One of the many things I love about Jesus’ teaching is how He does spiritual jujutsu on His religious antagonists by turning their use of the Law on its head. The purpose is to reveal something in their hearts rather than getting sucked into their ruse. This method is simply brilliant!
In fact, I would contend that the very purpose of our study of the Bible should be to let the Word study us rather than to accumulate information—or worse, to use it to prove we’re right, or as a weapon against those we don’t agree with. This is the difference between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Pharisees. That point should be instructive to us.
John 8:1-11 is a classic example of what I mean. You can read the whole passage here. To save space I will only include the salient parts.
Let’s start with the antagonists’ first move…
And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. (John 8:3-6)
We know from what is said here that the scribes and Pharisees were not honestly asking for Jesus’ advice. They were trying to trap Him by proving that He was a law-breaking, sloppy-agape evangelist. Nothing has changed there in 2,000 years!
Of course, the prooftext for their devilish question is found in Lev.20:10…
‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. (Lev.20:10)
By hiding behind their pious veneer and appealing to a superficial interpretation of the Law, they thought they had Jesus right where they wanted Him. Why so? Because they knew Jesus was all about lu-u-u-v, so He wasn’t about to pick up a stone and pummel her!
Jesus was stuck in own His grace-loving heresy…or was He?
This is where the sheer brilliance of “Jesus Jujutsu” comes in. Without answering their phony-baloney inquiry, He takes their unholy attack and “flips it over His shoulder and throws it to the ground in one fell swoop” by putting a new twist to another part of the Law of Moses (emphasis mine):
7 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)
The surprising twist was based on Deut. 17:6-7…
6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.
9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (John 8:9)
Voila! One strategic counter move and Jesus’ opponents and this poor woman’s accusers are thrown flat on their backs! Actually, they scattered like rats when suddenly exposed to the soul-piercing light of truth (Heb.4:12). That’s Jesus Jujutsu!
By turning their own judgmental finger back at them, Jesus forced them to look into their own hypocritical hearts. By telling His antagonists that “he who is without sin” throw the first stone, Jesus pummels the fallacy that the Law only applies to those who get caught. This is because grace goes beyond the accusation of the Law and exposes the secret motives of our own hearts.
Another thing God’s grace exposes is our innate hatred of grace. In fact, left to our own devices we only really want grace for ourselves and will go into the”Exorcist head-spin,” spewing out our vitriolic religious vomit, whenever we think someone else is getting away with something.
Legalism, in any form, always results in hypocrisy, for the legalist never submits him or herself to the same standard he or she wants to impose on others. This counterfeit spirituality always hides behind its subjective rules and focuses on the sins of others. Grace exposes it for what it is, which is why Jesus told us that when we judge, we automatically judge ourselves and prove that we’re hypocrites (Matt.7:1-5). This point should not be lost on us if we want to grow in God.
As soon as we think we can live by the Law, we become judgmental–condemning those whose weaknesses and sins are not our own. We rate “other people’s” sins as greater, and less forgivable, than our own.
This keeps us in hiding, playing relational “tag” instead of having real intimacy. After all, when we operate from fear we will do just about anything not to be “it.”
Grace exposes the “Pharisee” in us. And the Word of God is given to us for the purpose of this soul-penetrating self-discovery. This is precisely how Jesus is using Scripture in John 8:1-11. But it isn’t just to expose us, for later on in the same chapter, Jesus said this is how we will find true freedom (John 8:31-32). For being “made free,” as God is free, is the ultimate goal of letting the Word of God study us.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus was condoning the woman’s adultery either. Not only was He exposing the accuser’s hypocritical use of the Law, He was also freeing this woman from her prison of shame through a transformational encounter with unconditional love.
The Law was never given to make us right with God, but to reveal our need for grace. As Paul pointed out, the Law was the “ministry of death, written and engraved on stones.” Only the Spirit of grace gives life (2 Cor. 3:7-8).
Of course, Jesus’ ultimate jujutsu move was on the cross when He “took the devil to the mat,” wiping out the accusation of the Law written against us (Co.2:13-15), rising victoriously, defeating hell and death, and freely giving us His all empowering, indwelling Spirit of grace.
Praise God for Jesus Jujutsu! Hallelujah!