But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. This resort of our Lord is not elsewhere referred to in John's Gospel, although it was mentioned by St. Luke ( Luke 21:37 ; Luke 22:39 ) as the scene of the Lord's retirement during the nights of the last week of his life. John's mention of such a habit as this at an earlier period would in almost any other literature be regarded as mutual confirmation of the two documents, while the fact that "Bethany" lay on the opposite side of the hill, and the "garden" was, as a matter of fact, hidden on its slopes, and that both of these facts are known to the writer ( John 11:1-57 . and 19.) deprive the bare mention of the name of any inauthentic character.
The woman caught in adultery.
This narrative, if not inspired Scripture, bears all the traces of a genuine tradition.
I. THE PLOT OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES . They brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery, and demanded his judgment concerning her act. "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: what sayest thou?"
1 . Theft conduct was not dictated by their abhorrence of this sin ; for all evidence goes to show flint Roman looseness had penetrated into every part of the Jewish community. Besides, if they had been sincere, they would have taken her to the lawful judge.
2 . It was not due to any extreme respect they entertained for the Law of Moses ; for they had on this question made it practically void by their traditions. Instead of putting the adulteress to death, they deprived her of her dowry and divorced her.
3 . Their true motive was " that they might have to accuse him. "
(a) If he answered that the woman should be stoned, he brought himself into collision with the Roman government, which retained the power of life and death in its own hands, and in any case did not punish adultery with death.
(b) If he answered that she should not be stoned, he would be charged with opposing the Law of Moses, and would thus be represented by the Sanhedrin as a false Messiah; for the true Messiah was to establish the supremacy of the Law.
II. MARK HOW OUR LORD BAFFLED HIS WILY QUESTIONERS .
1 . He appears at first to disregard their appeal to his judgment ; for he began to write upon the ground, and appeared to be absorbed in the act. His silence provokes them to insist upon an answer.
2 . The answer is at once definite and effective. "Let him that is without sin first cast a stone at her."
(a) He does not arrogate the right of a civil magistrate either to decree or inflict punishment. He once before declined to become a divider between two brothers in the matter of their inheritance.
(b) He disarmed the self-constituted judges of the woman, by carrying the question into a sphere in which they were themselves brought into judgment. Accordingly, they shrank in his presence from asserting their sinlessness; and they disappeared, one by one, from the scene, leaving the woman alone with Jesus.
III. OUR LORD 'S TREATMENT OF THE WOMAN . "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
1 . Our Lord ' s question does not excuse her sin, nor imply any connivance at it, but is designed to lead her to serious thoughts of it.
2 . The woman does not deny her sin.
3 . Our Lord ' s saying does not imply forgiveness. "It is a declaration of sufferance, not of justification," and is designed to lead her to repentance and faith.
The accusers condemned and the accused absolved.
Whatever view be taken of the genuineness of this passage of the Gospel, there can be little doubt as to the authenticity of the narrative, and no doubt as to the justice of the picture it presents of the ministry and character of Jesus Christ.
I. HERE IS A REPRESENTATION OF THE SINFUL SOCIETY IN WHICH THE SAVIOUR DEIGNED TO MIX . The scene was the temple; the company gathered together were composed of those who wished to hear Jesus discourse, the motive of some being good, and that of others evil; the centre of the group was the Prophet of Nazareth, who claimed to be the world's Light and Salvation. The audience and the Speaker were interrupted by an incident which, however, afforded a remarkable opportunity for most characteristic and memorable teaching on the part of our Divine Lord.
1 . We see a picture of human frailty. As the poor, trembling, shame-stricken woman was dragged into the temple precincts, she furnished a sad instance of the moral weakness of humanity. For although her seducer was probably a hundredfold guiltier than she, it cannot be questioned that the adulteress was to blame, as having infringed both Divine and human laws.
2 . We see a picture of human censoriousness. Sinful though the woman was, it does not seem that those who were so anxious to overwhelm her with disgrace were impelled by a sense of duty. They seem to have been of those who delight in another's sin, who, instead of covering a fault, love to drag it into the light.
