God Protects The Weak
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8:2-6)
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who was caught in adultery and made her stand before everyone in public. They asked Jesus if they should stone her in accordance to the law of Moses. Putting her in a humiliating position in public just to make a point was injustice itself. It showed how people had generally accepted such public shaming as a norm. What they did was unacceptable as they should have learned from what Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice (Isaiah 42:1-3 NIV)
The reed is a tall grass-like plant from the wetlands. Back in those days, reed was used to make pen, boats or houses. The reed is not like timber. It is used to make boats because it is light, not because it is strong. If a reed is already fragile, a bruised reed is even easier to break. The Messiah is gentle to the weak and fragile.
A burning wick is easy to extinguish by blowing on it, capping it so that it loses oxygen to burn, or putting it in water. A smoldering wick is already struggling to stay burning and even easier to put out. Jesus is careful not to extinguish a smoldering wick.
Both of these imageries describe a Messiah who is tender and gentle to the weak. Justice is not applying the law without mercy, but requires compassion for the weak.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:6b-11)
The Bible doesn’t mention what Jesus wrote on the ground; it could have been the laws of Moses or a list of sins. When he said that anyone who had not sinned could be the first person to throw a stone at the adulterous woman, everyone left the scene.
The only person there who was without sin and was qualified to stone the woman would have been Jesus. Yet Jesus didn’t condemn her, instead he asked her to leave her life of sin.
The best way to help someone overcome their sins is not through condemnation. Showing them God’s mercy and encouraging them with God forgiveness helps them better. Jesus lived up to the prophecy of Isaiah, he brought justice to the world by showing compassion to the weak.
Jesus was full of grace. He was more eager to turn away the accusers and protect the woman than to address her wrongdoing. He still did that of course, but it was more out of love for the woman than love for justice. Jesus reflected God’s promise to bless us, keep us and be gracious to us. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God’s truth shows us the path to righteousness, and His grace saves us. The truth tells us what we must do, and his grace compels us. Jesus bent down to write the truth (whether it was the law or sins) on the ground and the accusers left. But it was his grace that impacted the woman.
God has been hugely misunderstood as one who condemns us for our wrongs. On the contrary, God wants “all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). God forgives. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come as a servant and bring justice to all; he did that through his sacrifice on the cross. He didn’t come to be a harsh ruler to execute justice, he came with compassion for the weak. His love compels us to repent.
Jesus is our hero to look up to not only because he is God, but also as a person in real life. We may be weak like a bruised reed, or struggling like a smoldering wick, but he will not break us or snuff us out. We can leave our sinful lives and turn to Jesus for his protection.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.