Day 21: It’s a trap!
...but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. John 8:1-6
In John 8, the scribes and Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) are trying to trip up Jesus by getting Him to break Jewish laws. This time, they bring Him a woman who, under the Jewish laws given by God, clearly should have been condemned to death. They wanted to see if Jesus would forgive her anyway.
Jesus did! And He did it in a way so God-honoring that the Pharisees could not judge Him for it. Instead, he showed how hard-hearted and lacking in forgiveness they were.
One reason the scribes and Pharisees didn’t understand forgiveness was because they were legalistic and lacked mercy. They were right that the law God gave to Moses said to execute adulterers by stoning. But they focus so much on the tiny details of the law that they forgot the greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with your heart, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus condemns them for this: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin [make a religious offering even of their herbs], and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” God had given the Jews many detailed laws, but it was always for the purpose of making them holy and teaching them to do right by one another. The Pharisees ought to have remember Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Jesus forgave because He knew the law was not just about obeying the rules; it was also about calling sinful people out of sin and back to God and His holiness.
Questions for discussion and reflection
- Is obeying God or loving others more important? Why?
Dear God, You give us rules so that we learn to love You better. Help us to show love and mercy while we obey You. In Jesus’ name, amen.