Christ and the Law of Moses
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #2
"Christ and the Law of Moses"
April 12, 2014
Another Look at John 8:1-11
Thursday’s lesson for this week looks at the story of the woman taken in adultery. It affirms the truth that Christ lived a life in harmony with the law of God and the law of Moses. Is there more that can be drawn from this story? Let’s take another look.
“She just knew that she was doomed. No doubt existed as to her guilt, when the scribes and Pharisee dragged her from her lover’s arms, hurried her through the streets to the temple, and thrust her into the audience of the Savior. Then they said to the Master, ‘This woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou’ (John 8:4, 5)? This woman had no hope of reprieve. These hypocritical church leaders, hiding behind the force of the law, thought they had Jesus in a bind that He could not escape. They knew He preached the gospel of peace. They seemed to know that He desired mercy and not sacrifice. Yet they despised and resisted this attribute of God’s nature. Thus, they brought this woman to Him, and they thought they had Him cornered. They thought they had devised a perfect stratagem and that neither He nor this woman could escape. With her head bowed in shame and despair, she waited for the stones to fall. She had not a flicker of hope.
“This incident in the life of Christ provides a profound insight into the struggle going on behind the scenes. The casual observer sees a plot fomented by a few temple legalists to make life miserable for a weak and susceptible woman, but the real issues are much more profound. This apparently simple incident was in fact a significant chapter in the struggle between the Prince of Life and the prince of darkness. In this apparently simple but legalistic sparring match the most fundamental issues of the great controversy between Christ and Satan were being arbitrated. The enemy of souls had claimed that God could not be just and merciful at the same time. He had sought to set at variance the very elements of God’s nature. Thus, the accuser charged this woman with violating the law of both God and Moses. The question was a simple one to understand. Yet it posited a profound dilemma. Is it possible for Christ to uphold the law and at the same time save the sinner, the transgressor of the law?
“Jesus apparently ignored the scribes and Pharisees. The Bible says that He stooped down and began writing in the sand, ‘as though He heard them not.’ What a scene of grace! The accusers are demanding ‘justice’—demanding that this woman receive what she deserves, what the law demands, but Jesus begins writing in the sand as though He does not hear. He writes in the sand as though He does not care. He writes in the sand as though He does not understand. The accusers wait, and the woman also waits—breathless, nerveless, and hopeless. In each of our experiences are times when we seek the Lord in prayer. We call upon Him to honor the promises recorded in the Word, and it seems that He ignores us as He stoops to write in the sand. It seems He is writing in the sands of time, as though He does not hear, but He hears. It seems that He is writing in the sands of time, as though He does not care, but He cares. It seems sometimes that He is writing in the sand as though He does not understand, but He understands! ‘No one understands like Jesus.’ These moments of divine silence, these moments of apparent neglect, these moments of celestial apathy—these are moments of mercy. Sometimes, no doubt, the accuser demands that we be destroyed according to the letter of the law, and heaven is mercifully silent, seemingly inattentive, apparently uninterested. Yet the purposes of grace are steadily being fulfilled.
“The biblical narrative continues: ‘So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’ (John 8:7).
“These words of Jesus came to this poor woman as a death sentence. If there had been any hope up to this point, all was surely banished now. Then Jesus stooped and continued to write in the sand. The scribes and Pharisees grew curious about the writing. They wondered why He seemed so unconcerned, so nonchalant, so preoccupied with His writing project. They pressed in close to read the writing, and when they had read it, being convicted in their hearts, they ‘went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last’ (John 8:9).
“So when they were all gone, Jesus ceased writing and addressed the woman, saying, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee’ (John 8:10)? Finally, this poor woman found the courage to raise her head and look around. She was amazed! They were all gone! Every one of her accusers had taken leave of the place. She responded to Jesus’ question in utter amazement and disbelief, ‘No man, Lord.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more’ (John 8:11).
“What deliverance! What a promise! What a Saviour! The part that troubles some about this story, if they ever stop to think it through, is that it clearly illustrates forgiveness preceding the ‘requisite’ repentance and confession. In fact, the Bible provides no evidence of a confession. Yet it does provide evidence of justification. The woman was guilty. Of that, there is no doubt. The law condemned her. That is equally certain. Yet Jesus justified her. He lifted the condemnation flowing inevitably from the law and pointed her to the future, with the hopeful admonition, ‘Go, and sin no more’ (John 8:11).
“Can you imagine what she must have thought? Is it really possible? Can she really be not only pardoned but cleansed? Is it possible she can actually go and sin no more? Her heart seems to perceive the promise inherent in the Lord’s command. Surely, after having shown her such marvelous grace, He would not mock her with an impossible imperative. This must be the announcement of a mind-boggling but very real possibility. She perceives it, and she wants it. She wants to be cleansed. She wants to go and sin no more.
“The servant of the Lord describes what happened next:
“Only after the woman had been assured that the condemnation had been lifted, did she fall at Jesus’ feet and, ‘with bitter tears confessed her sins.’2 In this beautiful illustration of how the process of redemption works, we see that the first phase of forgiveness led directly to a desire for the second phase. Pardon led to a desire for cleansing, and this sinner was cleansed. ‘This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to God’.3 Some find it hard to believe, but the facts are there before us in plain language. The woman was pardoned before she confessed, and the pardon led to repentance, confession, and cleansing. Thus, we should understand that God’s charizomai (unconditional pardon) leads to aphiemi (cleansing).”