As Jesus returns to the temple, He continues His teaching. He is interrupted by the religious leaders bringing a woman who was caught in adultery. She is nothing more than a pretext to accuse Jesus of something more serious. But what Jesus does in this account is show us that: Jesus is the sinless Judge who bears the condemnation of His own law.
- An Attempt to Put Jesus on Trial: v.3-6a
The religious leaders are attempting to put Jesus on trial. We’re told that in verse 6. But what is surprising is that they want to appeal to the Law about what to do with this woman, but they themselves are doing nothing about the man. There is a hypocrisy and double-mindedness to their approach. They act is if they are appealing to Moses, but they’re using Moses and the Law to get what they want out of it. Have you ever done that? Have you ever tried to use the Bible to get what you want? When we appeal to the Word, we must do so for guidance, leading and wisdom, not for justifying or rationalizing our sin.
- The Prerogative of Jesus to Judge Us: v.6b-8
While the religious leaders are trying to put Jesus on trial, it’s Jesus that demonstrates that He has the prerogative, standing and position to judge us. Notice two aspects about Jesus’ prerogative to judge us. First, pay attention to what Jesus says in verse 7. Jesus is demonstrating that He is the sinless judge. But He is also helping everyone present to see that they are guilty and have sin. He’s blowing right past the posturing of the leaders and addressing the issue of sin in all of us. The sin of the Pharisees (or within us) is just as lethal and problematic as the sin in the woman. We desperately need a sinless judge to rectify our situation. Further, pay attention to what Jesus does. His response is to write in the dirt. We all want to know what Jesus wrote, but the author emphasizes how Jesus wrote. They point out that Jesus used His finger. This is the same way that God wrote the 10 Commandments. What is Jesus doing? He’s telling us that He is the Author of the Law! Jesus has the prerogative to judge us because He is the sinless judge and He is the author of the Law.
- The Merciful and Firm Law of Christ: v.9-11
Finally, we see that Jesus judges with the Law of Christ. As Jesus is left alone (v.9), the implication is that there is no one else who is qualified or capable to judge. Jesus is the only judge! Then we see how Jesus judges in verse 11. We see that there is mercy for sinners. Jesus is not rationalizing or justifying the woman’s sin, He is the provision of mercy for the woman’s sin! Instead of receiving the judgement that she deserved (keep in mind, she was guilty and the punishment of her transgression was supposed to be death) instead she will be covered and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus…just like we are. It’s the mercy of God given to us. Jesus is essentially saying to the woman, “you won’t die because I will.” Not only is there mercy for sinners, but there is also sanctification for sinners. Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. He has an expectation that upon receiving mercy, it will alter how she lives. The same should be true for us. The merciful law of Christ frees us from a life of sin and releases us into a life lived in Christ.