In the story of the Woman Caught In Adultery, we see Jesus embody God’s perspective on how to balance judgment and mercy. We will first look at the context of the story, then at the person of Jesus, and finally why this story matters to us. Let’s start with some background information that begins to unfold in Chapter 7.
- This happened on the day after the eight day celebration of the Feast of the Tabernacle/ Feast of Booths. The Jews lived in huts during this time to commemorate how the Israelites lived in tents during the Exodus.
- Moses had commanded that during the days of this Feast the law be read, so this was an annual, purposeful focus on the Law of God.
- The main purpose was to thank God for his provision during the past in the wilderness wanderings (Lev 23:39-43) and in the present as seen in the harvest just completed (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
- The people were reminded of their profound dependence upon God for provision. They would recite Psalm 118:25 every day: “O Lord, defend/rescue/deliver us, and prosper us.”
- They had a ceremony in which four different types of plants were brought to the altar. These four plants symbolized four different kinds of Jews. One plant had a good fragrance and a good taste, symbolizing knowledge of the Torah and good deeds. One only had fragrance (only good deeds); one only had taste (only knowledge of the Torah), and one had neither.
- There was a series of water offerings each morning in the temple, commemorating the provision of water in the wilderness. When Jesus tells them to come to him to drink (7:37-38), he is linking himself to God’s provision in the Exodus.
- Menorahs would be lit in the House of Water Drawing, which was in the Court of Women in the temple. People would dance and sing, “Blessed be he who hath not sinned; and he who sinned and repented, he is forgiven.”
- Jesus' proclamation that he is the light of the world (8:12) linked him to the feast's lamp-lighting ceremonies that commemorated the pillar of fire during the Exodus. The morning that Jesus is challenged is the morning that four festival lamps in the court in the Temple ("The light of the world") were put out.
- Jesus had been teaching from, among other things, the book of Isaiah, and he quoted a prophecy about the Messiah and used it to refer to himself.
So Jesus has been claiming to be the Water and the Light and quoting a revered Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, all to show that he is the Messiah for whom they have been longing. The good news was that the God whom they worshipped during this feast was with them. Many of the people were starting to believe.