So I’m veering away from my normal blogging this week. There is a story that God has been working on my heart for almost two years, about a month into recovering from my back rupturing. I think I’m ready to begin to tell His story. Its one that may seem very familiar to you and you might just read through it during your quiet time not thinking much of the details. But I’m hoping in this blog to show you all that was really going on in the life of Jesus.
It is the story of the adulteress who was brought before Jesus to be stoned found in John Chapter 8. Today I want to walk through with you what was happening in Jesus’s life the week leading up to this event. At the end of this event Jesus reveals to the world who He truly is and I believe the adulteress plays a great prophetic and significant part in that, I also believe that Jesus is talking to many of us about the nature of sin itself and about his nature of surpassing grace.
It was during the time of The Feast of the Tabernacles which takes place on the 15th of the Hebrew month Tishri, it usually occurs in late September to mid-October. The feast begins five days after the Day of Atonement and as the fall harvest has just been completed. It is meant to remember God’s provision for them during 40 years in the wilderness.
In Jewish custom, Jews would travel to the temple and set up camp, literally. They would camp in a specific arrangement according to their tribe in tents near the temple. There were specific sacrifices that were presented at the temple during the Feast of the Tabernacles and specific readings from the Torah and the books of Jeremiah and others and that were read and recited by the priest in the temple to the crowd of the Jewish people. The Feast of Tabernacles lasted 7 days an every morning water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam and in procession taken to the water gate of the temple where the Shofar was blown and with wine poured over the alter. Priests would pray for rain and good harvest for the next year. On the night of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles the outer court of the temple was lit up with four golden lamps. These lamps were placed on high pedestals. and men would hold torches in their hands. Jewish writings say “the illumination of the temple would be like a sea of fire and be so bright that women could “pick wheat from the chaff.” (Jewish Encyclopedia, Water-drawing, fest of tabernacles)
Jews were expected and commanded to participate in this festival. In John Chapter 7 Jesus is in Galilee and the disciples want to go to the temple and participate in the feast but it appears because Jesus does not want to go because the Jewish leaders are looking for a way to kill him. Jesus’s brothers, according to the NIV say in verse three ” “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do.” The disciples wanted Jesus to go and perform miracles so that more would believe He was the Messiah. Jesus gives a rather cryptic reason for staying behind. He says in verse 6 “Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.” NIV.
So the disciples and His brother and probably His mother left him in Galilee and headed for Jerusalem. So many people were probably traveling there at the same time and would have noticed Jesus’s family and his disciples and no Jesus. I’m sure by the time Thursday of the week rolled around gossip was high on where Jesus was and why He didn’t show himself.
I think Jesus knew what He was about to face, that he was about to reveal Himself and wanted time to pray alone with His Father. It says in verse that He went alone, unnoticed to the festival. Jesus does go to the temple and teach during the festival. He angers the pharisees who try to get the chief temple guards to arrest him it says in verse 32. Then the coolest thing happens on the last day of the Feast. Its one of those million dollar movie moments that only God could orchestrate.
Try to picture it. Everyone is gathered at the temple and its dark. The priests just asked that morning for God to give endless water as he poured water out over the alter with the wine. The temple is full of torches and you here Jesus say in over the crowds singing hymns, “Anyone who is thirsty come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”
You just heard the priests say that exact same thing as they recited the verse found in Jeremiah 17:13 “Lord you are the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” Jesus just declared that he is Christ to the whole temple. But hold onto that verse in Jeremiah it gets more interesting.
Jesus just interrupted the entire festival. Imagine what the crowds would have thought. Some would have thought Him rude and crazy, and I’m sure that made the Pharisees even angrier than they were already. They had to have a plan to discredit him. They had to regain control of the situation.
Now after the festival the Jewish people would dance and drink wine. The next day was a Sabbath so they would celebrate hard that night. Now what happens when people drink too much, sometimes they end up in someone else’s tent. This gave the Pharisees the advantage to find their adulteress.
