The OG Scarlet Letter

There's a story in the Bible that has had my attention for these past few weeks. The retelling can be found in it's entirety in John 8:1-11.


In this particular encounter with Christ, Jesus is in the temple teaching and as He is teaching the religious leaders bring to Him a woman that was "taken in adultery" - which is to say that this woman was having sex with someone who wasn't her husband and they grabbed her and brought her to Jesus.


The religious leaders ask Jesus what she be done with her, they were hoping He would condemn her to death according to Mosaic Law, this was an attempt to trap Jesus and accuse Him of some wrong.


So what did Jesus do?


The scripture says that He, "stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not." (John 8:6) When they kept asking Him what to do, His response was: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground." (John 8:7b, 8)


One by one the religious leaders leave until the only ones left are Jesus and the adulterous woman. When Jesus realizes this, He asks her where her accusers were and this encounter ends like this:


"...hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." (John 8:10c, 11)


As per usual, there is so much to unpack in this text. How did they know this woman was having sex with someone that wasn't her husband? Did the religious leaders set this woman up? Were they prepared to stone her to make a point?


Most importantly, what can we learn about Jesus in this text?


We can see that Jesus was so disliked by the religious leaders of His time, that they were willing to go through elaborate plots to ensnare Him and that Jesus literally paid them no mind.


We can see that Jesus only said what He meant and practiced what He taught. Earlier in John 3:17 Jesus says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him," He is referring to Himself in third person and has not forgotten what He said.


We can see that while He clearly cares for our souls, He understands that we can't be open to hear Him if we are physically dead. We see that when Jesus recognizes this woman's sin and discourages her from continuing in her sin only after He saved her life.


And this last point is what has been resonating with me the most. Jesus is often teaching compassion and grace through His interactions all throughout His ministry. This is a very practical example of that.


The Mosaic Law (Leviticus 20:10) does in fact call for those who have committed adultery to be put to death, yet it is worth noting that the text calls for both parties to be put to death-not just the woman. Why is this worth noting? It demonstrates that the religious leaders were not concerned with accurately executing the law, but on trying to manipulate the text so that it could be used to "trap" and accuse Jesus of wrongdoing.


So when He doesn't condemn the woman, it is both His demonstration of John 3:17 and Matthew 5:17 which says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (NIV)


How?


Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."


Jesus dies so that we don't have to. Jesus knew that He would be taking on her adultery at the cross, so she didn't have to die, because He was set to pay the price. Jesus was also intentional in not allowing Himself to be a pawn in the religious leaders play for power. Jesus is God. He doesn't need to prove Himself to anyone, and so He doesn't.


He extends grace and compassion to this woman above all else, because in this moment, she didn't need to be reminded that she was a sinner, she didn't need to be used as a tool of manipulation against the religious leaders, she needed to be spared. She needed to live to tell the story of how this teacher in the temple named Jesus saved her life.


As representatives of Christ, our priority is to be the hands and feet of Christ. It's to extend His grace, love and compassion to others so that they recognize Him in us. So that they too can experience His love and be reconciled to Him.


So here is my challenge to you: Who are you in this encounter? Are you one of the religious leaders? Are you the adulterous woman? Or are you like Jesus?


Once you answer that question, how do you continue?



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