CHRIST AND THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN, #581
"Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" (JOH 8:5)
The law is inflexible and there is no altering it nor is there mercy in the law. "And the law of Moses commanded us that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou?" I want you to see as we get into this what a blessed paradox and how wonderfully the paradox is resolved.
This fourth gospel beautifully reveals how our Saviour uses circumstances to prepare our hearts for the lessons He is about to teach us. Sometimes we get into circumstances that we cannot understand. We get into circumstances that bring us to our wits end, and how little we realize that these circumstances are of Gods providing for the sole purpose to prepare our hearts for the lesson that He is about to teach us. Now, within the fourth gospel we will find that in each instance, the Lord uses a set of circumstances as the foundation from which He builds the sermon that He preaches. We see this in chapters two through eight and on in the Gospel of John.
I want to bring to your attention the first instance in Chapter Five. We can see how Jesus used the circumstances of the impotent man to reveal the hearts of the Jews in Verse 16, which set the stage for the sermon He preached them about His Deity and oneness with the Father.
In Chapter Six we see how He used the circumstances of the multitude in the wilderness-and His feeding the hungry multitude to set the stage for the sermon He preached concerning Himself as the Bread of Life.
In Chapter Seven we see His refusal to go up to the feast and publicly manifest His glory-which became the background for His blessed manifestation of Himself as the fountain of all living waters-and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now in JOH 7:37-38 we read, "In the last day [He came unnoticed, but He stood in the temple while they were trying to take Him and kill Him], that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The manifestation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful message of the gospel, He proclaimed. Jesus came there not in a fleshly show of pomp and glory and a manifestation of His miracles so He could impress people with who He was, but He came there to open the fountain of all living waters-for whom? He came for those who are athirst.
Now in this chapter we find how Jesus again uses the circumstances of the crafty designs of His diabolical enemies to set the stage for the eternal theme of His sermon in this chapter. There is a central theme, which is of eternal value, in this chapter, and the stage for this is set, again by circumstances.
Look at JOH 8:12. "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Now, this fourth gospel presents two very notable things about the person and character of Christ. It presents His essential glory, and His voluntary humility. We have to understand that the glory of Christ is manifested in His voluntary humility. That is where you and I come to really understand, if it is but a glimpse of the wonder of the glory of Christ. He was so glorified for humbling Himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. So, we see His essential glory and His voluntary humility set forth beautifully in this chapter.
Therein on the one hand we can behold His unfathomable Excellency, and on the other hand we can see the depths of shame into which He voluntarily descended.
Now in JOH 4:6-7 we read how He became "wearied with His journey. "Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." (JOH 4:6-7) We see Him in His human nature here, how He humbled Himself and took our shame upon Him. He became hungry and weary with His journey, and he begged a cup of water from a Samaritan prostitute. The Creator of heaven and earth, the Creator, who by the Word brought forth the very existence of creation, is weary. He, weary, in His human nature, sitting thus on the well, asks a cup of water from a Samaritan, who were the biggest enemies and despising haters of the Jews. She is the prostitute from whom He begs a cup of water.
Look as we go to Verse 10; here we see His Divine glories shine forth as He tells her of the gift of God. And what was that gift? That very condescension of Himself. The gift of God in giving Himself. "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that speaks with you, then you would ask for living waters." I want you to see how that it is His wonderful glory and His voluntary humility that run in perfect harmony.
Now our chapter begins with: "Jesus went unto the mount of Olives" in Verse 1. I want you to see the contrast with the last verse of the previous chapter. "And every man went unto his own house." (JOH 7:53) Now His ascent up to the Mount of Olives points to the elevation of Christ, but it also brings our thoughts back to how He was rich, but for our sakes He became poor. "Every man went unto his own house." Now we read in MAT 8:20, "And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." He didnt have a house to go unto. See the blessed harmony between His ascent unto the Mount of Olives and His humility.
Now in the previous chapter we saw how the teachings and invitation of Jesus were with such power that even the very officers who were sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to take Him had to confess, "Never man spake like this man." (JOH 7:46) Those gracious words that proceeded from His mouth, and those gracious words were: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." That was such a powerful message that His enemies, who were sent to take Him and kill Him, had to confess, "Never man spake like this man."
