Read: John 8:1-11
The character of Javert in “Les Miserables” is a cold and pitiless police inspector, bent on bringing the fugitive Jean Valjean to justice. If you’re not familiar with the story, Javert is not what you would typically call a ‘corrupt cop.’ He stringently adheres to the letter of the law. Caught between Javert and the law is the character of Jean Valjean, a man who is guilty of breaking parole after nineteen years but has since come to repentance and a new, honest life. Despite this, Javert still hunts him down without sympathy, bent on seeing justice done.
We love to hate Javert for his cruel application of the law, but his most troubling quality is how convinced he is that he’s in the right. Javert is a corrupt cop, but not corrupt in the sense of using his authority to get away with crime. He’s corrupt in the sense that he uses the law to fuel his personal vendetta against Valjean. We similarly love to hate the pharisees, but let’s not confuse a hatred for the pharisees with a hatred for the Law. You may be surprised just how easy it is to think like a pharisee.
In John 8:1-11, there’s an often overlooked tug of war going on between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. It’s easy to characterize the story of the woman caught in adultery as a case of forgiveness versus the Law. We know though that God Himself gave them the Law of Moses, so it mustn’t be villainized. Since this is so, does this mean the pharisees were right and Jesus, God in the flesh, actually contradicted His own Law? Not at all!
The battle-lines in John 8 are not drawn simply between Law and forgiveness, but between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of mankind. The kingdom of man, which the pharisees had built, weaponizes God’s Law for their personal use. They see the Law as a tool they could use to manipulate and trap those they disagreed with. In this instance, they see their chance to use the Law against Jesus and take it without question.
On the other hand, there’s Jesus, stepping in to obey the will of God, not merely the letter of the Law. He doesn’t engage them in a debate or try to argue semantics, but addresses their heart. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” Jesus overlooks their scheming and double-talk and saw this lost, humiliated woman. In His care for her, He is able to illustrate what the Kingdom of God was really like.
The mindset of a Jevert and the pharisees is frighteningly easy to fall into. You can quote Scripture, profess faith, or study theology, but if you see these as tools to leverage your own agenda, you’ve completely missed the point. The point is to advance God’s agenda and to be an agent of redemption. It’s to know Jesus and let God’s Kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven.
Meditate on what this passage shows about God’s heart and values. Pray that He will build in you the same heart that will love like Jesus loved this woman.