Now Moses, But Jesus
This week’s devotional was written by Mark Hathaway.
The past few weeks we’ve been studying in John chapter 8. Let’s look again at our passage.
John 8:1-5, But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 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. 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. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” (NKJV)
One thing you learn in any kind of leadership training today, is if you have an issue with someone, you pull them aside and deal with them in private. I don’t think the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had access to the same training. They dragged this woman into the “midst”, or middle of the proceedings. This woman was being exposed for all to see.
This must have been a highly emotionally charged encounter for everyone involved. I’m sure the people listening to Jesus’ sermon were shocked by the interruption. They may even have been mortified – they were about to witness, maybe even partake in a stoning. That’s not why they came to the temple today.
Imagine with me how the woman must have felt. She was caught in the very act of adultery. She knew she was guilty and so did everyone else present. Imagine the shame and embarrassment! She likely knew many of the people in the temple, after all she lived in the same community. But beyond the shame, think of the total sense of despair. She had no defense! The law of Moses prescribed sacrifices for various sins, but not adultery. When one was caught in adultery, according to the scriptures, they were to be put to death.
The Jewish women of Jesus’ day wore their hair up. The only time they took it down was when they were in the privacy of their bed chambers with their husbands. This woman was taken in the very act. She didn’t have time to put her hair up. I can see her standing there with her head hung in shame, her long hair hiding her face. It is likely that her hands were bound. The minutes must have seemed like hours to her as she awaited the only possible sentence for her crime. Imagine the sheer terror as she waited for Jesus to command “stone her!”
It’s interesting to me that the temple is where the scribes and Pharisees dragged this woman. Do you remember our study a few weeks ago where we discussed the temple? The temple, designed by God, was a place of sacrificial worship. It wasn’t where you went to be condemned, it’s where you went to be forgiven.
No one present could have suspected the irony. This woman who had no forgiveness available to her according to the law, was on trial in the one place that God’s forgiveness was provided. Not only so, but the very God who granted that forgiveness, was the one this woman was facing. Jesus the Messiah, the only person qualified to pronounce her judgement and cast the first stone, was being put to the test. The scribes and Pharisees didn’t care about this woman. They knew they were going to stone her. They were after Jesus. They set Him up using the word “but” which indicates contrast. Teacher! “Now Moses… but you….”. They tipped their hand. They were setting Jesus up to contradict Moses. Brilliant plan! This was going to be so easy for them. Sometime in the previous week (chapter 7), Jesus had also been in the temple teaching. He chided the religious rulers in John 7:19.
Jesus said, “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (NKJV)
Jesus doled out the greatest insult to the most accomplished religious leaders. He accused them of not keeping the law of Moses! Their entire system was built around the minutest detail of the law of Moses. Jesus had the gall to accuse these men dedicated to the law of Moses, the very law to which they feigned allegiance, of not keeping that law? They had time to stew in Jesus’ insult and plan a counterattack. They dragged this adulterous woman before Him hoping to demonstrate that it was Jesus who would break the law of Moses. Jesus started it, but they would finish it.
The sharp contrast was not between Moses and Jesus as the scribes and Pharisees would have everyone believe. The contrast was between these self righteous men and the truly righteous Jesus.
The scribes and Pharisees preached a message of do and don’ts. They knew all the scriptural rules and took it upon themselves to constantly remind the people of those rules. They were quick to point out how the people were falling short, all the while somehow exempting themselves from the same standard. These men were focused on failure and death, and they thought they had the backing of Moses the lawgiver.
Their thinking was fundamentally flawed. Moses only delivered the law, God is the only lawgiver. God’s law flows out of His righteous nature. He doesn’t give the law to condemn us. He gives us His law to demonstrate His nature to us, and to demonstrate how far short of that nature we fall.
The law of Moses only demonstrates our need for a savior, but we can’t stop there like the scribes and Pharisees did. We must have an encounter with the one and only saviour Jesus Christ, by believing in Him. He’s the only sinless, perfect lawgiver qualified to condemn or forgive. The Pharisees would make it impossible for us, Jesus made it easy. He did the hard part, He walked as a man, died on the cross, and rose again victorious. The God-man Jesus the Christ provides us with our salvation. All we must do to be saved from our deserved stoning is to place our trust in Jesus. Will you stand before Jesus as this woman did, and hear His Judgement? I believe He longs to tell you “…neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”