Michael Bray

Author of A Time To Kill

What Would Jesus Have Done?

2 July, 2014

What if the woman brought before Jesus and charged with adultery had a co-defendant?  What if the man caught with her had been brought before the elders by the accusers and they were both properly charged  and the evidence was forthcoming?  What if there were two witnesses presented  and upon cross examination, their testimony was found to be unimpeachable?

What if the motives of the accusers had been sincere and there was no corrupt, selective prosecution or ill-motivated search for someone to trap in a crime and threaten with execution just to test a messianic celebrity’s credentials and fidelity to the Law of God?    

What would Jesus have done if he were presented with a criminal case in which a woman and a man had been found to have committed  a capital crime and in the course of biblical judicial proceedings a legal opinion were asked of Jesus? 

What would he have said to be the just penalty and would he have supported carrying it out? 

Why or why not?

As it is, the popular story (John 7:53-8:11), cited so prolifically in homilies across the land, has helped to subvert God’s Law as the foundation for justice in civil law.   It does not belong in the canon of Scripture. 

That’s right.  Your eyes did not deceive you. 

This most popular story, especially among antinomian Christians, does not belong in the canon of holy writ.   Although it is judged to be an authentic historical event, it is, nevertheless not “profitable for  teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16) and may not be cited in support of any matters of doctrine and practice.[1]  

Rejection of God’s Law is one of the earliest Christian heresies – antinomianism, referenced by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (chapter 6).  Jesus insists that He did not come to abolish the Law (cf. Matt. 5:17), rather to enable  the keeping of it (vv. 21-47).  After referencing particular statutes, he summoned  His audience to “be perfect” (v.  48).

Obedience to the requirements of the Law would be facilitated by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who was to come.  “The requirement of the Law,” then “might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).  Indeed, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, working in the lives of His followers,  would empower them to walk in a Lawful manner (v. 11).

The Commandments are reiterated by Paul, the greatest of God’s revelators in matters of life style with respect to the authorities, in his letter to the Romans (13:7-9).  And he specifically affirms the legitimacy of capital punishment as that which metes out God’s own righteous judgment (v. 4).   Since Jesus is God and not in conflict with Himself, we can be assured that Jesus would have approved the execution in the imaginary case with which we began this discourse.

We tend to have a narrow view of this Son of God, the Lion, who came down as a lamb to die.  We forget what John has told us.  The One who came as a Lamb to save us from our sins by His death, is also the Ruler and Judge.   He is the Lion of Judah opening the books for judgment (Rev. 5:5 ff.)  He sits on the throne with “power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (v. 12).  And he breaks the seals of judgment upon the earth (ch. 6) so that the kings of the earth “hide themselves in caves (v. 15) and “say to the rocks, ‘fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (v. 16)          

This Jesus, the Lamb, is also featured by the Revelator as one who rides a war horse;  “He judges and wages war” (19:11).  “From his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down nations …  He rules them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (v. 15).         

Jesus is not revolted by the death penalty.  He ordained it.  And through the kings and rulers that He put into power, He has carried out this just penalty many, many times.                                                                                                                                                                                   


[1] See comments in A Time to Kill on this John passage:  A Time to Kill p 22-27   



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