3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Then the scribes [lawyers] and Pharisees brought to Him
Scribes were experts of the law and were responsible for copying the law, writing, interpreting, and teaching. They wielded significant authority in Israel. They carried a judicial service for the common man.
The Pharisees were rigid legalists who sought to impose their thinking on others. They were the dominant religious group in Israel. They showed no openness to Jesus whatsoever.
a woman caught in adultery.
The Old Testament prescribed death for both partners caught in adultery (Le 20:10).
And when they had set her in the midst,
The scribes and Pharisees sat the woman in the midst of the crowd. This woman’s fear must have been great. Her humiliation was staggering. These people had no concern about the soul of the woman but only their legalistic attitude toward her. They also rudely disrupted Jesus’ teaching ministry by thrusting this woman into the situation.
they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery,
Adultery was a serious social violation during the time of Christ.
in the very act.
The phrase “in the very act” shows the evidence was clear that she was guilty of adultery. Her guilt was indisputable.
Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.
Stoning for adultery is found in Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22-24. This is put in tension with the idea that the Roman government did not allow Israel to put anyone to death.
But what do You say?”
This question was deigned to put Jesus under a certain kind of pressure. They wanted to entrap Jesus on the horns of a dilemma with His decision making. If Jesus condemned the woman according to the Mosaic law, He would violate Roman law. If He went with Roman law, then He would not follow what Scripture declared.
Treating people as pawns violates biblical principle.
Moral watch-dogs often do not care about people under their care. They are indifferent to the problems and the moral indignity that others have to face. Legalists do not mind putting others to shame if it accommodates their status in religion. They do not look at those who sin as persons but as objects. They use those under their care as pawns for their own purposes.
Leaders who truly care about those caught in sin sometimes face the idea of “Heads, I win; tails, you lose.” Jesus was put in this position but He used wisdom in dealing with those who tried to entrap Him.