Mar 22, 2023
A woman stands before Jesus in her sin. Accusers look on with condemnation. Then, the power of Jesus’ voice rings through the crowd, and the atmosphere changes. We, too, are invited to stand before Jesus – fully forgiven. (John 7:53-8:11)
Welcome to Walking in the Word, the biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders’ Podcast. My name is Julie Jenkins. I am honored to walk with you today as we open Scripture and ask God to teach us what He wants us to know today.
If you are new to our podcast, this is one of three offerings we have for you each week. On Monday, founder Kimberly Hobbs hosts Empowering Lives with Purpose – a 30-minute interview with a different woman of faith who shares the story of her life, struggles, or ministry. But what is important about each of these interviews is that they are truly not about the woman who so bravely steps out and shares her story, but each one is about shining the light on the glory of God. That kind of makes me smile, even as I say it – because God’s glory is SO bright that He certainly doesn’t need US to shine a light on HIM. But you know what? We GET to!! God is so present in each of our lives, but that doesn’t stop the devil from trying to hide Him from us. So Kimberly’s podcast is about looking beyond the schemes of the devil so we can truly see God’s purpose. It’s kind of like a game of hide and seek – the devil is trying to hide God’s glory, and we are seeking to uncover it! And God always wins the game!
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And today you’ve happened on Walking in the Word, where we take 20 minutes to open God’s Word and learn together from it – verse by verse. We are currently studying the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as we mesh them together and look at the life of Jesus as chronologically and as fully as the Holy Spirit enables us.
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Today’s scripture comes from John 7:53-8:11. If you have your Bible opened to John chapter 7, verse 53, you likely see a notation that says that most ancient Greek manuscripts do not include this section of scripture. I do want to briefly address this. This text was passed down orally and discovered in written form as early as the third century AD, and is true to Christ’s nature of compassion, love, and forgiveness – so biblical theologians throughout the years have opted to include it as part of John’s writing. And I think you will see, as we study, that this narrative is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ saving grace given to us through His death on the cross. Some researchers believe that this story may have originally been included in John’s writings but was taken out along the way due to a discussion on paganism and a belief that this could be used to incorrectly substantiate Jesus’ dismissal of fornication and adultery.
Despite the background of these particular verses, as part of the Bible, they are worthy of our study and learning. But, as with all things, we should ask for wisdom from the Holy Spirit. So, as always, before we begin our study, let’s pray…
Dear Most Holy God, we thank you for meeting us where we are today and for giving us this particular scripture to study today. No matter its origins, we know you are a God of complete control, and you have made a way for us to read and study this narrative today – so we know you have a reason for it and something you want us each to learn. You know exactly what each of us is going through, when and where we are listening to this, and you are prepared to teach us what you want us to know. So Father, I personally give you free rein over my words and ask you to use me as you will. Please guide each listener’s heart and allow her to hear directly from you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
As Jesus continues to walk toward the cross, we see his enemies, the Pharisees and the teachers of the religious law, ramp up their efforts against Him. Yet, because it is not yet God’s ordained time, Jesus continues teaching and preaching.
Let’s begin in chapter 7, verse 53 from the New Living Translation…
53 Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.
8 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple.
Where this story has been inserted, Jesus has been teaching in the temple courts during the Festival of the Tabernacles. I think it is telling that the scripture says, everybody went home, and Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives – only to return again in the morning.
Have you ever been in a busy season of ministry? Maybe even the ministry of being a parent or being a caretaker for a loved one? If you have, you understand what it is like to sleep in an unusual and perhaps, uncomfortable spot, and then to wake up only to be faced with the reality of your mission again. When someone is counting on you, you have little choice but to respond. And yet, despite the difficulty of taking care of someone we love dearly, we find fulfillment in that calling – knowing that we are carrying out a purpose that God placed us on this earth to accomplish. And despite our flesh crying out and our emotions reeling, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is how Jesus lived His life on earth. Caring for a loved one – times millions! Each of us is so valuable and loved by Jesus, that despite the persecution, the exhaustion, and the fore-knowledge of upcoming pain and suffering, Jesus wouldn’t have had it any other way. Because He loves YOU that much, and He knew that by getting up each morning to face the growing animosity of the people, He was accomplishing for YOU what He was sent to earth to do. So He slept on the Mount of Olives, and got up early the next morning to continue His purpose as He returned to the Temple.
