Imagine that you are standing at the edge of a bridge that has been damaged and you see a line of cars that are heading towards the bridge. You know that you can stand in the road flagging down those cars in hopes that they will listen to you and stop before launching over the edge and falling into the ravine below. You also know that it is possible that standing in the road in front of cars might cause you to be hit by one or more of the cars.
You look at the broken bridge and the distance to the bottom and you realize that a fall from that distance would possibly cause a death, but assuredly it would cause injuries. Most of the injuries would be treatable and those who fell would eventually recover from their injuries, although most would have lifelong scars as a result. What would be your decision? Would you risk being hurt yourself in order to prevent harm to others, or would you knowingly let them fall into the pit with full understanding that that fall could bring death to the person or people in those cars?
Although not often viewed through this lens, the above scenario is consistent with the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery in the New Covenant Book of John chapter 8. We find the description of an event intended to test Yeshua and His obedience to the Torah. In verse 2, we find the setting for what was taking place.
At dawn, He came again into the Temple. All the people were coming to Him,
and He sat down and began to teach them.
The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery.
After putting her in the middle, they say to Yeshua,
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery.”
Yeshua was in the Temple teaching when suddenly a group of Torah scholars dragged a woman into the Temple courts and stated boldly that she had been caught in the very act of adultery. Before we get to the biblical concept, I want to focus this blog on a few things that we know. First, if this woman was caught in the act of adultery, then where was the man? Second, it is very important to understand that this event is not as many people teach an example in which Yeshua superseded the Torah commandments by forgiving the woman. This is not an example of grace overpowering Law. The truth is that because there were not two witnesses that could throw the first stones and because the man was not there, the only Torah abiding option was “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”
While this story does show the love Yeshua had for both G-D’s Word and for people and the mercy that is inherent within the Torah, there is a much larger too often missed lesson in this story and it is key to understanding a much greater problem than the woman’s adulterous behavior. Think with me about this story.
In order for the Torah scholars to have caught the woman in the very act, they had to have known that she and the man were going to violate that commandment. Yet they were more interested in trying to trick Yeshua than they were keeping these two people from sinning. The truth is that if these men were actually Torah scholars internally instead of just externally, if they had heart knowledge and not just head knowledge, we would not have been reading this story in Scripture at all. Instead, what would have happened is these men would have stood in front of the door to the place where this sin was committed and begged and pleaded with both the woman and the man to not violate the commandment concerning adultery. The verse that sticks in my mind when I read this passage of Scripture is Cain’s response to G-D after he killed Able, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is emphatically yes! If these men had obeyed the Torah and worked as hard to keep these people from sin as they worked to judge them after their sin in an attempt to cause Yeshua to sin, the Book of John would contain an amazingly encouraging story of men being victorious instead of providing an additional example of human failure.
As believers in Yeshua it is not our function or role to tell people that they are sinners and judge their failures. We have the choice to treat the damage resultant from a fall or to help keep people from falling in the first place.