What was Jesus doing when He pardoned the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11)? After all, He said He wasn’t doing away with the Law, but the Law required a death sentence–no ifs, ands or buts. According to Lev.20:10, she “shall surely be put to death.” (Never mind that the guy she was sleeping with was supposed to be put to death, too!)
Why did Jesus seem to be disobeying the Law He said He came to fulfill?
Before we get to that, John tells us that the Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. But that’s not all he said….
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:17-18 NKJV)
Two important things to notice here that are inextricably linked together. First, Jesus was introducing something altogether different than Moses–grace and truth–which is integrated into the second part, that no one actually knew God except for Jesus. In Matthew 11:27, Jesus Himself said that He was the only one who knew God. This “not knowing” includes Adam, Abraham, Moses, David…which means that the world was “seeing” God as He really is for the very first time in Jesus Christ.
This brings us back to Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. What was Jesus actually showing her, them, and us? I submit that not only was He showing all of us that grace and truth are superior to the Law, but also that grace and truth reveals what God is really like.
In other words, you’ll never know what God is really like through the Law, but only through grace and truth. I can say this with 100% confidence because Jesus is the exact representation of the Father (Heb.1:3), and He came full of grace and truth.
You won’t find grace in the letter of the Law. You will find truth in the Law, but it’s a very brutal and unforgiving truth.
When the Law demands death there are no exceptions. Exceptions are what cost King Saul his throne (see 1 Sam.15:1-26). The Law is black and white, obedience or death.
Now we can get to what is actually superior about grace and truth. First, the lawyers…
They said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. (John 8:4-6)
Death is what the Law demands with adultery, and Jesus told everyone He wasn’t abolishing the Law, so now He’s stuck. Actually, no. Instead, He brilliantly reveals their own hypocrisy and grace hatred in one fell swoop.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7)
There is one problem with Jesus’ answer. Under the Law, there are no mitigating considerations. There is no “He who is without sin….” You simply pick up a rock and pummel the offender. However, Jesus makes restoring the woman to wholeness more important than executing the cold, stainless steel verdict of the Law, for compassion and mercy is the law of Christ (Gal.6:2).
Grace is always about restorative justice rather than retributive justice.
Grace demands that we extend the same grace toward others that we would want for ourselves (Luke 6:31).
Only under grace do we consider ourselves when looking at another’s sin.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Gal.6:1)
The Law can only produce a veneer of morality; it’s incapable of looking deeply into the heart that’s always pointing the finger at others yet never seeing the other fingers pointing back at oneself. Grace reveals an inward, penetrating truth that we may not want to see about ourselves. Nonetheless, it’s this transforming truth that comes through Jesus Christ.
We may nod our heads and say, yeah, they’re a bunch of hypocrites, but here’s the thing. Grace always reveals the truth about our own hypocrisy. Grace goes both ways, which means it also goes to those we think are undeserving. Just ask Jonah…because we’re just like him.
This is called truth–the truth about us.
David caught a glimpse of this truth and said, “You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
Jesus revealed the truth that the Pharisees did not have God’s heart. He proved that they hated grace and refused to see the truth, therefore, they hated and refused Jesus.
Jesus revealed the truth that we have nothing we did not receive, so we have nothing to boast about or make ourselves better than others by way of comparison (1 Cor.4:7).
Jesus also came to reveal the truth about us in Him.
While God knows our frame and we are but dust, He has made us complete in Christ and in perfect union in the Godhead as Christ is in perfect union in the Godhead (Col.2:9-10 AMP).
When we receive truth by grace through faith, we are transformed and fashioned like Jesus, having our Father’s eyes and His heart for others.
Truth that makes us free is about discovery. We finally see who God really is in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor.4:6), and in His reflection we finally see ourselves as we truly are in Him (2 Cor.3:18). This is the definitive grace and truth only found in Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to reveal what God is really like. He taught us that grace and truth are superior to the Law and that mercy triumphs over judgment (Matt.9:13; Luke 9:54-55; James 2:13).
Now, for something completely different, enjoy this rather irreligious video clip. 🙂