When the members of the Sanhedrin brought before Jesus the woman caught in adultery, they weren’t the only critics around. After the accusers all left, there were still several Pharisees observing this whole scene. After Jesus turned and told His disciples that He was the light of the world, these Pharisees jumped in to object.
What’s at stake here is their claim to God’s approval. Inherent in the challenge Jesus raised with the Sanhedrin was their fitness to rule the nation under the Covenant. The Pharisees felt the same sting of defeat as their own. This was a very public rebuke of a system that favored these elitists, and this rebuke condemned them as unfit to even understand justice, much less make it happen.
They were trying to keep this courtroom setting alive by pointing out that the judge had stepped out of line. He was testifying of His own character as judge without any supporting witnesses. How could He claim to be the Messiah preparing to lead the nation if He was tooting His own horn? Keep in mind that the Messiah would be both king and chief justice in our terms.
His answer was that there was no one else who knew Him well enough to assess His fitness as judge and Messiah. He was the only one who knew where He came from and where things would end up from here. They had no clue about any of that. They didn’t operate from the heart, but from a hostile intellect that presumed to judge God Himself. They were judging according to their own fleshly capabilities without any input from the Holy Spirit. Even if someone presented evidence they could understand, they still wouldn’t be capable of processing it without a heart-led perspective.
Jesus called attention to the fact He had not judged anyone at all. He simply raised the very pertinent question with the prosecution whether anyone was morally upright enough to bring the case. He didn’t say they were morally unfit, but let them judge for themselves whether they could face God and execute on His behalf. They could not. He didn’t judge the woman, either, but told her to repent and clean up her life. He wasn’t even judging the Pharisees.
Even if He had passed judgment, it would have stood in God’s court. Indeed, God was His Father, and had commissioned and sent Him to bring judgment against sin. Such a commission demonstrated the level of trust the Father had in the Son to do justice. Indeed, He bore His father’s approval as only a faithful son could.
According to the Law of Moses — the same law the Pharisees claimed was backing them up — two agreeing witnesses were sufficient to verify any contention and win the case. Were they paying attention enough to hear God’s testimony? Jesus asserted His authority, and His Father backed Him up. Therefore, their opinions were immaterial. Jesus was eager to stand before God and have His claims tested. Were they ready for that?
It’s not as if the Pharisees were ignorant of what Jesus meant, referring to God as His Father. They were being sarcastic. “Oh, yeah? We don’t see Your Father around here.”
Jesus said it wouldn’t matter if God did show up in a physical form. They wouldn’t recognize Him because they never knew Him in the first place. Had they been equipped to discern that Jesus was the Living Law of God in their midst, they would have already recognized the Father’s Presence in His teaching. They were confined to their senses and reason, having long ago shut off their hearts.
John notes in passing that this scene took place in the Temple Treasury space, or more accurately, the storage area. This was located along either side of the Court of Women, featuring open porticos faced with columns. It was away from the Court of Gentiles where there was a lot more noise and traffic, and the space between the wall of the storerooms and the columns was relatively quiet, a good place for small teaching sessions and debates.