Corrupt religious and political systems have been with us a long time. If you throw stones at others, you wouldn’t want to encounter Jesus in the public square. ◊
Ever see an angry group of people rise up against another person? A mob-like group. They may be righteously upset over a known or perceived misdeed or a differing cause or point of view of another person or group. Or the mob might just be cruel and on the wrong side of justice.
Think of our own sad racial history of brutal lynch mobs over the past centuries here in America.
Unfortunately, man’s inhumanity to man has a common record throughout human history. While we’re taught as youngsters to practice the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or in secular terms – “treat others like you would want to be treated,” it’s hard to imagine what’s going through the minds of those participating in mob-like behavior against another fellow human being.
And religion doesn’t necessarily help the matter. Actually at times it can make it worse.
Of course it was Jesus who stated the Golden Rule line of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in Matthew 7:12. He cites “this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” referencing this known rule of reciprocity stated by God, written by Moses in the Old Testament: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)
Jesus and a Stone Throwing Mob
So what’s ironic is the scene found in the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John often subtitled in our Bibles as “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” What’s fascinating here is that it is a mob of Jewish religious leaders referencing Old Testament Hebrew Law in order to stone a woman literally caught in the act of adultery.
They were using their religion to score a win for their cause. Jesus represented their potential loss of populous power, religious power and even political power as the Jewish leaders were complicit with the Romans in securing their own protection, power and wealth.
Yes, it was a pretty corrupted religious and political system back then in Jesus’ day.
The religious scribes and Pharisees used a poor woman merely as a pawn for their own selfish purposes. They wanted to trap Jesus in a comment so they could legally condemn Him. They actually deceptively twisted the Old Testament Law in its application here. Actually, Leviticus 20:10 calls for the death of anyone caught in adultery – both parties. Also, Deuteronomy 17:7 says that the “hand of the witnesses (at least 2 witnesses were required for a death sentence) shall be first to put them to death, then the hand of all the people.”
The Pharisees were not even correctly following the Law. Where was the adulterous man? And who were the two witnesses? They should have been the ones to cast the first stones.
Here’s the full story in John 8:2-11:
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus, the Brilliant Savior of Everyone
Jesus puts us all to shame. We all are guilty of the full gamut of sins. Yet He doesn’t call us out unless we hypocritically twist and distort and deceitfully use His Law/Word/Bible and resist His Truth as Lord and Savior of the World.
We don’t know specifically what Jesus wrote in the sand. Perhaps a reminder of the correct reading of the Law? Or perhaps a delineation of their own secret sins and hypocrisy. Either way, the Pharisees were struck to their core as they slowly walked away under the conviction of His words. Interestingly enough, the eldest left first.
By the way, to clarify a common misunderstanding about the Old Testament Law, like what is cited throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy: the Old Testament Law was for the Hebrew people alone, given to them through Moses after their flight from Egyptian oppression. The Law was mandated for a Hebrew theocracy – God/Jehovah was their Lord/King. These stringent rules and regulations were meant to keep this Hebrew people group separate from the pagan world around them throughout the Land of Canaan. Rules to stone people like adulterers and evil doers was meant to “purge the evil from the midst of you,” as stated throughout the Old Testament.
This is not meant for us today, although the wise pillars of human societal structure and moral law (think Ten Commandments) come from these Old Testament fundamental rules of respect and fear of the Lord God and respect and civil interaction with our fellow man. And Christians are not trying to get back to a theocracy, they only are believers in the planned descendant product of that Hebrew nation, Jesus the Messiah, God in human form, who fulfilled the Law in living and dying as the ultimate perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
In the light of this, we do best to drop our stones and causes, and sin, and simply follow Him.
Are you more like the woman or the Pharisees?
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
Categories: Evil, Faith, Forgiveness, Israel, Jesus, Old Testament
The Lord Jesus corrected whatever practices needed correction. Today’s death penalty advocates can accurately point out the lack of His opposition to the Jewish or Roman death penalties, as reported in the Gospels. Per the text, the woman was DEAD-BANG GUILTY of a Jewish capital crime. It’s very likely that she was discovered in the act by more than one witness — she was subdued and arrested. It’s also very likely that the male adulterer escaped. So the Lord’s only recorded brush with another’s death sentence is His successful advocacy for a guilty criminal.
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Charlie, I see Jesus less an advocate of any legalism, be it the death penalty or other crime and punishment issues, but more an advocate of sin recognition/confession and repentance. After all, His standards and examples set for lust and anger move everything onto a different plane of consideration. We are all guilty on any level. In this episode with the adulterous woman I see His focus not on religious and judicial policy but rather on forgiveness of sins (even the guilty) and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Michael. Maybe that is all I should say… the bitterness that is spewing from the mouths and Internet voices of people who called themselves Christian’s but speak like sons of the devil…I pray that those who truly love Jesus will repent of this evil, damaging game that Satan has drawn them into. God bless you, Michael!
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