Summary: Just how much does Jesus know about you and what does he do with that information? A woman and some Pharisees find out but his response is very different between those who need forgiveness and those who want it.
In the movie "Conspiracy Theory" Mel Gibson believes that the government knows all kinds of things about him and are tracking his every move so that he doesn’t uncover some super secret plot they are trying to cover up. For most of the movie you believe that Gibson is just plan wacky but then all of his fears turn out to be completely true-even Gibson seems surprised.
While I don’t necessarily buy into theories of vast government secret plots, I want us to think about information-bad information-that someone could have about you. We all have our secrets, or things that could be made to look bad in the wrong hands. Wouldn’t it be scary to sit across the table from someone that seems to know everything about you?
Well, the really scary thing is that God already knows all about us-our thoughts, our intentions, our actions-all the things we would be ashamed for others to know. To think of that kind of information being broadcast is truly frightening.
Today we see Jesus hint at just how much he, as God, really knows about us in the story of the woman caught in adultery and in the beginning of an argument with the Pharisees. But was is truly amazing is not what Jesus knows but what he does with that information.
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Verses 7:53 - 8:11 are disputed as to whether they are actually a part of the gospel of John. It is missing from manuscripts prior to the 6th century and is not mentioned in the earliest commentaries of the gospel. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. Perhaps this account got passed down and later scribes thought it would be a good idea to include it here.
Here we see the first of many traps that the religious leaders try to set for Jesus. They tried a frontal attack, sending officers to arrest him in chapter 7. That didn’t work. Basically Jesus spoke and they marveled so much that they said "no one ever spoke like this man." So I guess they figured the only way to get rid of him was to catch him either in an inconsistency or to discredit him by making him choose a position that was not popular with the people.
Jesus does not dispute the charges against this woman-she is guilty of sin-and the Law says that a woman caught in adultery must be executed (Lev 20;10, Dt 22:22-24). The seemingly unavoidable dilemma was this: if Jesus said she should not be stoned then they could claim he didn’t follow God’s Word. If he said she should be stoned he would lose his image as a compassionate person and could be seen as violating Roman law that forbade independent executions by the Jews. What’s a Savior to do?
Instead of answering, at first Jesus bends down and writes on the ground. What did he write? Some suggest it was the sins of the religious leaders present. It’s interesting that they were already law breakers by arresting the woman but not the man as the Law requires. Perhaps he wrote down the Ten Commandments. Whatever it was, it began to make the Pharisees very uncomfortable.
Jesus then makes the famous statement that he who is without sin should throw the first stone. Jesus was not condoning the sin, in fact he supports that there is sin and this woman is guilty. Nor was he saying that only perfect people can make judgments. But he was pointing out the fact that none of us are perfect and that lack of perfection means there are experiences and attitudes and other things our lives that can cloud our judgment of right and wrong. It’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Are we not all deserving death? If we have hated a brother (as the Pharisees hated Jesus) we have already committed murder in our hearts and deserve the death sentence like this woman (Matthew 5).
So they start to leave, starting with the oldest. Perhaps they had more sins to count or were more aware of their own sins. Notice that this doesn’t stop this same group from later plotting to kill Jesus. They were not repentant, only aware of sin. You can be well aware of sin, but unless you repent, change your mind, and seek the forgiveness of sin that only Jesus can give, you will not find release from the guilt of sin.
So then no one is left to cast stones. Can you imagine the mental state of this woman? She had been caught in a weakness, she had been shamed, and then her life was immediately threatened. Yet Jesus says "Has no one condemned you?" Jesus then says "neither do I condemn you." But he doesn’t let her off the hook. He tells her to go and sin no more. That, of course, is impossible for unregenerate humans. The point is that she can find forgiveness and cleansing for sin if she comes to the Savior. Jesus doesn’t wink at sin, but he alone provides a real answer for sin’s penalty and sin’s hold on humanity.