Forced Into His Presence…
She had no intention of meeting Christ that one early morning. It was the end of a week-long festival where feasting, music and merriment made occasion for some to indulge in sinful activities; she was caught in the act with a man. The scribes and Pharisees dragged her to the temple where Jesus was teaching and forced her to stand in the center. The room was crowded and all eyes must have quickly turned to her loosely wrapped body; it was no secret what she had done. The Jewish leaders did not bring her to the temple to punish her for her affair but used her sin to entrap Jesus.
Jewish leaders: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger.
Jewish leaders persisted in questioning him.
Jesus stood up: “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground.
Jewish leaders: When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men.
Only Jesus was left with the woman in the center; he stood up.
Jesus: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Adulteress: “No one, Lord.”
Jesus: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
Though she must have taken great care to conceal her sin as it was punishable by death, the scribes and Pharisees knew where to find her. Word about Jesus was rapidly spreading across the land and these Jewish leaders were increasingly getting nervous with his miracles and teachings. He was gaining favor among the Jewish people.
Something may have stirred in the woman when she first heard of this Jesus. His teachings that week in the temple were drawing crowds. Could he be the Messiah? Not today, no; she was more desperate for what filled her empty and desperate soul and it was the end of a festive week, a week to indulge. Thoughts such as these could have filled her mind.
But, she was found.
The scribes and Pharisees dragged her through the streets, forced her through the temple doors and maneuvered her to the middle of the crowded room. Not appearing to be fazed, Christ stopped his teaching to attend to this divine appointment.
The rude interruption in the temple was fueled by the Jewish leaders’ desire to ensnare Christ. If Christ should confirm the sentence of the law of adultery by death, they would condemn him as inconsistent with himself and with the character of the Messiah. If he should acquit her and give his opinion that the sentence should not be executed, they would prosecute Christ as an enemy to the law of Moses and accuse him as a friend to sinners, and consequently, being agreeable to sin.
He turned a deaf ear, stooped down and started to write on the dusty ground. Some have said of what was written, “Let the names of these wicked men be written in the dust,” while others have said, “The earth accuses the earth, but the judgment is mine.” Or, could it have been a merciful act to turn the crowd’s eye from the woman to himself? We don’t know.
The scribes and Pharisees, agitated by Christ’s silence, pressed him further. He finally stood up and vocalized to those who have not sinned to cast the first stone. Christ turned conviction from prisoner to prosecutor. Who can do that in a court of law?
He stooped down again.
Matthew Henry wrote, “Christ by this teaches us to be slow to speak when difficult cases are proposed to us, not quickly to shoot our bolt; and when provocations are given us, or we are bantered, to pause and consider before we reply; think twice before we speak once: the heart of the wise studies to answer.” Christ stooped down twice, and spoke once before the evil-intended scribes and Pharisees.
An amazing site started to transpire after Christ spoke. Not one scribe or Pharisee had anything to say; they were silenced, convicted. One by one, they left the temple, starting with the oldest who perhaps knew more sin in their longer lived years.
She was left alone with him. What must have gone through her mind? Her eyes wide and heart relieved? Still uncertain what he would say to her, did she keep her face down in shame? Christ addressed her, not as sinner, not with a derogatory label, but graciously called her by her natural, God-given name to this world, he called her ‘woman’, and she called him ‘Lord.’
She may have had no intention of meeting Christ that day, but the scribes and Pharisees who forced this adulteress into his presence, presented her before her savior. In scripture, God will often use the evil-intended to do his work, to accomplish his divine purpose of leading man to salvation.
This woman’s path to Christ was not of her own doing. We can never know what her intentions were for seeking him. Was she stuck? Sick of her sin? Did she enjoy the life she led? What we do know is that it’s a divine work of God that touches the heart of man; when, where and how it transpires is not up to us. We may not be like the scribe or Pharisee forcing others to him with evil intent, but we can be gracious ambassadors inviting them to Christ. We can rest assured that God will use anyone he chooses to bring salvation to those he loves. And, God’s love for the world was revealed by giving us his only son, Christ, God’s mystery in whom all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Colossians 2:2-3). This is the blessed truth and hope of the journey to salvation in Christ, in Christ alone.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
Matthew 8:2-11 was studied from Matthew Henry’s commentary.
Next time: The Pursuer
Eileen is the wife of a Delta pilot. Her blog series is entitled “Fine Lines in the Faith.” More about the author in her own words: “I’m a Sunday school grad. I’ve accepted Jesus in my heart more times than I can remember. I’ve worn masks well and God has stripped me of them, painfully. He has broken my spiritual legs and taught me how to walk again, painfully. Still learning to walk. The unknown is unsettling to me. This place is the start of a journey unknown to me. I don’t know who will visit here or who will stay, if these words will be criticized or will bless. But I welcome you here! My true hope is that this is the start of an act of obedience to God’s calling, a calling to write what He has entrusted to me. Join me in this journey to know Him more, love Him more and grow in our freedom by pursuing these fine lines in the faith.