John 8 begins with the story of the woman caught in adultery. To better understand the situation, one should note what had happened the day before. It was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Temple Guards had returned to the Pharisees. Contrary to their orders, they did not have Jesus with them.
The Pharisees lashed out at the guards. Then Nicodemus questioned their methods, saying that the Law requires them to hear Jesus’ side. The Pharisees then lashed out at Nicodemus as well.
Now come back to the next day. The Pharisees have been brewing in their anger all night. They’ve been plotting.
Jesus is teaching again in the Temple courts… their temple, as far as they are concerned. And when they come to Jesus, they bring a woman that they just happened to catch in adultery that day. They didn’t bring the man, mind you. Just the woman.
And they throw this woman before Him like a dog. They make her stand there in front of all these people that Jesus was teaching. They’re trying to prove something to Jesus’ audience, and trying to find a reason to accuse Him. They want the people to stop following Jesus. And they want Jesus dead.
They pose their question to Jesus. What they wanted was for Jesus to say “Yes, the Law says to kill her so kill her.” If He did then in their minds not only would it look like His message of mercy was tainted, but it would also give them Jesus’ own approval to kill in the name of the Law. And they wanted to accuse Jesus of blasphemy, so they could kill Him.
Remember that the people were excitable. It wasn’t exactly safe for the Pharisees to brave the crowds for the sake of killing Christ. In the interest of self preservation, they needed the people on their side.
The Real Powerplay
It’s easy to look at this situation as just a convenient trap. But this was a very deliberate and hate filled plot. This was an attempt to catch Jesus in just the right place, at just the right time.
Proverbs 16:9 says:
“A man’s mind plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. “
This confrontation was to be no exception. These men planned and plotted death for Jesus, and were willing to kill this woman to do it. But Jesus came to bring life. With a wisdom far beyond their own, Jesus turns the tables.
He didn’t use a show of force. He didn’t use a miracle. He simply spoke. And with His words, Christ spoke of the same message that they were trying to quiet. A message of love, truth and mercy.
Not only did he speak His message of mercy, but He compelled the blood lusting Pharisees to follow it. The Lord directed their steps.
If only they knew the Law…