Clean on Outside but not Inside

John 8:1-6 ESV

“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.”

They Said This to Test Him

Whenever I read this passage of Scripture I can’t help but wonder what happened to the man the woman was with, the one she was caught committing adultery with. Wasn’t he caught in adultery, too? Why just her? Well, one reason might be that this wasn’t at all about the breaking of a moral law. It appears her accusers weren’t concerned at all about the woman or the man and their sin. They were just using her to get at Jesus.

The woman’s accusers were just looking for an opportunity to trip Jesus up with his words, which they attempted many times. They were all the time harassing him and trying to find fault in him so that they would have cause to accuse him because they wanted to destroy him. They wanted to stop him from saying and doing the things he was saying and doing, partially because they resented him and they were jealous of him and feared his popularity.

And they didn’t like him because he claimed to be God, which he is. They didn’t like him, too, because he “had their number,” i.e. he knew what kind of people they were from the inside out for he could see inside their hearts and it was evident in their actions, too. For they professed righteousness on the outside but they were full of wickedness inside. They were all concerned with looking good outwardly but not with living holy and godly lives.

So, that’s how I know they weren’t concerned about moral purity and the breaking of the law for they were deliberate and habitual in their sins and deceptions. And they didn’t like Jesus for he called them out on their sins so that others would not be led astray by them. And he spoke the truth to them about where their deeds were going to lead them, and it was not to heaven. And they hated him because he didn’t acquiesce to their hypocrisy.

John 8:6-9 ESV

“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”

They Went Away

Now, the Scriptures do not teach us what Jesus wrote on the ground with his finger, although many people have speculated. So, we have to get inside the thoughts of these men. They weren’t there because they were upholding the law and because they were grieved over this woman’s sin. That was clear. What is known about them, from reading the Scriptures, shows that they were not moral people. They were not people of integrity themselves.

Jesus said they preached, but they did not practice. They did all their deeds to be seen by others and they loved the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues. And they loved to be greeted in the marketplaces and to be called rabbi. They were not on their way to heaven, and by the things that they taught, they were preventing their adherents from entering heaven, as well. Jesus said they made their proselytes (converts) twice as much children of hell as they were.

They were blind guides leading people to hell. They were hypocrites. They neglected justice and mercy while they held to legalistic requirements. They worked hard to look good on the outside but inside they were full of greed and self-indulgence. So Jesus told them that they needed to first clean the inside that the outside may be clean. For they were like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. They outwardly appeared righteous to others, but within they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (see Matthew 23).

So, now that we have a pretty good picture of who this woman’s accusers were and the purpose for which they brought her before Jesus, then we can look again at what Jesus may have written in the dirt and why. For these are not the type of people who are going to throw down their stones and walk away. Jesus’ words were an offense to them and they opposed him all the time. So, Jesus saying to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” would never be cause for them to leave.

For, they obviously had no conscience about the things that they were doing which were evil nor about how they were plotting evil against Jesus in order to have cause to accuse him falsely. So, then, what would cause them to depart and to not continue to pursue their evil plot? I believe the answer is in what Jesus wrote on the ground, and I believe he named names or places or something to where they knew that Jesus knew their dirty little secrets and that he had the power to expose them for the hypocrites they were.

One very viable possibility is that they had been with prostitutes and in adulterous situations themselves and Jesus wrote enough to expose them and that is what led them to forsake their evil plot. To me, that is the only thing that makes sense based on what they were doing and why they were doing it and based on their character and what Jesus had described about them. They were not the types to just walk away, especially not just at Jesus’ words he spoke. For they did not honor his words.

John 8:10-11 ESV

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’.”

Go and Sin No More

Jesus could see that the woman was frightened, surely, and we might surmise by Jesus’ response to her that she was sorrowful for what she did and that she was humbled by Jesus’ kindness to her and that she was repentant. But the Scriptures don’t say. But Jesus had compassion on her, for he knew that they had just used her to get at him, and because he came to save sinners from their sin, and because he knew the wickedness of her accusers who did worse things than her in the eyes of God.

And so he gave the woman another chance, a chance to change her life and to not return to the life she had been living. And that is what God’s grace is all about. So, it is not free license to continue in deliberate and habitual sin while claiming faith in Jesus and heaven as our eternal destiny. Jesus told the woman that she was forgiven her sin (that he did not condemn her), but that she was to go and sin no more. And that is really the essence of the gospel message, that we are to die with Christ to sin and live to him and to his righteousness, and that we are to no longer walk in sin.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-11; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15; Eph 2:8-10]

For Our Nation

An Original Work / September 11, 2012

Bombs are bursting. Night is falling.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Trust Him with your life today.
Make Him your Lord and your Savior.
Turn from your sin. Follow Jesus.
He will forgive you of your sin;
Cleanse your heart, made new within.

Men betraying: Our trust fraying.
On our knees to God we’re praying,
Seeking God to give us answers
That are only found in Him.
God is sovereign over all things.
Nothing from His mind escaping.
He has all things under His command,
And will work all for good.

Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.

Men deceiving: we’re believing
In our Lord, and interceding
For our nation and its people
To obey their God today.
He is our hope for our future.
For our wounds He offers suture.
He is all we need for this life.
Trust Him with your life today.

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