John 8:1 continues…
A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
Make no mistake, this situation was an elaborate trap set up for the sake of tripping up Jesus. It was planned and calculated – all with disregard for the woman. Verse 4 says that the woman was “caught” in the act of adultery, but the original Greek word means that she was seized or apprehended WHILE in the act of adultery. Let’s dissect this for a moment.
Under Jewish law, it was necessary to have multiple witnesses before someone could be accused of adultery, and the witnesses had to agree to have seen the exact same event without question. I think we can all agree that sex, especially when it could get you in trouble with the law, would not be executed where several people could witness it.
The other part of the story is that, in the case of adultery, Jewish law, according to Deuteronomy 22:22 called for the death of BOTH the man and the woman. So where was the man? Why was the woman seized and the man let go? Could the man, perhaps, have been in on the plan?
It seems that that Pharisees and the teachers of the law were SO intent on trapping Jesus that they themselves had total disregard for the law AND for the nature of the woman as a human being. She was merely a pawn in their hands. Expendable, as long as they got what they wanted.
So they took her to Jesus and stood her before the crowds at the Temple. This was nothing but a vain attempt to discredit Jesus in front of His listeners.
Jesus preached compassion. In their minds, if He had compassion on the woman, they could accuse Him of going against the Law of Moses. And if He called for her death, He would not only be seen in a different light by His followers, but He could be reported to the Romans.
And all the while, she stood there in humiliation. An object of wrath and convenience.
Verse 6 continues…
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
Jesus spoke – and then He looked away. Can you imagine the power that Jesus’ words carried? It is simply unimaginable to me. I remember my dad stating a word of warning and then tilting his head down and looking at me over his glasses. You know, giving me “that look.” That look that made me feel about 2 inches tall, convicting me to my core. His eyes would lock with mine, and I could tell no lies.
But Jesus? Jesus didn’t even have to look. His words alone were so powerful as they cut through the air that He simply went back to writing in the dust. And I bet you could’ve heard a pin drop in that dust. He wasn’t watching – any one of the men standing there could have cast a stone. In fact, law dictated that the witnesses of the sin should be the ones to throw the first stones. But it was not to be…
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Jesus spoke, and then He looked away. And each listener had a choice to make as conviction rang through the air.
This is a picture of the cross that was to come. Jesus was about to bow His head in death, to say His last words as fully God and fully man, and to close His eyes, giving us each a choice. Do we focus on the sin of others, accuse them and hold them accountable as we throw stones at them? Do we acknowledge our own sin and guilt and simply slip away? Or do we stand in our sin, trusting Jesus, in His compassion and care, to offer us forgiveness as only He can?
Who are you in the story?
The woman was not in the right – although she was entrapped, she was in no way sinless. Yet she stood there, transfixed by the power of Jesus – ready to accept her punishment. But instead of punishment and death, she received Jesus’ grace and compassion. Her struggles were likely not over, Jesus told her to go and sin no more. I can understand that calling. And I can also understand that I mess that up every day. But Jesus told her, and He tells us, if you stand by me, if you give yourself to me, I will not condemn you.
Despite their elaborate plan, the Pharisees and teachers of the law sure didn’t trick Jesus. And the woman’s day went maybe from her worst ever, to her best ever.
That’s the power and compassion of the cross that only Jesus can give. Jesus fulfilled His purpose on earth – through the exhaustion and the pain of His calling – He gave His life so that you and I can stand transfixed by His power and receive His grace and enter eternity in the presence of God. Because He loves you that much.
Dear Jesus – thank you. Thank you for your never-ending love and grace and compassion. Thank you for giving it all – even to death – so that we can live. Jesus, we do stand transfixed in your presence, longing to serve you and live for you. We humble ourselves before you as we offer you our lives. Guide us and lead us, directly into your arms. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.