And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the middle,…
Notice on this occasion -
I. THE CONDUCT OF HIS ENEMIES.
1. It was brutally gross.
(1) It was so to the woman. She was disgraced, and had exposed herself to the odium of her detectives. But this was not enough; they dragged her to the temple, to the presence of a popular Prophet, and exposed to the ridicule of the crowd. This, to any woman, although a sinner, would be painful, but to an Eastern woman it was a real torture, and the conduct of those who treated her thus was gross and unworthy of common humanity.
(2) It was so to our Lord. Whatever they might think of him, his public character was blameless. He was a Teacher held in high repute by the multitudes, and taking no higher view at present than this, to take this poor fallen sinner thus publicly before him was grossly indelicate. But think what he really was - the immaculate, purely innocent, and incarnate Son of God, come on a mission of love and mercy, and now in the very act of striving to benefit a multitude of the human family. Such a case, with all its unholy associations, must have grated harshly upon his moral sensibilities, and must be loathsome to his moral taste.
2. It was utterly hypocritical. Hypocrisy is to speak or do one thing but mean another. If so, the conduct of these men was utterly hypocritical.
(1) They professed great reverence for the Law - for this law which was applicable to adultery. This was only an empty profession. They had long ago ceased to execute it; it was a dead letter as far as they were concerned.
(2) They professed great regard for public and private morality. This also was a miserable sham. As the sequel amply proves, they were most immoral themselves.
(3) On this occasion they professed great respect for Christ - addressod him as "Master," while in their very hearts they most bitterly hated him, and this case was a plot to betray him.
(4) They professed to be in a difficulty, and anxious for light and help. But there was no difficulty whatever. The Law of Moses on the subject was quite explicit, and the woman was guilty according to their own testimony. What more light could they desire?
3. It was utterly irreligious. Religion, if it means anything, means true respect for man and profound reverence for God. Their conduct manifested neither, but the very reverse; they made light of an erring soul, and lighter still of a loving Saviour. If they had any reverence for God, the Creator and Father of all, and any true regard for their fellow creatures, they would lovingly hide the guilt of this fallen woman, and tenderly try to heal and restore her. But so impious and light was their conduct, that they trifled with an erring sister in order to entrap a gracious Saviour.
4. It was cunningly and maliciously cruel. It was a cunning and cruel plot to bring Jesus into trouble, into public disrepute, into court, punishment, and if possible into death. Knowing his reputation for forgiveness and tenderness as well as purity, they bring the case of this erring woman before him, satisfied in themselves that it would of necessity bring him as an heretic before the Jewish council, or as a seditionist before the Roman tribunal, it was a cunning and cruel plot, inspired by hatred to destroy him. What they could not do openly they attempted to do clandestinely.
II. THE CONDUCT OF JESUS. His conduct here brings forth certain features of his character into bold relief.
1. His perfect knowledge.
(1) His knowledge of inward motives and intentions. He knew their most hidden and secret thoughts, which could only be known to omniscience. He knew their motives in spite of the outward plausibility and piety of their conduct. Everything which the most cunning hypocrisy could do to hide their real intentions was done; but, in spite of this, all was clear to him. In fact, a great deal of the evangelist's account is only a faithful report of Jesus' secret thought and motive reading. There never was and never will be such a thought reader as Christ.
(2) His knowledge of real character. Through the woman's foul pollution and her accusers' professed sanctity, their real character was open to him. Her accusers thought that they could stand the test of the crowd, but little thought that they were under the immediate gaze of an omniscient eye. He could see something worse in the accusers than in the accused. The woman, degraded and guilty as she was, appeared almost innocent by their side. Here Jesus could see. Here, perhaps, Jesus saw the angel of light in the mud of depravity, and certainly the angel of darkness in the garb of light, and murder accusing adultery in court. To the all-seeing eye of Jesus what a scene was presented here!
2. His consummate wisdom. This is seen:
(1) In his refusal to act as a legal judge in the case. There was a strong temptation to this. The case was so stated and the question so framed that escape from the cunning dilemma seemed almost impossible. Had he been caught by it, his enemies would be triumphant; but his unerring wisdom guided his conduct.
(2) In raising the case into a higher tribunal - that of conscience and reason. Had he dismissed the case with a flat refusal, which he justly might have done, his foes would have some reason to complain and glory; but from a court in which he had no jurisdiction he raised it at once to that of conscience - "the King's bench," where he ever sits and has a right to judge. And this had a crushing effect upon his foes, and his superior wisdom shone with Divine brilliancy.
3. His supreme power over spiritual forces in man.
(1) His power over conscience, even a guilty conscience. He proved here that he could awake it from the sleep of years by the word of his mouth. Although lulled and even seared, yet it recognized at once the voice of its Author and Lord - "He that is without sin," etc. Conscience is true to Christ; the heart is false.
