It’s A Trap!
Read John 7:53-8:7(ESV)
They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
What would the Pharisees accuse Jesus of if he told them to let her go? What about if He told them to stone her?
Today’s passage is a favorite of many so it may shock you to discover that this section of Scripture is actually not found in the earliest manuscripts of John that we have. Most Bible translations have this section bracketed and usually include a notation mentioning that fact. The manuscripts that do include this incident are dated much later so it is believed that the description of this incident was not in John’s original document. But that doesn’t mean that this incident never happened.
Many scholars believe it to be a historical event that was passed down orally in the early church. Remember, the Bible is not exhaustive. It would have been impossible to record every single moment of Jesus’ life and every utterance He ever spoke. John himself wrote: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). No doubt there were many stories about Jesus like this one that eyewitnesses saw and passed on even if they weren’t recorded. Because this story is consistent with the rest of Jesus’ teaching and ministry and because so many scholars believe it to be historical, it is worth studying.
If you consider the surrounding circumstances, you see that this isn’t merely a story about a woman whose sin was publicly exposed and forgiven by Jesus. There was so much more going on. This was really yet another incident of the Jewish religious authorities seeking to trap Jesus so they would have some dirt on Him.
Think about it. Jesus was teaching in the temple and suddenly they barged in bringing only the woman they just happened to catch in the act of adultery. Where was her partner in crime? Why did they bring her to Jesus and not just put her on trial? The Jewish leaders didn’t acknowledge that Jesus had any authority to decide someone’s guilt or innocence, so why did they bring her to Him?
Remember, Jesus knows the hearts of man. He knew their intentions and He is too clever for their tricks. We don’t know what He wrote on the ground but His response when He stood up is brilliant. He didn’t disregard her sin or guilt. Adultery is against the 7th commandment and it is punishable by death for both the man and the woman caught in the act (Leviticus 20:10). But Jesus’ response exposed the sin, hypocrisy, and evil intentions of her accusers. Jesus knew this charade wasn’t really about her sin, it was about their desire to trap Him so they could get rid of Him.
In the end, not one of them could throw a stone to condemn her. And isn’t this true for all of us? It reminds me of Psalm 130:3: “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” The truth is, apart from the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of Christ, none of us could stand.
Lord, I know that if it weren’t for Your mercy and grace, I wouldn’t be able to stand before You. Remind me that “there but for the grace of God, go I” when I am tempted to throw stones hypocritically. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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