Imagine this situation, Jesus is sitting in the middle of a group, in the temple no less, teaching God’s grace and mercy and people’s need to believe Him! When suddenly, the scribes and Pharisees burst into the gathering, dragging a half-naked woman into the middle of the crowd, and tossing her down in front of Jesus saying, “Look Jesus, this woman was caught in the act of getting’ it on, but not with her husband!” The Law was clear that those caught in adultery were to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:22). While it was true this was a capital offense punishable by death, there were important safeguards to protect the innocent from false accusation or misunderstandings. First, there could be no doubt or guessing about any of the details of who was involved, where it happened, the time it happened, and what actually happened! There had to be several eye-witnesses who all independently corroborated each other’s testimony. “Here she is, Jesus. Caught in the very act. What do you say should happen to her?!” The perfect situation publically laid out to trap Jesus in a dilemma and get rid of Him! If He condemned her, He’d lose favor with the “ignorant fools” following Him running His reputation as a friend of lawless sinners! (This is how they saw Him! Matthew 11:18-19) If He didn’t condemn her, He’d be arrested because of His blatant disregard for the Law and discredited as a teacher for not doing what He proclaimed to come to do (Matthew 5:17-19)! Either way, a win-win and a perfect plan, so they thought! The only trouble was, Jesus wasn’t biting at their bait! He refused to acknowledge them. He simply stooped down and wrote in the dirt with His finger! What He wrote has been speculated and argued for centuries. The truth is, we don’t know, but I have a theory about what He wrote which explains what’s about to go down! I believe He wrote in the dirt, one of the things He wrote on the tablets, which was this, “You must not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14. But I believe He scratched out one more thing under these words. A table diagram. Just blanks like an empty excel worksheet awaiting data input. If He wrote about His command concerning adultery, it would explain what enticed the leaders to press Him for an answer expecting Him to condemn the woman! But, I don’t think they were ready for His response; perfectly timed to remind them of what the Law said must happen (Deuteronomy 17:6-7). At which point, Jesus returns to writing in the dirt! But I suspect this time it wasn’t a scripture verse or law quote. I believe He started filling in the table. First, with the names of the accusers. Then dates, and beside each date a location, and then perhaps the initials of each woman they had committed adultery with or at the least fantasized about being with (Matthew 5:27-29). In their zeal to be rid of Jesus, they were unwittingly ensnared by Him in their own trap with no way of escape! Because Jesus’s response wasn’t an acquittal of her charges, it was an indictment of hypocrisy and sin within all the religious leaders who were just as guilty! Instead of passing judgment and condemning the woman, Jesus passes judgment on the judges and condemns them not only for the way they treated the woman but more importantly, for the way they could so easily see and condemn sin in others but fail to judge themselves according to the same standard (Matthew 7:5)! Convicted and ashamed they retreat, one by one. With no witnesses and no prosecution, there was no case and no one remained except Jesus and the woman standing in the midst likely wondering, “What just happened?” Having dealt with the hypocrites, Jesus now turns His attention to the woman, “Where are those accusers of yours, woman? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord.” she says.
Then Jesus responds “Neither do I. Go, and sin no more.”
Unlike the religious hypocrites, Jesus’s goal was not to condemn, but to save people (John 3:17)! This we see one of those tender moments where Jesus is revealed as both Lord and Savior for a lost sinner who finally realizes she needs Him! Lord, in that He doesn’t ignore, condone, or capitulate to her sin; He rebukes it! Savior, because even though justified to judge and condemn her, He chooses instead to give her hope for a new life where she can be free from sin and death! Her story ends happily, but make no mistake, sin has consequences and will eventually catch up to accuse, and condemn you too! In that moment, you’re going to want Jesus with you as you face your accuser, and Him asking and telling you what He tells this woman. “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I, go and sin no more!” There is only one way this can happen for you, and It’s the same way He’s able to tell this woman that He doesn’t condemn her and then makes it possible for her to actually go about living her life not encumbered by sin and death (Romans 8:1-4). Sin will always be there waiting to trap, accuse, and condemn you, and there is only one way to be free; that is to quit fighting in your flesh and belong to Jesus in your heart!
Lesson4Life: When you belong to Jesus you’re free to go unencumbered by sin and death!