(2) The power of a guilty conscience over its possessor. There is a striking instance of this here. No sooner conscience awoke than it spoke in thunders and made cowards of them all. It became a horrible whip to lash them, and, self-convicted, they went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, and when the veterans retired from the attack the younger soon followed.
(3) The power of a guilty conscience over its possessor reveals the power of Jesus over all the spiritual forces in man. He is the supreme and lawful King cf the spiritual empire. He can touch every spiritual power of the soul and rouse it into action, so that man must willingly obey his rightful King or ultimately become his own tormentor.
4. His pure and burning holiness. This is seen:
(1) In the attitude he assumed. "He stooped," etc. - an attitude of silent contempt and of inward and holy disgust. Like a flower from a cold March wind, his tenderly holy nature naturally shrank from the foul moral atmosphere around him.
(2) In his calm demeanour. Although quite cognizant of the cunning plot, its malicious design and inspiring hatred, yet he was unruffled. Why was he so calm and self-possessed? Because he was so holy.
(3) In his vindication of the Law. "He that is without sin of you," etc. The claims of the Law were admitted; it suffered no loss at his hands.
(4) In his condemnation of sin. That of the woman, and not less that of her accusers.
(5) In the scathing effect of his words on his foes. Their self-conviction was the sympathy of conscience with the holiness of its Lord. His presence and words became to them unbearable. Fearing another burning sentence or a piercing look, they had left before he had raised himself from the ground; they fled his holy presence as some beasts of prey flee to their dens before the rising sun. They would rather meet the auger of a storm than the pure gaze of that eye.
5. His Divine tenderness and mercy. This is seen:
(1) In his conduct towards his enemies. They were more his foes than those of the woman. They were really the friends of guilt, but foes of innocency. Disgusted as he must have been with them, he treated them very tenderly. He took no advantage of his great superiority. There seems to be a technical error in the charge; this he passed by. Whatever might be the full meaning of his writing on the ground, it certainly meant that he tried to avoid public exposure of their guilt, and to convict them by private correspondence; and failing this, he exposed them in the mildest manner.
(2) In his conduct towards the woman. Most teachers would be to her harsh and censorious, but he was not. His holiness seemed to have burnt from its very centre and flowed in love and tenderness. Whether this woman was a confirmed sinner or the victim of a stronger and a more sinful nature, it is evident she was sinful and degraded enough. Still he treated her as a woman, though fallen, and respected her remaining sensibilities. His conduct glowed with more than human tenderness, and breathed more than human mercy. "Neither do I condemn thee" - words which probably mean more than a simple refusal to act as a legal judge; but, in consequence of a penitence of heart which no eye could see but his own, they were meant to convey the acquittal of a higher court, and the blessing of Divine pardon, he dismissed her with an honest but a hopeful caution: "Go, and sin no more" - language involving condemnation of the past, but full of hope with regard to the future; and if his advice were acted upon, he would become her Defender and Friend.
1. The most depraved and wicked really are the most harsh and censorious. The servant which has been forgiven a hundred pounds by his master is the most likely to abuse his fellow servant who owes him fifty. He who has a beam in his own eye is the first to charge his brother with having a mote. The witness box is more sinful often than that of the criminal.
2. The most holy are the most merciful. Jesus was so purely holy that he could afford to be abundantly merciful, he is the foe of sin, but the Friend of sinners. The climax of holiness is love and mercy.
3. Outward morality may stand the test of a human judge, but not that of the Divine one. The Law is spiritual; the Judge is omniscient. What is real and immortal in man is spiritual; what he is spiritually he is really to God. Jesus was more tender to tempted and fallen sinners than to self-righteous hypocrites. The former he helped, the latter he denounced. A scar on the skin is more easily cured than cancer on the vitals. The accused fared better than her accusers.
4. The greater the opposition to Jesus the more brightly his character shone, and the more unfortunate and impenitent sinners are benefited. The character of Jesus never shone more brightly than in this cunning and dark plot. His superior knowledge, wisdom, authority, holiness, and mercy shone so brilliantly that in the fiery furnace we see One not like unto, but the very Son of man and the very Son of God; and the poor woman derived a great advantage. On the tide of hatred she was carried into the lap of infinite love, and by the seething wave of human vindictiveness she was thrown into the warm embrace of Divine forgiveness.
5. The sinner and the Saviour are best alone. Jesus alone, and the woman in the midst. Spellbound by his authority, and more by the secret and magic influence of his Divine compassion, she stood still. Her accusers all were gone, and she was the only one that remained in the Divine society - a dumb suppliant at his feet. No one should go between the sinner and the Saviour, between the sick and the Physician. Let them alone. A sound advice will be given, and eternal benefit derived. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
WEB: The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the midst,