in grace. Even Jesus himself, the judge at the final judgment, said that during his lifetime he came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved. And we are messengers of that same gospel of salvation.
Not only was this a very terrible thing that they were doing, but it is even more than that. It is devilish in the sense that it hit upon the essential problem that exists between sinful human beings and God. You see, the problem is that the God of the universe must do right, and we’re sinners. This means we must be condemned. Thus, they put Jesus in a situation, which, so far as we can understand it humanly speaking, meant he must condemn the woman.
Think what was involved here. First of all, there was the Law of Moses. It wasn’t just the Law of Moses, but the Law of God. God had given the law. He gave it through Moses. It wasn’t something to be disregarded. The least we should say for these Pharisees, legalistic, cruel, and sinful as they were, they at least regarded the law for what it was. It was the Law of God. That was an important thing. Was the law going to be upheld or not? Second, the life of the woman was at stake, because the law required her death in this situation. Her guilt was apparently established beyond doubt.
Third, the compassionate teaching and the compassionate nature of Jesus Christ was at stake, because everybody knew that Jesus Christ was compassionate. He was the one who had gone around the country, not talking about the burden of the law, but speaking the gospel. He had been teaching that he had come to save sinners. He had reached out in grace and compassion. He had healed the sick; he had raised the dead. That was his nature. What was he going to do? If he was going to say to let her go, it would have seemed to those watching that he was violating the law of God. People regarded him as a prophet. How can a prophet speak against the Law of God? He would put himself over against Moses.
Study Questions:

Why is it suggested that the accused woman is being set up by the religious leaders?
Explain how they were trying to trap Jesus with this case of the woman. What three items are said to be at stake in the question they ask Jesus?

Reflection: We tend to react strongly toward people who commit certain sins, while we minimize other sins that we do because we think they are less significant. What does this story teach about how God views any and all sin?

Study Questions
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