Summary: Now what does Jesus write in the dust that causes all of the woman's accusers to leave?
Caught in the Very Act! --Call the Tabloids!
This passage does not appear in many modern translations of the Bible, or it appears in the footnote which states that most ancient copies of the Scripture we have discovered does not contain it, or contains it with asterisks indicating there were questions about whether it belongs here. In some copies, it shows up at Luke 21. In many ways, the style is very much like Luke. Also, no ancient church father before Augustine who was 350 years after Christ comments on the passage at all. If it were not for the fact that this passage bears all the markings of an authentic story of Jesus, it would probably not have been kept at all.
It must be remembered that the church endured great persecution during its first 300 years. The Scriptures were confiscated when found, and in other cases, the Scriptures had to be hurriedly gathered up as the Christians fled from danger. There is a possibility that some of the pages got mixed up. Whatever happened is a mystery, but I feel this passage is genuine and in many ways fits here. Jesus in the Gospel of John warns about making surface judgments based on appearance. Any in many ways, this passage shows the darkness which was in the Scribes and Pharisees heart. This would fit well in the context of Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world. And earlier we remember that John states that this Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not understand it.
Therefore, I am going to treat this passage where it lies in the Gospel of John.
In last week’s passage, we saw that the people of Israel who were at the Feast of Tabernacles were undecided about Jesus. We also saw that the Jewish leaders who thought that the common people were ignorant and cursed for following Jesus were actually more ignorant than the people they cursed. When Nicodemus pointed out that they were ignorant of the law by condemning the teaching and person of Jesus without giving Jesus opportunity to formally defend Himself against the charges, they got irate and called Nicodemus a Galilean which to them was akin to our “hillbilly” or “redneck”. The mocked Nicodemus who was called “the “Teacher of Israel” by saying that if he only looked, he would see that no prophet arises from Galilee. However, it is the leaders of Israel again who are ignorant. First of all, the prophets Nahum and Jonah came from Galilee, and more importantly, Jesus was not born in Galilee, but Bethlehem.
Exposition of the Text
In this Sunday’s text, the ignorance of the Scribes and Pharisees are even further brought out. This is the first and only time the Scribes are mentioned in this gospel, although they play prominently in the other gospels. There were no printing presses in those days, so every copy of the Scriptures and other books had to be copied by hand, a slow and labor-intensive undertaking. This meant that the Scribes would become very familiar with the text as they meticulously and neatly copied the Scriptures and commentaries. The Pharisees often consulted with them. But it is one thing to know the words of Scripture and another to know the meaning and intent. The Scribes were extremely competent in what God had said (as well as the opinions of men about them), but they were entirely ignorant of the weightier aspect of the heart of the law and God’s purpose in it.
The Scribes and the Pharisees devised a trap to catch Jesus. They waited until a large crowd had gathered around Jesus and let Him begin teaching them. It is not because they cared for this crowd whom they considered to be rabble, but rather they weren’t against stirring them up to attack Jesus. They knew that they had to discredit Jesus with the common people if they hoped to do away with Him. They would have their way, but not here because it wasn’t the right time that was set by the Father. The crowds would have the opportunity to say “Away with Him”, but not now.
The Pharisees had created this dilemma. If Jesus has said to let her go free, they would have accused Jesus of not keeping the Law of Moses, and the Scribes who were with them could have quoted all sorts of Scripture and tradition to back them up. If Jesus said stone her, they could have turned Him over to the Romans who alone had the right to decide death penalty cases and said that Jesus did not obey the Law of the Romans. Also the crowds would have seen Jesus as being harsh. Adultery by men was winked at then as it is now. Notice the man was not brought. Why should women be treated any differently than men?