Now that their bold attempt to arrest Jesus had failed because of those gracious words that He spoke, they crafted this diabolical design to take Him in His words. We have to see the craftiness of Satan in what is taking place here.
Now we see in JOH 8 that early in the morning He has come into the temple, and all the people came in to Him, and He sat down and taught them. Here He is again before this great multitude, teaching them and bringing forth these gracious words, and what did they do? They now came with a design to take Him in His words and to set a snare for Him. Look at JOH 8:3-5. "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" This is what the law says, but what do you say? They want to bring Him into a contradiction and to trap Him in His words.
Their diabolical design was to entangle Him in His teaching and hang Him on the horns of a dilemma. They asked Him a loaded question. The roar of the lion had failed. They had sent their men. They had sent their officers, and they found themselves helpless because of the power of His Word. The unction of the Holy Spirit accompanied His Word. They found that they were not able to even stretch forth a hand and reach for Him. Now, they changed their tactics. They are going to try to set Him up, and if they can get Him set up, then they will pull the rug out from under Him. The roar of the lion had failed, now they were going to try the wiles of the devil. They were going to try their crafty design and take Him in His speech.
They did not bring the adulterous woman to Christ because they were shocked by her conduct. They didnt bring her to Christ because they were grieved over the violation of God's holy law. That was not their motive. Their object was to exploit her sin to further their own evil design.
I was reading a piece in the Great Falls Tribune. One of our representatives in Washington, D.C., said that they believed that what took place at Waco, Texas, was a design to go in and to destroy those people to justify taking our guns. Now the point is, what they did was burn 100 people to death, but to justify their conduct of trying to disarm the United States and take their guns. I am just showing you that they were exploiting the sins of those people, violating the law, exploiting it for the sole purpose to gain their diabolical design.
This is what these scribes and Pharisees were doing. They were taking the sin of this woman and exploiting her sin to accomplish their bloodthirsty design. With cold-blooded hatred they were using their captives guilt to justify killing Jesus.
Now, they were so anxious to discredit Jesus' teachings that they could not wait to talk to Him in an opportune time. It says here in Verse 2, "and he sat down and he taught them." They came in and interrupted His teaching to lay this snare before Him. They couldnt wait for at time when they had an occasion to talk to Him privately. They interrupted His teaching to rudely challenge Him. Why? They wanted to challenge Him before the multitude; their design was to discredit His teaching so that no man would believe Him. They rudely challenged Him with what they thought was an un-solvable paradox. The paradox was that the law said that she must be stoned, but what do you say?
There was no room for doubt. The law required in LEV 20:10 that this woman who was taken in the very act of adultery must be stoned to death. The law demanded it. No mistake about it. There was no room for doubt in that, but they sought to defy Jesus' infinite wisdom saying, "but what sayest thou?" They were setting a snare to take Him in His word.
If He would say, "Let her go," they could accuse Him of being an enemy of the law and of His own teaching. Look at MAT 5:17. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." So if He were to say, "Let her go," they would have said: "You are a liar. This is what you said. Now you are destroying the law." See, they had framed Him. They were crafty and they designed to take Him in His own words and to make Him a liar.
On the other hand if He would say, "stone her" they would condemn His teaching for what He had said in JOH 3:17. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." If He said this, Hes a liar, or if He said that, Hes a liar. They had Him framed. They were going to set Him at naught before this great multitude and prove He was a hypocrite.
Now their question, "but what sayest thou," was not asked with a desire to learn, but it was crafted to ensnare Jesus in those gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. Look at JOH 8:6. "This they said, tempting him. [They were trying to take Him in His words.], that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not."
Now, the apparent snare that was laid for our Saviour was in fact a dilemma. It was an unresolvable paradox. There isnt a human mind that could have ever solved that riddle. It was a dilemma not only to these diabolical rulers of God's people, but the dilemma was, how could justice and mercy come into harmony? Justice demands that the law be fulfilled to the last jot and tittle. This is where every sinner stands in the light of the law. Condemned. There is no mercy in the law. This is a dilemma. How can mercy and justice come into harmony? This is the snare that they were laying for Him.