Now there’s lots of theory’s on how they found the adulteress. They may have known of an adultery going on and just happened to visit there tent at the right moment. One theory is that she was the prostitute Mary Madeline. One is that she was a known prostitute, but John doesn’t call her a prostitute so I don’t buy into those theories. My personal thought is that they orchestrated it. Either some poor woman was tricked into someone who was working with the Pharisees bed or raped. We don’t know where the man was and I believe the Pharisees didn’t just waltz in and say your caught and she went willingly. I’m sure there was a scuffle and that more than one or two people were involved.
If fact if you think about her it was probably the worst thing that could have happened to her. If she was set up or raped she was truly a victim. She was probably dragged half naked from her tent to the temple. She was probably beaten, yelled at and treated like an animal all the way to Jesus’s feet. And any passerby probably thought she deserved it.
If it was a one night stand that went terribly wrong or a set up. Sin was destroying her. Its an example of what the end result of sin is and she was a victim of sin. So why is this the Pharisee’s way of embarrassing Jesus? Why is this there great test for Him? Jerusalem was under Roman occupation at this time. The Romans law did not allow for stoning for the sin of adultery. They were trying to keep the Jewish people from practicing those laws and Jewish leaders that did could get in trouble with the Romans. The Messiah was believed to be the one who would conquer the Romans and bring about a New Jewish Empire. If Jesus was truly the Messiah he could not side with the Roman law and let the adulteress live.
So here was Jesus’s conundrum. When this poor woman, beaten half naked was thrown at his feet in the temple while he was teaching the next morning. If He chose to uphold Jewish law she would be stoned and he would be arrested by the Romans. If he let her live He was not the true Messiah and no one would believe him. He would be discredited and surly killed by the Jewish mob. So what does he do?
He bends down and starts writing in the dust. Remember that verse from Jeremiah?
“..Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.”
Now I remember hearing this story in Bible school as a kid and the teacher asking us to try to figure out what he wrote. Jeremiah tells us right here what he wrote. All those Jewish leaders and Pharisees that brought the adulteress before him would have known the verse, they just heard it all week and so would have everyone at the temple. But more importantly Jesus fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy to a T. He is doing again more than just writing in the dust, he’s saying I as the Messiah have the authority to write in the dust. Then He says “Let anyone who is without sin, throw the first stone at her.” John Chapter 8 verse 7. and goes back to writing in the dust. The accusers leave, one at a time, realizing surely what has just happened. And Jesus is left still with a crowded temple and only the woman at his feet.
He extended beautiful, complete grace to this woman and exhorted his authority as His protector over her at the same time. Verse 10 ” Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
So she goes, I hope someone helps her go, covers her but we don’t know that. We just know that without performing the miracles that Jesus’s brothers were begging him to do. Jesus exhorted his authority as the Messiah. He told the whole Jewish community who He is and saved that woman’s life. But to make sure no one has any doubts He then addresses the crowd, probably while the adulteress is still in earshot.
Remember all those torches and lamps around the temple the night before as he says to them in verse 12 ” “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Pharisees who are left in the temple, the ones who didn’t walk away. Begin to question Jesus and Jesus gets very, very blunt about who He is so that no one has any more questions about whether he believes He is the Messiah.
It ends with Jesus replying to them in verse 58. “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” AMP. Jesus calls himself God. At this the crowd begins to pick up rocks to stone Jesus, (like they wanted him to decide to do to the woman) but Jesus slips away.
There are two themes I feel God is saying to me in all of this. The first is that He willingly protected and took the place of the adulteress, someone who was truly the least in the society. Someone who was a victim of sin, in need of a savior, someone like us. Her sin may seem small by many standards today. It also may seem like a sin that we know where forgiven for but never forgive ourselves for. We carry the blame and shame of what we have done. He didn’t tell her to carry it around he told her to go and don’t repeat your mistakes. I hope there’s something you are holding onto that you can let go of and not repeat.
Second the importance of his announcement of who He was. Jesus went to the Feast of Tabernacles with intention and did not let anything pull him off his course. It’s almost as if the test the Pharisees designed to trick him gave him an avenue to make His message more clear, more aware to those listening. What was planned to harm him Jesus turned to good. He can do that for you too. The evil things that have happened in your life to you, around you, he can turn and use them for your good too.
Have any comments or other thoughts please share below.