Jesus: Discerning Arbitrator

Discerning Arbitrator

Jesus: Discerning Arbitrator

December 12, 2019

Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right. -Charles Spurgeon.

Recently a colleague pulled me into a sticky situation. Claiming she needed to “clarify a misconception”, she asked me to explain a policy to other coworkers. Wanting to be helpful, I did as she asked. Later, I learned my colleague’s request concealed her true motive. She intended for me to prove her right, and in so doing, she knowingly shamed another coworker. 

I don’t mind arbitrating a dispute between people, but I dislike being tricked. Unfortunately, my trusting nature and inability to discern motives can make me vulnerable to manipulation.

When I first studied the Bible, I immediately noticed Jesus’ ability to read the hearts and minds of men. No one ever manipulated Him. The story of the woman caught in adultery beautifully illustrates this truth.

Although the story does not appear in the earliest and most reliable transcripts of John’s gospel, its message stays true to the character of Jesus and other Scripture.

The story took place in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. During this festival, people gathered to celebrate the harvest and to remember God’s provision for them in the wilderness. 

Early on this particular morning, a commotion erupted as Jesus began teaching the crowd. 

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 8:3-6a NIV)

The quiet serenity of the morning exploded into angry shouts and accusations. Suddenly, all eyes turned to the Pharisees, the scribes and a woman wrapped in a bed sheet.

On the surface, the question demanded of Jesus fits with the character of the Pharisees who prided themselves on following the law of Moses. But Jesus easily recognized their duplicity.

The law called for the execution of both the man and the woman convicted of adultery. But these men only brought the woman to be judged. As Scripture states, the Pharisees and scribes harbored an ulterior motive; they planned to trap Jesus. 

Legally, only Romans could execute people. If Jesus upheld the law of Moses, He would be guilty of rebellion. In addition, stoning this woman would contradict His message of grace. But if He chose not to stone the woman, Jesus could be charged with breaking the law of Moses. The trap seemed flawless, until Jesus responded: 

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:6b NIV)

Without a word, He regained control of the crowd. Once again, all eyes focused on Jesus. People often speculate about what Jesus wrote in the sand. Some believe He wrote the names of the Pharisees and scribes, others think He may have listed their sins. Regardless of what He wrote, His actions commanded their attention.

As they continued to press Him for an answer, He invited anyone without sin to cast the first stone. As He stooped down and continued to write in the sand, the Pharisees and scribes realized their plan had failed. Starting with the oldest, and perhaps the wisest, they began to leave. 

After they left, Jesus finally turned to the woman. Since He never sinned, only Jesus could have thrown a stone. However, He chose to extend grace. 

But in exchange for His grace, Jesus asked the woman to repent. 

Without compromising His integrity, Jesus effectively arbitrated the dispute. 

The religious leaders chose to walk away from Jesus. Although not stated in the Bible, I personally believe the woman repented and lived out the following Scripture:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

His gift of grace guides us to a godly life.

Jesus still discerns hearts. Although quick to extend grace, He always calls us higher.

As I continue down the road, His grace motivates my every step. Wherever you are in your journey, I pray you, too, remain grounded in His grace.

Jesus: Discerning Arbitrator

December 12, 2019

Discerning Arbitrator

Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right. -Charles Spurgeon.

Recently a colleague pulled me into a sticky situation. Claiming she needed to “clarify a misconception”, she asked me to explain a policy to other coworkers. Wanting to be helpful, I did as she asked. Later, I learned my colleague’s request concealed her true motive. She intended for me to prove her right, and in so doing, she knowingly shamed another coworker. 

I don’t mind arbitrating a dispute between people, but I dislike being tricked. Unfortunately, my trusting nature and inability to discern motives can make me vulnerable to manipulation.

When I first studied the Bible, I immediately noticed Jesus’ ability to read the hearts and minds of men. No one ever manipulated Him. The story of the woman caught in adultery beautifully illustrates this truth.

Although the story does not appear in the earliest and most reliable transcripts of John’s gospel, its message stays true to the character of Jesus and other Scripture.

The story took place in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. During this festival, people gathered to celebrate the harvest and to remember God’s provision for them in the wilderness. 

Early on this particular morning, a commotion erupted as Jesus began teaching the crowd. 

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 8:3-6a NIV)

The quiet serenity of the morning exploded into angry shouts and accusations. Suddenly, all eyes turned to the Pharisees, the scribes and a woman wrapped in a bed sheet.

On the surface, the question demanded of Jesus fits with the character of the Pharisees who prided themselves on following the law of Moses. But Jesus easily recognized their duplicity.

The law called for the execution of both the man and the woman convicted of adultery. But these men only brought the woman to be judged. As Scripture states, the Pharisees and scribes harbored an ulterior motive; they planned to trap Jesus. 

Legally, only Romans could execute people. If Jesus upheld the law of Moses, He would be guilty of rebellion. In addition, stoning this woman would contradict His message of grace. But if He chose not to stone the woman, Jesus could be charged with breaking the law of Moses. The trap seemed flawless, until Jesus responded: 

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:6b NIV)

Without a word, He regained control of the crowd. Once again, all eyes focused on Jesus. People often speculate about what Jesus wrote in the sand. Some believe He wrote the names of the Pharisees and scribes, others think He may have listed their sins. Regardless of what He wrote, His actions commanded their attention.

As they continued to press Him for an answer, He invited anyone without sin to cast the first stone. As He stooped down and continued to write in the sand, the Pharisees and scribes realized their plan had failed. Starting with the oldest, and perhaps the wisest, they began to leave. 

After they left, Jesus finally turned to the woman. Since He never sinned, only Jesus could have thrown a stone. However, He chose to extend grace. 

But in exchange for His grace, Jesus asked the woman to repent. 

Without compromising His integrity, Jesus effectively arbitrated the dispute. 

The religious leaders chose to walk away from Jesus. Although not stated in the Bible, I personally believe the woman repented and lived out the following Scripture:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

His gift of grace guides us to a godly life.

Jesus still discerns hearts. Although quick to extend grace, He always calls us higher.

As I continue down the road, His grace motivates my every step. Wherever you are in your journey, I pray you, too, remain grounded in His grace.

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