To deny that justice demands the penalty to be executed promotes a reign of anarchy or terrorism. Not executing the penalty brings about absolute anarchy. You will see nothing but terrorism. There is no law. Everyone becomes lawless. So, this was in fact a dilemma.
Look at PSA 89:14. "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne." Justice is the very habitation of the throne of God. How could the penalty of the law be satisfied with judgment, right judgment? See the snare they were setting for Christ.
Moreover, God is holy as well as righteous; and holiness burns against evil, and cannot allow anything that defiles to enter His presence. Look at REV 21:27. "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Nothing that defiles can come in the presence of God. What then must become of this poor sinner? This was the question they posed Him: "But what sayest thou?" These crafty enemies of God and His Son asked in our text, "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?"
Now, every sinner certainly is manifest by his moral pollution in sin. There isnt a person on the face of the earth who cannot be identified by his actions that he is a sinner. Every evil thought, word, and deed is unclean in the sight of God. By our moral action, we manifest ourselves to be under the condemnation of that law, and the law demands justice. The law demands that the penalty must be paid. Therefore the only hope lies in mercy. The only hope that you or I or any human being has before the law is mercy, yet there is no mercy in the law. You can read the law and find not one provision for pardon or for mercy or for forgiveness of any kind. The law demands satisfaction. No mercy can be found in the law.
The dilemma presented in their question, "but what sayest thou?" was, how can mercy be exercised when the sword of justice stands in her way? That was in fact the question they were asking. How is there room for mercy when the sword of justice demands her death? How can mercy be met when you and I are under the condemnation of the law?
Now, my friends, human wisdom would have failed in any attempt to solve such a paradox! It is evident that these scribes, Pharisees and chief priests were totally blinded to the meaning of the declaration made by Jesus' forerunner, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (JOH 1:29) They did not understand the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not understand the atonement, the appeasing of the Fathers wrath, by the satisfaction there is in Christ. They did not understand the love of the Father. They did not understand the Father in giving His own Son. When the Lord Jesus told them in JOH 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," they had no conception of the atonement and of the sacrificial death of Christ. They had no conception of that Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. They did not understand substitutionary death. The Law of Moses was satisfied by the penalty being paid, which was death, but it was paid by a substitute, and that is what they could not understand.
Satan and all his host may well have been totally confounded by such a paradox. They had no conception of the meaning of all the daily sacrifices that these chief priests were making. They had no understanding that these sacrifices were only pointing to the sacrifice of Christ.
Look at GAL 3:22-24. "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." They never understood that schoolmaster. Their eyes were blinded. They never understood all of the daily sacrifices and the ceremonial laws; all of the ritual of the ceremonial laws was a schoolmaster to teach the principle of a substitutionary death.
Now after Christ has come we are no longer under that schoolmaster. A lot of people take Verse 24 out of its context and say that the law is a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. That is absolutely false. Absolutely it is not the meaning of that Scripture. Satan would love to say that we are still under the law in a way that there is no longer any law. He loves over-reaction, but look what it says in verse 25. "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." We dont need the ceremonial laws any more to teach us the substitutionary death of Christ. We have His fulfilling of all the ceremonial law, and therefore it is abolished.
The atonement and resurrection of Christ have fully accomplished all that was taught by that schoolmaster; therefore the ceremonial law has been abolished.
Look at EPH 2:15. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace." Does that tell you that it is the ceremonial law that is abolished? Certainly. It is the ceremonial law, "even the law of commandments contained in ordinances" that has been abolished.
Now let's analyze the paradox contained in this crafty question which was asked of our Saviour. Look at JOH 8: 6, "tempting him, that they might have to accuse him." I want you to see wherein lay their crafty design.
(1) We have there the very person of the Blessed One who had come to seek and to save those who are lost.
(2) We have a sinner who was taken in the very act-one who can by no means clear herself.
