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When Everyone Leaves but Jesus
To the truth-carriers, and those who need a rescue.
The story of the adulteress woman seems to hit home for a lot of us. Perhaps because it reminds us of how God comes to us, even in our unworthiness. Who else, like me, has needed a rescue of your own?
Recently, as I read this woman’s rescue story, I noticed a few things I had not given much thought to before. Primarily, we tend to remember that 1) the woman had been caught in adultery (a crime punishable by death, in that day), and 2) Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone...”
Don’t we love to quote those words of Jesus’ when we feel the least bit of judgement coming our way? Non-Christians like to quote it, too; often it is to justify their own actions or behavior.
Read the short passage below. Note anything you may not have seen previously.
2 All the people came to [Jesus], and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test [Jesus], that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. John 8.2-9 (ESV)
There are two things that jumped out at me, in my reading.
#1 – The religious leaders interrupted Jesus as he was teaching in the temple, attempting to find a reason to charge him.
It may seem disrespectful that they would treat Jesus in this manner. In first-century culture, however, the scribes and Pharisees would have had some authority to question temple teachers.
Jesus had come on the scene, a virtual unknown, performing signs and making claims considered blasphemous in their religious system.
Their intent, however, was to trick Jesus, that they might bring accusation against him in the court. About this scene in John chapter eight, Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “Obviously the scribes and Pharisees did not want to stone her; they wanted to stone Him.”1
They were after Jesus, not the woman. He was a threat to their position, both among their own people and as religious leaders under Roman authority.
In modern culture, the teachings of Jesus and the truth of His gospel will challenge the system. When it does, there will often be pushback. You may encounter someone who wants to disprove your beliefs and convictions.
To the truth-carriers, prepare to be challenged, and determine to respond by following Jesus’ example.
#2 – When Jesus suggested a potential sin issue in them, the religious leaders began to slip away, but Jesus stayed.
The religious leaders made a public announcement of this woman’s moral failure, attempting to entice Jesus to respond. Taking His time, Jesus knelt to draw in the dirt—I wonder if He was pausing to pray. He then issued a gentle, but firm challenge to the accusers. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Of course, the many and varied sins represented in the room were not lost on Jesus. While the scribes and Pharisees were working to uphold the law of Moses, where was their compassion? What about forgiveness? In addition, the religious leaders had insulted the law by detaining the woman without the man. It takes two to commit adultery.2
In their attempt to catch Jesus, they realized He had caught them. The accusers began to leave, gradually slipping away one by one, but Jesus stayed.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8.10-11 (ESV)
Jesus, the Rescuer, stepped compassionately into her situation, bringing forgiveness and restoration. No condemnation or judgement necessary. He received her as she was and offered a new way of living.
To those in need of a rescue today, I invite you to turn to Jesus. He is the One who will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13.5).
To the one who feels abandoned, Jesus is near.
To the one who feels alone, Jesus is with you.
To the one who needs to come home, Jesus is waiting.
When everyone leaves, Jesus remains.
McGhee, J. Vernon, “Through the Bible Commentary”, BlueLetterBible.com, 7/26/2022, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mcgee_j_vernon/notes-outlines/john/john-comments.cfm.