Short Meditations in John 8: 5. Question
Jn 8:5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
The lynching party has gathered. Jesus’ teaching has been halted. The crowd stands back watching. No doubt the Pharisees and teachers of the Law stand there arrogantly challenging Jesus. And of course there is the woman. Probably with face looking down, possibly with tears running down her face. Shamed and made a public spectacle, the object of challenge to Jesus.
She is guilty; there appears no question of that and the Law is quite specific: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbour—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” (Lev 20:10) [Note again, both of them – where is the man?] If the Law is to be applied then the outcome is quite clear. She will die. If she is not to die then the only apparent path to that is to disregard the Law, disregard the will of God. These appear the only options that are available in this situation.
Then comes the crucial question to Jesus: “Now what do you say?” we have commented before that this really isn’t the business of the visiting preacher, it is the business of the town elders. Jesus could have turned around at this point and declared, “This is nothing to do with me, this is the prerogative of the city elders. Let them deal with it,” but this would have done three things.
First, it would have shown to the crowd that he was someone who wanted to opt out, take the easy way out, and that wasn’t the sort of person he was. Second, he would have abandoned this woman to her fate at the hands of these heartless men.
Third, he would have failed to take the opportunity of speaking into this situation and challenging the truth that undergirds it – that the Lord says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6). Again and again when I write these studies I have to remind us of such verses as Ezek 18:23,32, 33:11 & 2 Pet 3:9 that challenge us and tell us that God doesn’t look for death but for repentance, He wants mercy to prevail and would take no joy in the sacrifice of this woman’s life, as guilty as she may be.
The word ‘Now’ at the beginning of their question seems to be a pivot; it is like they are presenting this woman to the crowd as a guilty sinner and then they spin the situation around and point it at Jesus as if to say, “OK Preacher, how orthodox are you? What do you say? Do you agree with the Law or have you cast God’s laws to the wind in all your fancy preaching? Come on what do you say?” Will Jesus condemn her and appear as hard-hearted as them …. or what?