Passing Judgement On Others

Day 19 – John John 7:53-8:11

We do not have the original (the autograph) of John’s gospel, the one written personally by John. We have no autographs of any ancient documents. However, we get closer to John’s autograph than to any other piece of ancient literature. We have scraps of John’s gospel dating within 50 years of the autograph. The first full copy of the New Testament, as we know it, dates from AD 350 and was discovered at the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai.

These early manuscripts do not include John 7:53-8:11 and none of the other gospels include this story. There are, however, over 900 ancient manuscripts of John (all dating from the sixth century AD and after) that do. Regardless, its theme fits well here, between John 7:24 and 8:15-16, concerning passing judgment on others.

Here is a subtle trap being set by the enemies of Jesus (vv. 3, 6). They present an adulteress. The law (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22) is clear that both parties in adultery are to be put to death. Would Jesus show a lack of commitment to the law by sparing her? Or would He contradict His message of forgiveness and grace by calling for stoning? And if He does that, what will the Roman authorities think of Him, for they alone had the right to execute? They might look the other way for the Sanhedrin, but not for Him, especially if the Sanhedrin itself reported Him.

We do not know what Jesus was writing on the ground (v. 6) but His word is clear enough (v. 7). Jesus’ wisdom is clear. He is upholding the validity of the law, allowing the stoning to go ahead, but only under strict moral conditions. How did the accusers gather their evidence? Where is the man involved? Did they warn the couple? The accusers drift away-their evidence may have been false or collected invalidly, but they are also unfit to act as God’s agents of wrath.

Jesus deals gently with the woman (vv. 10-11). New Testament scholar Leon Morris writes, ″He tells her to go and leave her life of sin. He says nothing about forgiveness. The guilty woman has given no sign of repentance or faith. What He does is to show mercy and to call to righteousness.″8

″Then neither do I condemn you″ (v. 11). Here is God’s grace and mercy: ″Go now and leave your life of sin″. The Holy One calls us to a holy life.

8Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Eerdmans, 1973), 891

Think Through:

To be judgmental is to treat others harshly and go easy on your own transgressions. Where do you stand in the light of your own moral judgments?

Taken from Journey Through John: 50 Devotional Insights by David Cook.