October 25, 2021 Faith Bible Church

Showing Mercy - Letters to the Prison

Showing Mercy - Letters to the Prison

From the series Letters to the Prison


Last week, we saw how the Jewish leaders were in such a rage about Jesus that they were willing to ignore basic points of Mosaic law and insult one of their leading members (Nicodemus) for attempting to take a rational legal approach to what Jesus was saying and doing.  Interestingly, we’re about to see how Jesus himself applies Mosaic law in a difficult circumstance…  but the record of the circumstance itself is difficult, as we will soon see.    

John 7:53-8:11 is widely believed to have been inserted into John’s gospel long after John finished writing it…  by someone other than John himself.  Ancient manuscripts do not agree on where this passage belongs in Scripture…  and ancient theologians don’t even comment on these verses until over a thousand years after John wrote the book.  And when they do comment on it, they point out that this passage likely doesn’t belong in Scripture at all.  Further, if you skip the section by reading John 7:52 followed immediately by John 8:12, the flow of thought makes more sense.  These along with many other reasons indicate that the story of the woman caught in adultery was probably not included by John in his gospel.

This is one more reason why we can trust what we read in Scripture.  The manuscripts available to examine are so thorough and extensive that even the well-intentioned insertion of what appears to be a legitimate account of Jesus’ activity on earth is easily detected.  This story was likely told and retold through the ancient church so often that some ancient scribe decided that it needed to be written down…  but they just didn’t know where or how to include it.  So, it’s worth examining and considering even though it wasn’t part of John’s original gospel.

So, we’ll put the narrative of Jesus’ activity at the Feast of Booths “on pause” temporarily to consider this brief story.

The first thing we notice is in John 8:3 –the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery…  but where’s the man?  It takes two to commit adultery, and Jewish law demands that both parties be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10).  Further, the accusers are the ones who need to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7).  In ancient Jewish law, such transgressions were met with instant, public, and lethal consequences.  But there is another requirement before such a brutal punishment could be administered…  Jesus notes it in John 8:7: “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  So, the consequences were dire, but the only way one could “throw the first stone” is if they themselves were innocent.

This is why, in Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  This is also why, when Jesus said, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” all the woman’s accusers slowly crept away…  leaving her alone with Jesus.  And why did Jesus stay?  Because he is utterly without sin… and he is the only righteous judge.  And what did he do at that moment?  The Sinless Righteous Judge of All showed mercy by not condemning her, either.

Beloved friends, we pray that today we would all remember Jesus’ mercy towards us and that we would thank Him and praise Him for it.  Until next week!  We love you!

Dean A.