3 . We see a picture of human malice. They sought to entrap Jesus into some utterance which might serve as a charge against him. It was impelled by this motive that they referred the case of the adulteress to him, who came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it. Their concern for the public morals was trifling when compared with their malignant hatred of him who was morality incarnate.
II. HERE IS A REPRESENTATION OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SAVIOUR DEALT WITH HUMAN SIN .
1 . He convinced the morally hardened and insensible, arousing their conscience, and compelling them to admit their own sinfulness. If the cunning of the Pharisees was great, the wisdom of the Saviour was greater still. He confounded their plot, and turned their weapons against themselves. Their own consciences witnessed against those who had been so anxious to condemn a fellow sinner.
2 . He pardoned the penitent offender. The woman could not but feel how heinous had been her transgression, and in bow black colours it appeared to all who considered it aright. And all we know of Jesus assures us that he would never have forgiven, and dismissed in peace, one insensible of sin. She sorrowed over her fault; the presence of the pure and perfect Jesus was itself a rebuke and reproach to her, while his demeanour and language awakened her gratitude and restored her hopes, if not her self-respect.
3 . He condemned and guarded against a repetition of the sin, in the admonition he pointedly addressed to her as she left him, "Sin no more."—T.
Excluded from the destination of Jesus.
In one sense Jesus was very near to men, very closely connected with them. At the same time he was very far from them, separated in many ways. The Gospel of John abounds in indications of this felt difference and superiority. Yet there is much to help and cheer even in words like these: "Whither I go, ye cannot come." The truth of Jesus is the same, spoken to friends or to enemies, and everything Jesus said on the earth has something of gospel in it. If we are born again and take shape after the new creature, then we also shall be from above.
I. THE DESTINATION THAT JESUS HIMSELF ASSUREDLY WILL REACH . Jesus is on a definite journey, knows where he is going, and that he will get there. His life is not an aimless wandering. In all his goings backwards and forwards between Galilee and Judaea his face was set towards Jerusalem, because there for him the door was to open from the seen to the unseen, from the life of time to the life of eternity. His enemies speak of him as if his thoughts were running in the same direction as those of Job. When Job sat among the ashes, despoiled of his property, bereaved of his children, smitten with pain all over the body, he thought death and the grave his best friends, where the wicked would cease from troubling and the weary be at rest. But Jesus was thinking of what he would attain, not what he would escape. The heavenly state, with its security, glory, and blessedness, was not an unexpected thing to Jesus. Jesus speaks as knowing for himself that the end depends on the way. Jesus knows where he is going, for he has been there already. In the autumn of 1492 three Spanish ships are making their way over the Atlantic, in waters where ship has never been known to pass before. Christopher Columbus of Genoa commands those ships, and he is going on an enterprise of pure faith. He believes there is a land ahead, but he has never been there. At present thousands go over that same Atlantic, returning home. And so Jesus was going back whence he had come. Every step took him nearer that day when he would pray the prayer, "Glorify thou me with thine own self, with that glory which I had with thee before the world was."
II. THE DESTINATION THAT SOME MOST CERTAINLY WILL NOT REACH . Most of the listeners would trouble very little about what Jesus meant. They would say, "Let him go, or let him stay; it is no great concern of ours." But if we do really believe that Jesus has gone into a state of glory, that he individually can no longer suffer pain, no longer be exposed to temptation, must it not be serious for us to reflect that possibly we cannot go where he has gone? Heaven is not to be earth over again. The mixtures and conflicts of the lower world are not to be known in the upper one. Good people have no monopoly of transit to any place on the face of the earth; but there is a state to which the evil cannot reach. A man may say, if he likes, that he will have a garden without weeds, but that will not keep the weeds out. But Jesus is the great and effectual Excluder. Beyond the veil there are divisions more intense and more manifest than any that obtain here. Jesus came amid the unions of time to make the separations of eternity.
III. THE DESTINATION THAT ALL MAY REACH . Speaking of exclusion is the strange work of Jesus. Even while he said, "Ye cannot come," at the same time he said, "Come." Any one can come who will enter in at the strait gate and tread the narrow way. Any one can come who will give the seed ground of his heart as good ground for the seed of eternal truth.—Y.