Caught Red Handed (Josiah Lair)

Caught Red Handed

In the eighth chapter of John’s gospel, the apostle whom Jesus loved, he records a brief but especially important interaction Jesus had with a woman caught in adultery which the religious leaders of that time brought to Him while He was teaching to the people. Let us read through the story and explore the different perspectives of all involved.

John 8:1-11 - An Adulteress Forgiven
Jesus walked up the Mount of Olives near the city where he spent the night. Then at dawn Jesus appeared in the temple courts again, and soon all the people gathered around to listen to his words, so he sat down and taught them. Then in the middle of his teaching, the religious scholars and the Pharisees broke through the crowd and brought a woman who had been caught in the act of committing adultery and made her stand in the middle of everyone.

A source of great fear for us is being found out. It is why dirty deeds are done when we think no one is watching. Imagine feeling like you are getting away with something you know you should not be doing, only to get caught in the act. I am sure we have all been there at some point in our lives! The shame we immediately feel is terrible and the fear which consumes us is very real. Those feelings alone are punishment enough for most people, now imagine you are then publicly brought forward in front of everyone you know and care about. Family, friends, coworkers, your pastor, etc. It is almost enough to wish you were dead, right?

This woman must have never been more afraid in her life! In fact, she feared for her very life. She had been caught and her life as she knew it was as good as over. The ridicule and pointing of fingers she probably experienced on her way to meeting Jesus served as salt to her already broken heart. Perhaps she fought at first, but at some point, our wills accept our fate and what remains of our perspectives is all just a blur. Our steps leading to the end of ourselves are filled with lead and what is left of our hearts are overcome with dread.

Then they said to Jesus, “Teacher, we caught this woman in the very act of adultery. Doesn’t Moses’ law command us to stone to death a woman like this? Tell us, what do you say we should do with her?” They were only testing Jesus because they hoped to trap him with his own words and accuse him of breaking the laws of Moses.

But Jesus did not answer them. Instead he simply bent down and wrote in the dust with his finger. Angry, they kept insisting that he answer their question, so Jesus stood up and looked at them and said, “Let’s have the man who has never had a sinful desire throw the first stone at her.” And then he bent over again and wrote some more words in the dust.

A couple things to note here are the hidden agenda of the religious leaders and the contrasted wisdom of Jesus. These men did not actually care about this woman nor what she had done. They only saw her as a means to an end, tripping Jesus up and proving a point. Here this woman is terrified believing her life is about to end and it really is not even about her sin so much. Thankfully for her, Jesus still sees her and sees through the charade. He understands there are ulterior motives at play and chooses to remain silent.

Silence is a great skill to learn, as speaking from reaction most often gets us in more trouble. As we see, people do not like when their questions are left unanswered and they become quite flustered. Attitudes quickly shifted from being smug thinking they had it all figured out, to hot tempers demanding an answer. When Jesus did give them their answer, they quickly learned they too were caught red handed, and the mood appropriately shifted to a somber humility.
Upon hearing that, her accusers slowly left the crowd one at a time, beginning with the oldest to the youngest, with a convicted conscience. Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So, he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”

Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”
Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.”

Oh, the relief this woman must have felt to have been condemned to death, only to end up with her life spared!

Fear is a powerful motivator, but much more powerful is unmerited favor. Fear drives us to behave because we must or else there is punishment. Grace completely changes the stance of our hearts. It becomes a joy to do what is right because though we were guilty, we were spared. Just as the woman at the well went and told anyone who would listen about Jesus after her encounter with Him, this woman must have been driven to do the same. When we truly encounter grace and the real unconditional love God has for us, our natural inclination is to go tell others of the incredible gift we have found in Him.

It is easy to forget, Jesus and this woman already had a crowd of witnesses; all the people who had gathered to learn from Jesus that day. What a powerful lesson they must have learned! Here they were thinking they were about to witness, and possibly participate in, what they believed to be a just death of this woman. Instead, they all got a deep heart check, for none of those people there were without their own sins. None of them had the right to condemn her. The only one who did have that right chose to forgive her instead, just as He has chosen to forgive us all.

This should make us think twice about writing others off so quickly. We never know what Jesus has in store for them! In fact, He will most likely use their open brokenness to display His glory more brightly. There is little more beautiful to behold than when God restores a broken person! May we always strive to bring about restoration and be willing participants in the Love that changes lives.