(3) The law thundered against her-the penalty of the law, which she had broken, was death.
(4) The guilty sinner was brought before the very Saviour Himself, and was indicted by His enemies, not by her enemies, but by the enemies of Christ. Her indictment was written before Him.
Such was the paradox that was presented to Jesus, "tempting him, that they might have to accuse him." Would His love for sinners stand helpless before the law of which He had said in MAT 5:17. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." Would He and the love He had for sinners stand helpless before that law? How could the law be honoured without ensnaring Him in His own gracious words in JOH 3:17? "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." How can He now put these two in harmony? That is the riddle, which is the paradox, the snare they had laid for Him.
Now look at what we read in JOH 8:6. I want you to see that even the daily sacrifices of these blind leaders were symbolic. Even the priests office they held was symbolic of the priesthood of Christ, where Christ was going to take and make one offering for sin and enter Himself into the Holiest once, instead of like they did every year. Even their very office was symbolic of His priesthood. Whereas all of this was symbolic, so Jesus answered them in a symbolic way. This is so overlooked. What answer did He give them? Look at what we read in JOH 8:6. "This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not." There is where He answered them-in a symbolic way. They didnt see it nor understand His answer.
This was symbolic of what we read about the writing of God's finger in EXO 31:18. "And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." What were those tables of stone but the very law that these scribes and Pharisees were trying to use to ensnare Christ? He stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. What was He doing but telling them that He was ratifying that very law. He was reminding them that it was His own finger that wrote that law in stone, and that it was unalterable, that there was no mercy in it. These were the two tables of the law of love.
In this instance in EXO 31 it is two tables of testimony. That word "testimony" is the ten commandments. These were the two tables of the law of love. Love God with your heart, your soul and your mind, which are the first four commandments. The other six were loving your neighbor as yourself. These two tables of the law were engraven with the finger of God in stone, unalterable. That is what He was symbolizing when He wrote with His finger on the ground. He was reminding them that that law that they put before Him was in fact written in stone with His very finger. I want you to see that these were the Ten Commandments. Look at DEU 4:13. "And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone." I want you to see that testimony, two tables of testimony, were the Ten Commandments.
When "Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground," He as much as said, It was My finger that wrote that law in stone! In other words, "Tell me something I didnt know." Thus He demonstrated that He was not come to destroy that law. He ratified it. His writing on the ground was to symbolize His ratification of that law. Now it is evident that our Saviour's enemies mistook His silence for embarrassment. They thought He was embarrassed and didnt have an answer. "So when they continued asking him," as we see in JOH 8:7. They no more understood Jesus' handwriting than Belshazzar understood the writing of that same hand on the walls of His palace that was also written with the finger of God. They did not understand any more than Belshazzar had.
Embolden by His silence, and satisfied they had Him cornered, they continued to press Jesus for an answer. Oh, how often the persistence of evildoers put the righteous to shame for a lack of importunity! Could you and I be as persistent in righteousness? Could we be as persistent in prayer as the evildoers are persistent in their evil designs?
In JOH 8:7 we read, "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Now, after He has ratified that law, He turned on just enough light to show them that they too were under the condemnation of that law. "Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone." The Lord opens our hearts to understand the nature of our sin, our heart sins, and our wrong attitudes. He opens our eyes to see what sin we have, and we cannot pay the penalty for it. Then our pile of stones gets pretty small that we have to throw at the greatest sinner. "Let him cast the first stone." Now there they stood guilty. Not only this woman taken in adultery, but His whole audience stood guilty and condemned to death.
God's law is holy and righteous, and here the Lawgiver Himself revealed that He was the light. How did He reveal it? Jesus revealed the Light by shining that light into their hearts, and their own hearts now condemned them. They stood condemned before the bar of Gods justice. It revealed the hearts of those who had so little respect for that very law that they were using to accuse their fellow man. Look at JAM 4:11-12. "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" See the consequences of judging our fellow man. When we judge, we judge the law. We are not judging the person, we are judging the law, and we become a judge, not a doer of the law.
