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Trying To Trap Jesus

John 8:1-11
… but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ (NIVUK)

This passage (John 8:1-11) is not found in most of the earliest manuscripts of John's Gospel but it contains important Divine principles found elsewhere.  Certainly, the religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus into saying something contrary to the Law of Moses, so that they could have evidence to arrest Him and kill Him.  The narrative tells of how they dragged the adulterous woman before Him as He taught the crowds.  The testing question was, ‘Would Jesus authorise death by stoning?’
But where were the witnesses?  Deuteronomy 19:15 demanded that at least two or three witnesses had to agree before anybody could be convicted of any crime; and Deuteronomy 17:6-7 prohibited execution by stoning on the evidence of one person.  If there were two or three witnesses in agreement, they had to throw the first stones to confirm that their consciences were clear of the same crime and that their testimony was true.  In the case of adultery, both the man and the woman should be put to death (Deuteronomy 22:22).  

But where was the man?  And where were the eye-witnesses?  And where were the clear consciences?  In this narrative, Jesus did not condone adultery, and did not say she should not be stoned.  He simply searched the consciences of her accusers by His piercing statement, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”.  It seems that Jesus did not even look at the self-righteous religious leaders.  His Word was enough to prevent them from stoning the woman as they were forced into examining their own lives and thoughts (Matthew 5:27-28).  Jesus’ words to the woman were straightforward, ‘Repent’!

That is still God’s method of dealing with us sinners.  Jesus has done everything necessary to pay for the sins of the world.  He longs to forgive but commands us to repent (Acts 17:30).  He longs not only to pardon us so that we can live in relationship with Him, but He also wants to guide us into obedience (Psalm 23:3) so that we live with a clear conscience.  He never says that sin is acceptable, neither does He tolerate the religious hypocrisy of disobedient, unrepentant people with seared consciences.  So, today, we ought to reflect on these principles of covenant grace and show our repentance, with gratitude for our salvation, by turning from all that offends our Lord.

Dear Heavenly Father. Thank You for Your heart of compassion and grace. I am sorry for the times I have not taken sin seriously and have got used to living with a stained conscience, while criticising the behaviour of others. Please forgive me and give me the determination to turn away from all that offends You, giving thanks for Your mercy and saving grace. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams