The Need for Love
Devotion In Motion
“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” The Feast of Tabernacles is now over, and usually the pilgrims head home. But a huge crowd chose to spend an extra day with Jesus. Verse 3, “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.” Now before we read the following story we first need to address a problem. There is a controversy as to whether the story of the woman taken in adultery actually belongs in the Bible. If you’re reading the NIV or one of the other modern translations, there is a preface on the bottom of the page to Chapter 8 that reads, “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53 – 8:11.” And to me that statement is misleading… Yes, this account is omitted in some Greek manuscripts.
But the story is in other very old manuscripts, and it gets referred to by many of the early church fathers. A man named Papias mentions this story as early as 100 AD. St. Augustine explained why this passage was left out of some of the biblical manuscripts. He said a few copyists feared that Jesus’ kindness toward an immoral woman could be misconstrued as condoning adultery. The copyists were scared people would stumble over grace. I like scholar FB Meyer’s comment on John 8:1-11, “There is no possibility of accounting for its existence except that the incident really took place. It reveals in our Savior’s character a wisdom so profound, a tenderness to sinners so delicate, a hatred of sin so intense, an insight into human hearts so searching that it’s impossible to suppose that the mind of man could’ve conceived it, or the hand of man could’ve invented it.”
I agree. To me, there’s no doubt that this wonderful account of our Lord’s Love and forgiveness belongs in our Bibles. Verse 3, “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.” It makes you wonder how they caught her “in the very act” – and where was the man? The last time I checked it took two people to commit adultery. Deuteronomy 22:22 is clear, “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die…” The fact that the man is conspicuously missing tells us that this was a setup.
This woman had been trapped in order to spring a trap on Jesus. Imagine this scene… Jesus is teaching in the Temple when angry, growling voices are getting closer… Suddenly, the crowd parts like the Red Sea and up stomps uppity religious Pharisees dragging a frightened, nearly naked woman. They sling her at Jesus like a queasy new dad might toss a smelly diaper into the trash. They’re spewing accusations, spitting out judgments, poking their fingers at her like they’re thrusting swords. And the woman… What a sight! She’s lying on the cold floor in a fetal position. Tears have cut trenches in her heavy make-up. At a distance, she looks pretty but up-close, this woman is worn and haggard. She’s been used and abused – objectified by men and scorned by so-called ladies.
Years of abuse have ruined her body, and worse, it’s hardened and embittered her soul. She probably hated everybody. Especially the self-righteous Pharisees who are barking at Jesus. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” On the one hand, if He turns her loose, it’s a flagrant disregard for the Law. He’d be soft on sin. On the other hand, if He picks up a rock to stone her He’s destroyed His reputation as a friend of sinners and a man of mercy… Either way, the Jewish leaders believe they’ve finally out-foxed Jesus. They got Him! “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” It wasn’t just what He wrote on the ground that was significant. It’s what He did not hear – He didn’t hear their accusations and condemnation.
And Jesus is still deaf to the railings and judgments people hurl at sinners like me and like you when we trust in Him. The Pharisees were snarling, demanding an answer, but Jesus just ignored them. He bends down and starts doodling in the dirt. What He wrote we don’t know, but the word translated “wrote” is the Greek word “katagrapho”, which means “to write against.” Jesus wasn’t listing positive attributes. Most likely, He was writing accusations against the Jewish leaders. Verse 7, “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.”
One Greek manuscript in which this story does appear adds a footnote. It says Jesus wrote in the dirt the sins of each accuser. Perhaps, He started writing the names of the Pharisees’ girlfriends and prostitutes and other sins. “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.” The rocks that had been held in tightly drawn fists started dropping one at a time. The men holding them had decided to head home. Then, “Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” And what a scene this was! When she was thrown at Jesus’ feet there was hate in her eyes. She hated the hypocritical Pharisees. She probably hated men in general. All her life they’d peeled her like an orange – sucked out her sweetness – then thrown away the skin… yet Jesus was different!
She’d heard of Jesus – by this point who hadn’t? But she would’ve never believed a man so holy, could be so merciful. She knows He’s pure, but she senses He cares. For the first time in her life, she’s found a man who cares about her as a person, not an object. She’s felt the lust of men, but this feels like love. This is new. She’s actually tasting forgiveness. “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” The irony is there was only one person in the crowd that day who had never sinned. Only one man qualified to cast a stone – yet He chose not to. Instead, Jesus chose to forgive this woman rather than condemn her.
The Pharisaical solution for sin was to destroy the sinner. Jesus also hated sin, but He loved sinners. The Pharisee’s remedy for sin was a stone, but Jesus’ solution for sin was a stick of wood – the cross. And let me make one more point… Let’s make sure we remember this story not only when we’re in need of forgiveness, but when the stones are in our hands. If Jesus can forgive this woman with the sordid reputation, why can’t you forgive your guilty party? Notice, He said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” And I’m sure she obeyed.
This encounter marked her turning point. You See, Love disarms a cynical attitude and breaks open a padlocked heart. Jesus restored to this woman what had been stripped away, her value and virtue. Look When a person gets used, you cheapen their value. But save them and it adds value to their life. You upgrade their worth. Jesus gave this woman a new life. I’m certain she became a devoted follower. Remember all this happened on the heels of the Feast of Tabernacles, and one of the foremost features of this Feast was the lights that decorated the Temple. Giant candelabras were erected in the courts of the Temple reminding Israel of the fire by night – God’s presence that led the people through the wilderness. These menorahs were enormous. Their bases were 100 feet high. The trunk of the menorah split into four branches, each with large cups at the top for oil. Priests climbed ladders to refill the oil. Worn-out priestly garments were used as wicks. Light from the lamps lit up Jerusalem. The city glowed at the Feast.
Each night during “The Feast of Tabernacles” folks would gather in the Temple courtyard, waving torches and dancing to music. It was an all-night celebration. But the day after the lights were snuffed out. It was probably as the Levites disassembled the special Menorahs, and cleaned up from the night before, that Jesus stood in the Temple and uttered a declaration. It was another example of His impeccable timing… Jerimiah 29:11 says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”. We have a tendency to think that what is happening in our life or not happening is because God must just be up there punishing us for some sin we have committed, that he is just up in heaven sitting on his throne just waiting to pounce on us when we make a mistake, that he must just hate us, but that is the opposite of what the prophet Jeremiah Tell us here in Jeremiah 29. Every thought that God has toward you and me is of peace, to give you and me a future and a hope.
This woman had been used and abused, she probably hated everybody including herself and when they brought her to Jesus in all her nakedness, she didn’t utter a word in her defense because she couldn’t. She probably was hoping someone would begin casting stones and put her out of her misery but Jesus wanted to show her real Love. The Love of God towards her . If you are feeling angry today at everyone and most of all yourself.
Know that Jesus would come to you in the same way. Without condemnation, without judgment but with what this woman needed most.
To know she mattered to the God of the universe Jesus. And when we come before Jesus there is no need to lie for he knows all things. Just ask him to forgive you of your sins and come live in your heart for the rest of eternity and he will say to you
Where are those accusers of yours? Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more
“The lord loves you as if you were the only person on earth to love”
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