The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17: 9-10
If we are to show the world who God is, then we must understand not only his heart but our own heart. The heart of man is deceitfully wicked, we cannot depend on our emotions. There are consequences to acting on our own reasoning. In today’s lesson, the Pharisees again attempt to discredit the teachings of Jesus. The crowds supporting him are growing. He is healing and performing miracles that they cannot. They are blinded for our sakes but they are also wicked of heart. They have thought out a plan that looks like they are sincere but they are laying a trap for Jesus. There are two intended executions in this lesson that Jesus stops. One by his words and one by his determination to die on the cross as the payment for our sins.
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
It is important to take just a minute to discuss the importance of the Mount of Olives. Named for the olive trees that originally grew there, it is the second most important mountain in Israel. The Temple Mount, also known as Mount Zion, is the most revered. These two stand on either side of the Kidron Valley with both historic and future significance. Jesus frequently went to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:3, Mark 11:1, Luke 19:37) It is believed this is the area where Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived. Jesus taught there frequently and prayed there in earnest before his crucifixion. He arose into heaven from the Mount of Olives and it is prophesied that he will return and split this mountain in two. Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:3-4)
Today, a large Jewish cemetery sits on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. Jewish tradition says that those buried here will be the first to rise at the coming of the Messiah. Many notables and Kings are buried here. Our lesson today starts as Jesus leaves the Mount of Olives and heads to the Temple Mount (Mount Zion) just as he will at his return to set up his kingdom.
And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear the gracious words of Jesus as he teaches. There are frequent moments of scripture where we are not permitted to hear every conversation, every lesson or every thought. There was so much that happened in such a short three and one half years. Yet we have enough precious words recorded with us in mind. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20: 29-31) Enough to believe on Jesus. Enough to make our calling and election sure. The apostle John writes And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25)
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
It is hard to imagine being so stubborn and so determined to find fault with Jesus. As believers we know there is no fault in him. Many unbelievers are attempting to find fault yet today. Despite what they know - they look for ways to discredit his words and actions. These religious leaders have seen the miracles and the healings. He has answered with wisdom much higher than their own to every scenario they have thrown at him. Jesus has turned upside down everything the religious leaders thought that they knew. Now in their angst and desperation, they publicly humiliate the accused as they try to trip up the Master Will He deny the law (don’t stone her) or is He exceptionally harsh and unloving (if he says to stone her). There is no regard for the shaming of this woman. The Pharisees are using her to set a trap. Where is their heart?
Consider that this is not the first time we have been told about the finger of God writing. And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18) And also, In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. (Daniel 5:5). Here again we are told the finger of God is writing on the ground. There is much debate about what Jesus bent down to write. There is no way to know. The scripture does not say. But some suggest he was writing out the rest of the story on the punishment for adultery. Where was the man? Or some think, he was writing down names of men that might have been with her at one time or another but were also in this crowd ready to throw rocks. Could he have been writing the summation of the law as he told the lawyers when they asked :Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22: 37-40). Or maybe he was remembering… the first time his finger wrote the law?
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
Stoning is a horrible way to die. There were very specific rules for stoning someone. There was supposed to be a trial, and at least two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6). It might be hard to explain how two or three just happened to be at the right place at the exact time to catch the accused in the very act, without admitting to some plotting or scheming. The eye witnesses were required to throw first with the understanding of consequences if they falsely acted. This type of execution required everyone’s hands to be involved. Jesus says a very interesting thing. He says, whoever has no sin cast the first stone as he starts to write again. Is he writing other sins committed by those accusing? Maybe He’s thinking of the day they made man from the dust of the ground - and here they stand trying to outsmart their creator?Again we don’t know, but it is interesting to imagine.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Finally and thankfully the point made is understood. They all have sinned. Maybe not the same sin, but they have sinned nonetheless. Interestingly it is the oldest that realize this first. This should be true for us when we hear the faults of others. As we see the stirring up and divisions (usually secretly) among God’s people do we initiate or participate in half truths, gossip or even even whole truths that are better left unsaid. The longer we have been a christian, the more quickly we should realize our own imperfections, our own sins, our own growth over time, is covered by the mercy and grace of God; we are just as guilty. As they realize their own sinfulness, they walk away. Stones fall to the ground.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
I have heard ministers and teachers say that there was no one left to throw the first stone. That simply isn’t true. The one without sin was standing now in front of the accused. He, knowing everything, had every right to throw the first stone, but he didn’t. This is the mercy and grace of God. We should be forever grateful for his long suffering and loving kindness toward us. He does not dismiss her sin as irrelevant. He tells her to go and sin no more. As he also tells us. Yet we forget, we too need forgiveness of sin. Dedicate yourself to renew your mind to think like Christ. Determine daily to follow his word and avoid evil communications and even the very appearance of evil. You won’t succeed 100% of the time, your wicked heart will show itself. Understanding that alone should drive you to strive you more faithfully to be Christlike in your thoughts, words, and actions. Be committed and determined. Stop looking for and finding the faults in everyone else… you have enough of your own to handle. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.(Luke 6:41-42)
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
This follows at the end of the chapter and is yet another stoning that does not happen. This time the leaders want to toss Jesus over a cliff and roll big boulders upon him to kill him. What is his crime - He has claimed to be the Messiah. He uses a very common name of God - I AM. Satan tries to have him killed here but he is God. It is not time for him to die. He will die on the cross. He simply walks through the midst of them to safety.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!