Guilty conscience

While Jesus was teaching in God’s temple, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to him that they said, “was taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). The religious leaders hoped to trap Jesus in a situation where he would say or do something that contradicted his own teaching and make himself out to be a hypocrite like they were. The men that brought the adulteress to Jesus suggested that she should be stoned according to the Mosaic Law, but Jesus’ compassion for the woman caused him to say to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). The phrase “without sin” means without any sin. In other words, Jesus was making sinlessness a requirement for executing judgment against the woman that had committed adultery. It says in John 8:9, “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”

Jesus used the example of these men’s guilty consciences to teach the Pharisees a lesson about his divine purpose as the savior of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). The Pharisees were used to condemning others for their sins against God, but Jesus wanted them to know that it wasn’t necessary for them to judge lawbreakers. God was able to bring conviction of sin, or give someone a guilty conscience, through the love and compassion of his son Jesus Christ. The two Greek terms Jesus used, phos (light) and scotia (darkness) were meant to show the contradiction between love and hate in our actions toward others. Scotia (skot-ee’-ah) is used of secrecy and describes a condition of moral or spiritual depravity. The men that condemned the adulteress might have been guilty of adultery themselves or some other crime that could be punished by death. It may have been their own guilty consciences that caused them to lash out at this woman and expose her to public humiliation.

Jesus’ statement, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12) was a declaration of his ability to expose the inner thoughts and feelings of people trapped in a lifestyle of sin. It says in John 8:9 that the men that wanted to stone the adulteress were convicted by their own consciences when they heard Jesus say, “He that is without sin among you.” The human conscience is a mechanism by which God is able to reveal his will to us (4893). The Greek word suneidesis (soon-i’-day-sis) means “co-perception.” Another way of saying it would be to see both sides of the story. We are usually aware of our own thoughts and feelings, but not those of others, and in particular, the thoughts and feelings of God are typically hidden from us or outside of our awareness, but our conscience enables us to see what God thinks about our behavior. After the men that were convicted by their own consciences left the scene, Jesus asked the adulteress, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10). The woman’s response acknowledged her submission to Jesus’ authority. She said, “No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

 

Prophecy

Following the birth of Jesus, his parents Joseph and Mary took him to the temple to have him dedicated to the Lord. While they were there, Joseph and Mary encountered a man named Simeon to whom it had been revealed that the birth of Israel’s Messiah would take place before his death. Simeon blessed the couple “and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). This strange prophecy may have baffled Joseph and Mary because although they were very familiar with warfare, the idea that a person’s soul could be pierced by a sword had never been spoken of before. The only clue Mary had to understanding what Simeon told her was an ancient prophecy from Isaiah that stated, “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; and said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:1-3).

It wasn’t until the book of Ephesians was written many years later by the Apostle Paul that a clear understanding of Simeon’s message became evident. Talking about spiritual warfare, Paul told believers to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) and then specifically stated, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Spiritual warfare was impossible before Jesus was born because there were no “weapons” for believers to use against Satan. The point Simeon was trying to make when he told Mary “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35) was that Jesus’ words would convict even his own mother of her sinful human nature. Luke eluded to the power associated with Jesus’ words when he stated, “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power” (Luke 4:32). The full extent of the power of Jesus’ words won’t be realized until his second coming. John’s vision of the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ is recorded in Revelation 1:16, where it says, “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”

God’s ability to reveal the thoughts, and even intents, of human hearts was at the core of Jesus’ ministry. Many times, Jesus made it clear that he knew what people were thinking and could discern whether or not they had a sincere desire to change or merely wanted to be acknowledged as a good person (Luke 18:18-23). One of the essential reasons Jesus came into the world as a man was so that he could determine for himself the extent of Satan’s influence over the human heart. Simeon’s prophecy about Jesus, “this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34) suggested that as a human, Jesus had distinct capabilities by which he could tell whether or not someone was receptive or resistant to the words he spoke to them. Although God is able to see the heart of man, his thoughts and feelings; as a man, Jesus was able to see the looks on people’s faces and could interpret their body language. It says in Proverbs 24:16, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Essentially, what this verse is saying is that when a just or repentant person commits a sin, you can tell by the look on his face that he is sorry for what he’s done, but when a wicked person does something wrong, he won’t show any sign of remorse. Jesus could see from both the inside and outside what was really going on when he confronted people with their sin.