Are the religious leaders partially correct when they bring the woman caught in adultery before Jesus (Jn. 8:1-11)?
Of course, they are…except that they aren’t.
The main problem with the religious leaders opposing Jesus throughout the gospels is that in directing these “hard” questions at Jesus, they have the wrong motivation of trying to trip-up Jesus, to “catch Him in His words.”
But that is not the issue here.
The real lesson from the replies of Jesus to the questions posed by the religious leaders is that Jesus Christ as the living Word of God has different answers to the conventionally accepted viewpoints of these religious leaders in Jerusalem, different answers that by definition must be absolutely correct to fit each individual circumstance.
The religious leaders certainly did not anticipate Jesus saying in John 8:7 “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
After each of these men left one-by-one as they were convicted by their conscience, Jesus stands up and says to the woman in John 8:11 “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
People can debate the rightness of this judgment made by Jesus.
In all moral issues there is a latitude of possible choices, there is a range of possible answers.
But the point here is that the answer of Jesus in this particular set of circumstances is different from the anticipated answer the religious leaders expected to hear, regardless of their corrupted and malicious motivations.
This reality can be graphed on a simple spectrum-line of possible answers and responses that Jesus could have expressed when suddenly confronted with this “hard” question put to Him by these men, of what was the right thing to do with the woman caught in adultery.
John 14:6 records Jesus as saying: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus gives the right answer to every issue presented to Him because He is brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and has divine foresight.
In the New Testament gospels, people could have asked Jesus many more hard questions that He would have answered perfectly every time.
But the religious leaders finally stopped asking Jesus questions they thought they could trap Him with, because their underlying motivation was corrupt and insincere (Mt. 22:46).
Jesus is asked and He answers just enough hard questions to establish His credentials in claiming to be “the truth” as confirmed by the apostle John writing: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” (Jn. 1:14).
Slightly different circumstances in each case would have elicited different responses by Jesus, but each answer would be perfect in terms of truth and justice tempered by perfectly divine, unselfish love.
Were the religious leaders correct in saying that the Jews were supposed to honor the Sabbath and do no work on that holy day (Mt. 12:9-13)?
Of course, they are…but not entirely.
When they object to miracles of healing performed on the Sabbath day as work, Jesus responds by pointing-out that owners of livestock lead their horses, mules, sheep, and cattle to water on the Sabbath without violating the Sabbath (Lk. 13:15-16).
If a sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath, we pull it out without this being considered doing work (Mt. 12:11-12).
Here again the specific answer given by Jesus to this issue is different from the conventionally accepted interpretation of the Law of Moses as asserted by the religious leaders, which can be depicted on a single line-graph spectrum of all of the possible answers Jesus could have expressed.
Another classic example of Jesus having the one right answer occupying a single point on a horizontal graph-line continuum of possible options is giving in Mark 2:23-28 of the Pharisees criticizing the apostles of plucking ears of “grain” to eat on the Sabbath, as if this should be classified as prohibited work: “And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” (Mk. 2:24).
Jesus answers that David in need ate the priest’s “show bread,” and that the sabbath was made for man and not the other way around.
Some slightly different set of circumstances would have elicited from Jesus a slightly different response, but still perfect.
The religious leaders asked Jesus: Do we pay taxes to the Romans or not?
Surely here the Pharisees have Jesus backed into a corner in a no-win situation, there being no satisfactory answer that will not offend either the Jews or the Romans.
The impressive answer that has garnered the respect of friend and foe alike for its brilliant insight for the past twenty centuries of: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21), could only come from the living Word of God instantly having the right answer every time.
Jesus did not cover every issue that would confront the early church down to our present day.
If Jesus had exhaustively covered every issue, then we could erroneously relapse into a paint-by-by-the-numbers self-performance of a detailed program by our own solitary efforts.
This would open the door for self-salvation by good works that precludes a personal relationship with God
Jesus did not address the question posed to Paul by the first-century churches of what to do when invited to a banquet when the “meat” being served has been blessed over by a pagan deity (1 Cor. 8:1-13).
Jesus did not address the problem recognized by Paul of believers suing other believers in secular courts of law (1 Cor. 6:1-8).
Jesus did not address the pivotal question of whether or not Gentile believers should be circumcised in order to be saved.
God did this by deliberate intention.
Redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Christ justifiably enables God to brilliantly flip our fallen natures into the precise research vehicles to capably explore the knowledge of good and evil with the impunity of knowing that our eternal salvation is not placed in jeopardy by our honest mistakes in guided lessons-learned (Rom. 7:15-8:4; 2 Cor. 4:7; Mt. 5:6; Jn. 8:36).
Because every person who has ever lived except for Jesus Christ occupies an imperfect moral nature, it follows then that every person called into a God-composed journey of faith life-script will be accomplishing their joint-venture mission through the lens of an imperfect yet redeemed “earthen vessel.”
This is not a new biblical doctrine but is an insight as orthodox as can be.
When I was born-again spiritually at the age of 18 many years ago now, God did not transform me instantly into a perfect moral person incapable from then-on for making any mistakes.
If perfect, how would I learn anything?
And how could I comprehend the subtle nuances of the moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil, without being able to view this fallen and broken world through the microscopic and telescopic lens of an earthen vessel?
Jesus did not answer everything for us by deliberate intention, because we are supposed to discover first-hand the concepts of right and wrong through hearts and minds “hungering and thirsting after righteousness” (Mt. 5:6) coherently blended within an imperfect moral character…being the best and only way to conduct a credible investigation in the best traditions of empirical scientific research.
In the program of redemptive salvation, my sins are covered by the blood of Jesus past, present, and future so that I can with confidence enter into an authorized and sanctioned adventure of faith where it is guaranteed that I will stumble and fall many times as the path gets higher, narrower, and steeper.
Because the God of the Bible is brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and possesses timeless foresight, this enables God to orchestrate and manage my unique adventure of faith within this 4th dimension of time from the vantage point of a timeless environment.
Finally, the perfection of the order, intelligibility, and organized complexity of the physical universe establishes the parallel capacity for God to be given the benefit-of-the-doubt to compose life-scripts for us that fully develop and perfect our individual destinies.
This is the common though-line theme that runs throughout all of the positive biblical narrative stories of faith.
A few other notable questions and issues addressed perfectly by Jesus Christ might be the woman at the well (Jn 4:5-42), who is my neighbor? (Lk. 10:29), and why do you associate with “publicans and sinners?” (Mt. 9:10-13).