The next verse is very significant. Look at JOH 8:8. "And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground." Very significant. He stooped down a second time and wrote on the ground. The symbolic meaning is clearly revealed in the word "again." You see, if it had stopped with His first writing on the ground, you and I would have stood condemned eternally. But He stooped down again and wrote on the ground. The first two tables of stone were dashed to pieces and broken as we see in EXO 32:19. That law had been broken, and you and I stand under the condemnation of that law, but He stooped down a second time.
A second set were written by the finger of God as we see in EXO 34:1, how that God wrote again with His finger in stone, and again wrote the same law. What happened to that? The testimony, or these two tables of stone, were placed in the ark as we see in EXO 25:16, and were covered under the blood-sprinkled mercy seat as we see in EXO 40:20. Now we see that same law, but it has mercy. This is what we see that Jesus was teaching them, "and he stooped down again." He was telling us that that law was written a second time, again with the finger of God in stone, but now it was placed under the mercy seat.
Herein Jesus answered their question symbolically how He would save those who were under the condemnation of the law, and doomed for death. That is how He would save them. The dilemma will be resolved by the law being written a second time, and it was placed under the mercy seat, sprinkled with blood.
The law was not destroyed, or i.e., abolished, but fulfilled as we see in MAT 5:17. The law, which was written upon Mt. Sinai, was not altered. That law was never given any mercy. Every jot and tittle of that law was satisfied. When the Lord Jesus Christ was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He was sweating as it were great drops of blood and crying out in agony before His Father, and He said: "Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me." There was no mercy in that law. That law must be satisfied to every jot and tittle, but now that law is in the ark, sprinkled with blood. That solves the dilemma. The law was not destroyed.
There was no mercy in that law, and therefore we read in HEB 12:18, 22, "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched [that word touched means manipulated or altered. You are not come unto the mount where the law has no mercy], and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels." What have we found in Mount Sion? That law has never been altered. It is written in stone, but now it is upon Mount Sion, where that same law is found under the blood-sprinkled mercy seat.
Now, the earth shook and trembled at the voice of Jesus when He had finished His work which the Father had given Him to do. We see in MAT 27:50-51, "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent."
When the Lord Jesus Christ finished perfect satisfaction of that law, the earth trembled and shook. The rocks were rent. The graves were opened. There was such power that went forth in the satisfaction of that law. Then Mount Sinai was removed.
I want you to see in HEB 12:26-27a, "Whose voice then shook the earth [His voice shook the earth when He cried, Father, it is finished. The earth trembled and shook. The earth did quake and the rocks were rent]: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. [What is that telling us?] And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken."
Mount Sinai shook and trembled, when God came down upon Sinai with the law. Those things that shake and tremble are removed. Everything of earth, everything of this life, everything except that perfect law of God, which was unalterable, unmovable. It is written in stone. Who says the law is abolished? Now that law goes forth from Mount Sion, and now we come before the Lord with gospel obedience because there is mercy in the law. This was the dilemma that was placed before the Lord Jesus Christ. The Law of Moses says, it commanded, but what sayest thou? He wrote on the ground to remind them that He ratified that law by writing with His own finger in stone. Then He wrote on the ground a second time, when they too stood condemned under that law. He wrote a second time to symbolically teach that that law was now satisfied, and there is mercy in that law.
So it says in HEB 12:27-28, "And this word yet once more signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain [What is it that remains? It is those two tables of stone, the two tables of the law that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant under the blood sprinkled-mercy seat. That is what cannot be shaken]. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."
Do you know what is the best news of the gospel? When the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, the good news that you and I can again serve God acceptably because He looks upon that perfect atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. He looks upon the law under that shed blood. He looked at that law under the mercy seat in the Ark of the Covenant, under that shed blood, and now, you and I can serve Him acceptably. Isnt that precious? There is the good news of the gospel that we can return and serve the Lord in a way that a holy and righteous God can accept of that service. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." Serving with Holy reverence for His law.
These truths were not understood by those blind leaders of the blind. Our text says in JOH 8:5, "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" Amen.
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