The Woman Caught in Adultery: Legalism or License? (John 8:8)

Are you caught in the sin of legalism? Do you deem your religious efforts as warranting a reward from God? Contrastingly, you might be seeking license to maintain control of your own life apart from Him, loosely dismissing the morality that He wrote on your heart. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law sought to trap Jesus by bringing him the woman caught in adultery in order to force Him to either break the Roman law by executing justice without a trial or the Jewish law by releasing the woman from her impending punishment, Jesus garnered the attention of both heart conditions opposed to His.

After addressing the crowd, Jesus resumed His posture: “Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground” (John 8:8). What did Jesus write? Some scholars suggest He was writing: “Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water” (Jeremiah 17:13). Others say it was: “Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness” (Exodus 23:1). What we know for sure, is Jesus redirected the attention of the accusers, stones in hand, from the young woman to His finger, as He wrote in the sand scattered atop the Temple’s stone floor.

This was a picture of how Jesus writes on sinners’ hearts, whether they are comprised of loose sand or rigid stone. Jesus had exposed how the Pharisees and teachers of the law had mishandled the Torah, failing to warn the woman caught in adultery. Suddenly, realizing their trap had made them vulnerable to being punished as false witnesses, not one person would step forward as a valid witness. The religious leaders had clearly understood Moses’ teaching that false witnesses were to receive the same penalty they wanted to invoke on their victim (Deuteronomy 17:7; 19:19).

Sin is like a credit card. It takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay. Larry Crabb defines sin as any effort to make life other than life with God. The Pharisees did so with hard hearts, deeming themselves worthy of God, solely based on their own efforts. They followed the letter of the law, and yet, missed the spirit of the law (Matthew 23:23-34). The young woman had fallen short of a living, vibrant relationship with God, perhaps, by missing her opportunity to make a genuine effort toward Him. Whereas the Pharisees were legalistic, she was viewed as licentious. However, followers of God were called to love mercy (Micah 6:8).

Give up any legalism or license in your heart for love. Genuinely seek God by reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping Him through your career and authentic encounters with your family and friends. Listen to a worship song that energizes you to pursue God with all your might. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the loving heart of Christ as you serve the needs of others, guiding them to the God of Love.

Episode 271: Love, Learn, Live the Word (2 Samuel 14:14) from mitchkrusetv on Vimeo.