Today we’ll look at the woman caught in adultery from John 8: 3-11.
This woman was caught literally in bed with another man and thrown into the streets to face immediate execution. Various versions she the scribes and Pharisees ‘set her in their midst’ or ‘made her stand in their midst’.
Ironically, Leviticus 20:10 says both the man and woman caught in the act of adultery should be executed, but religious people have a way of editing the Word to fit their beliefs rather than let the Word change what they believe, so we only see the woman facing execution. In ancient Israel the breaking of any of the 10 Commandments carried the death penalty, whereas the other 603 laws of Moses carried various degrees of punishment including down to simple fines for misdemeanors.
An example is Joseph who upon finding Mary pregnant and could have had her executed, but instead didn’t seek to bring charges and sought a divorce Matthew 1:19 tells us. My point is there was latitude even within Capital offenses, which is what Jesus offered the woman caught in the act of adultery. He wasn’t breaking the Law of Moses, He was merely making the case for a lesser sentence – including freedom as it happened. And here is where the road to her emotional healing was prepared.
The day after the feast
John 7:37 tells us on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (When they lived in tents for a week to celebrate God living with man, specifically the wilderness experience after coming out of Egypt) Jesus proclaimed that those who believe in Him will have the Holy Spirit flowing out of them like rivers of living water. He said this because the Feast is also known as the Feast of Living waters, and John 8 tells us it was the next morning or the 8th day of the feast that the woman was caught in the act of adultery.
The day after the feast, called ‘Shemini Atzeret’ is a separate feast of transition. The people are transitioning from tents back to their homes, and this is the transition Jesus presents to this woman. The day is like an encore in ancient times, a time of reflection – it will be 6 months before the nation again gathers for Passover.
Her affair was likened here in this context on the 8th day to have been like a tent, a temporary shelter, but now on the 8th day, the day of new beginnings, of Shemini Atzeret, a day she could transition back to her home, her life, her normal, sin-free life. This is what the Fountain of Living Waters was offering her.
The context is important because it says Jesus wrote in the dust which caused the woman’s executioners to leave them alone ‘being convicted by their own conscience’, one by one from the eldest to the youngest, until Jesus and the woman were left alone. I have a teaching series on ‘Through Jewish Eyes’ which explains what Jesus wrote and why among many other customs we misunderstand or just don’t understand in the first place, but here is the basic information.
For the full week of Tabernacles/Living Waters a particular verse had been read – every day – which is Jeremiah 17:13: “O Lord the hope of Israel, all that forsake you will be ashamed, and they that depart from you (will have their names) written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the Fountain of Living Waters.”
The reason I’m going into such detail to explain why Jesus was writing their names in the dust of the earth is that He is in fact the Fountain of Living Waters they forsook, and He is about to offer this woman Living Water – everyone there would have understood these things – so she hopes He is about to offer some grace, some Living Water.
Notice once again the pattern to her emotional healing
The fact she was caught in bed with her lover is known. When the executioners leave, Jesus asks her: Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” to which she replies the obvious as it was just the two of them, but His question has a higher purpose – that of acknowledging where she is right at that moment. “No one, sir.”
Just as with the woman at the well, just as with the man who had Legion, here Jesus gets her to acknowledge where she is right now. And once again He offers no opinion, no judgment, just a point in the present when both the Lord and a person He created meet at one point in time to acknowledge where they are. In each case that is the pivot point around which their life changes and a new future is about to embark. It is the turning point, the launch pad – but none of the 3 realized it at those moments.
The questions about how she got herself into that situation, questions about the double standard like why didn’t they bring her lover out too, questions about what in her heart caused her to take a risk she knew if caught could mean her death – all laid aside for now, perhaps to be answered in heaven one day.
Here is comes…
“Neither do I condemn you. Go. Sin no more.” John 8:11
What did ‘Go’ mean to her? Go meant a release from the death sentence. It meant freedom to restart her life. Jesus is always empowering people to take charge of their life. Think about the emotions involved. Her once secret affair was now public knowledge. Her reputation was ruined. Her emotions shredded like so much cheese going into a recipe, for in fact the recipe of her life has now changed. She will have to rebuild her reputation, maybe get a job, certainly be whispered about for weeks to come…but go through it and rebuild! Grow a back bone because your heart is set on seeing justice, righteousness, in your life.
“Sin no more.” What was Jesus telling her? Break off the affair. Go – but not back to the old, rather break off the relationship and rebuild your life.
Maybe the man ruined his marriage. Maybe she ruined her marriage. Maybe she was married and he was single. Maybe he was married and she was his mistress, the man providing an apartment for her, maybe a living allowance, maybe paid for that fancy chariot she has parked outside her home. What were her emotional ties to the man? He made her feel loved, whole, needed, appreciated, wanted. It didn’t matter: “Sin no more.” Not a suggestion, but a command.
How badly do you want a life that is whole, at peace, going in the right direction? Then break off the relationship. Be caught up in the ‘Go’, for that is empowerment by the Lord Himself. It is you taking charge of your life, you being in charge in complete freedom – Go! You are free, there is no condemnation – Go!
Today we have pop Christian emotional psychology
If she lived today this woman might have attended a workshop to break soul ties. Maybe she would sign up for an inner healing course which might ask her to imagine Jesus present for all of her affairs and abuses she suffered through the years with the idea of healing her emotions. If she lived today there is little doubt someone would suggest she was promiscuous because she had a spirit of lust and other demons that needed cast out. And if she really wanted to get to the core someone would suggest she go to a deliverance and inner healing ministry that would lead her to renounce the sins of her forefathers and mothers to the 10th generation.
Thankfully Jesus didn’t know any of those methods back then, imagine that, He simply said grow a strong will for righteousness and justice and do what is right, put down your emotions to this guy and break it off – and not only him, but stay out of bed with other men too – Sin no more. Go…but sin no more.
Jesus is the Fountain of Living Waters
The path to life is often obscured behind conflicting emotions and difficult choices…but if you have that revelation and you want to establish justice in your life, first it must be in your heart, and you must hold before you that your destiny is through the churning emotions. Your destiny is through the difficult decisions. In each case Jesus empowered people and then let them rebuild their lives.
I’ve run out of room, we’ll close it out next week, until then,