John 7:53 – 8:11

53 Everyone else went home, 8 but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. Then early the next morning he went to the temple. The people came to him, and he sat down and started teaching them.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd. Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband. The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”

They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.

They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.

10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?” 11 “No sir,” the woman answered. Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

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This is a very well known passage in the Gospel of John.  In various versions, this passage has been given a title like, “The Woman Caught In Adultery.”  In some ways, this title does summarize the main point in this passage, but I believe that this does not really capture the most important issues that are going on under the surface of this story.

The key to this whole passage I believe comes in verse 6 as John perceptively wrote, “they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him.”  We have seen in earlier chapters of John that the religious leaders were becoming more and more antagonistic against Jesus and His teachings and ministry among people.  Catching this woman in an act of adultery gave them the pretext to try to trap Jesus in what He would say about the situation.  Consider what one of my commentary sources says:

If Jesus answered: ‘Moses is right; stone her!’ they would have gone to Pilate and accused Jesus of infringing upon the rights of the Roman authority, which had reserved to itself the ‘right of the sword’ here, as in all conquered countries. If he had answered: ‘Do not stone her!’ they would have decried Him before the people and would even have accused Him before the Sanhedrim as a false Messiah; for the Messiah must maintain or restore the sovereignty of the Law.  (Exegetical Helps on John)

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As I look at the text, there are two other very subtle things that bother me besides the attempt of the leaders to trap Jesus in His words.  First of all, where was the man who also was involved in this act of sexual immorality?  Was he not guilty of sin?  And secondly, is it possible that the Jewish leaders arranged for this man to have sex with this married woman and they were all close by to “catch” them in the act?  Was it all a setup to frame and accuse Jesus of a legal crime by what he said next?

But Jesus, who was granted omniscience by God’s Spirit, knew all along what was going on and remained quiet.  He knew better than to respond to these religious bullies.  I’m sure it must have infuriated them that they could not bait Jesus into a rash response.  (Hmm… can we learn something here from the way Jesus handles those who oppose Him and all that He stood for?  I think so.)

Then Jesus speaks those famous words, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”  Obviously every person who has lived has committed sin.  From the time of Adam until the present day, every person has fallen short of being perfect and without sin.  And when that realization dawned on these men, they finally all left the woman alone, for to condemn her would be to condemn themselves.

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Here then is the most important question in this passage.  What did Jesus think about this woman?  It is true that she did commit adultery.  So that does mean that she committed sin in God’s eyes.  Jesus himself had not committed sin, and so He alone was in a position to condemn the woman for her actions.  Look at what Jesus said to her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

It is clear that Jesus did not desire to see this woman condemned to die according to the religious rules of that day.  But more importantly, Jesus did not want this woman to continue acts of sin and thus be in a state of sin that would result in God condemning her to eternal death.  So Jesus did not condemn her, but He also did not condone her actions.

This is the crucial application for us today.  We must all be willing to bow in humility before God and admit our sin before Him.  Then we are to choose to no longer follow this path of sin.  This is an act of repentance, a true change of the heart.  And when that occurs, the door is then opened to receive forgiveness of our sin, forever.  I pray that you have made this important decision for your life.

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