Background Scripture: John 8:1-11,39-59
Lesson in Perspective: The theme of today’s lesson is Violence For The Law.
Today’s lesson describes two events in Jesus’ life when the Jewish religious leaders took up stones to commit violence to carry out their interpretation of God’s law, in one, they sought to ‘purge’ Israel of the sin of adultery, and in the other, they sought to punish Jesus over His claim to have existed prior to Abraham. In both cases, Jesus prevented their ungodly violence.
A Woman’s Cause to Rejoice (John 8:1-11):
Jesus Prepares to Teach (vv. 1-2).
1. Jesus went up to the mount of Olives. Jesus routinely took time to be in His Father’s presence.” And was a common stop for Jesus when He was in Jerusalem. Given His prayerful the mount of Olives habit, the specific location, and no further information, we surmise that Jesus took this time to pray.
2. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. All the people drawing near suggests that theu were primed-though recent experience, word of mouth, or other means-to seek out Jesus’ teaching. Again, points to at least one event that would have prepared the people to hear from Jesus on this occasion.
B. Change of Curriculum (vv. 3-9).
3a. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery.
The relationship between the Jesus and Pharisees was typically contentious. Their zeal for the law was commendable, intended to prevent the sins that had led to exile in the first place. Unfortunately, several factors, including mistaken expectations (John 7:52), vested interests (11:48), and hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-32), prevented these leaders from seeing God’s larger picture and made recognizing His Messiah incredibly difficult.
How this woman was found in adultery but her partner was not is a mystery. There could be perfectly innocent reasons (on the part of her accusers) why this man was not present: he escaped, he fought them off, etc. The most cynical reading (which is refuted by Jesus’ instructions in John 8:11) would suggest that the woman was unjustly accused or even framed by those religious leaders.
3b-4. And when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Why would Jesus’ enemies refer to Him as Master? I would suggest that the religious leaders used their reference to Jesus as Master was a ploy to the crowd that was gathered around about Jesus.
5a. Now Moses in the law commanded that such should be stoned. The scribes and the Pharisees devoted their entire lives to learning and living the Law of Moses faithfully. Commands to stone adulterers (found in Deuteronomy 22:20-21, 23-24) were specifically linked to a woman’s promiscuity before marriage or during her engagement.
5b. But what sayest thou? For a clearer idea of Jesus’ apparent dilemma in answering what sayest thou, one should consider two key points. First, Jesus was known to be a friend of the sinners. Second, under Roman law the Jews had no authority to carry out the death penalty. Religious leaders were endlessly frustrated that Rome was the final authority (John 18:31). The question had nothing to do with the woman. Instead, it was a question designed to trap Jesus and thereby discredit Him.
7b-5. He lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her. And again stooped down, and wrote on the ground. Jesus statement was a pointed reminder that even those who studied the law and sought to obey its every word were still guilty of breaking it (James 2:10-11). And because of that, all of them-not just the woman-faced a death sentence. This should prevent any hones person from initiating the execution.
9. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. Heartfelt conviction of conscience leads to repentance (example: Acts 2:37). The men who left were also the witnesses to this crime. Without witnesses, no one was left in the crowd who was able to initiate punishment (Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:7).
C. Life-Changing Lessons (vv. 10-11).
10-11a. When Jesus lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. Addressing the woman for the first time, Jesus’ rhetorical questions were intended to confirm that the accusers were gone.
11b. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Jesus knew this woman’s sin, whether this particular accusation was true or not. Just like her accusers, the woman’s sin made her subject to death. And being the Son of God , Jesus was entitled to enforce the death penalty, if He so chose. But Jesus gave the woman another option. He desired her to repent and thus sin no more.
References: Enduring Word Bible Commentary, Matthew-Henry Concise Bible Commentary, International Sunday School Lessons KJV 2023-2024