John 8:3-11 : The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the midst, they told him, “Teacher, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. Now in our law, Moses commanded us to stone such. What then do you say about her?” They said this testing him, that they might have something to accuse him of. But Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” Again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Jesus was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle. Jesus, standing up, saw her and said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.”
There is little doubt that woman in this story was a sinner. But, there were definitely other sinners in this story too. In the United States we have a saying about those who blame others. We say: “It takes one to know one.” There are some pretty interesting facts about this story. First of all, let’s look at the law of Moses to which they were referring:
Leviticus 20:10 : “‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.'”
This brings up an interesting question:
- Where’s the man?
The law was actually written for the man and the woman who commit adultery. If they saw her in the very act, they must have seen the man and I doubt he could have gotten too far. This is a very serious law, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound right to us does it? This law hasn’t changed since God wrote it with His finger into the Ten Commandments on stone. Clearly, God holds the penalty for adultery to be physical death according to Jewish law. This was a pretty well thought out attempt to trap Jesus, however. If He was truly a righteous teacher, He would have to obey Moses’ direct orders! Now, these leaders were trying to trap Jesus who was God. Let’s look at what the law of Moses says about trying to test God:
Deuteronomy 6:16 : You shall not tempt Yahweh your God, as you tempted him in Massah.
In the Massah story (Exodus 17:1-7), the Jews complained, as they often did. This ultimately lead to them not being permitted to enter the Promised Land. They were condemned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years during which time, many of the original Jews who traveled from Egypt died. These men were tempting Jesus.
Do these rules scare you? They certainly scared me! Complaining is a sin! Wow! So you don’t think you’ve committed adultery? Here’s what Jesus said at another time:
Matthew 5:27-28 : “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery;’ but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
We all are guilty so we all have the choice to see ourselves as either the accuser, or the accused. Jesus actions, the ones that He claimed were representing His Father, were an amazing representation of mercy. His actions either calm our guilty souls, or threaten our prideful ones.
Jesus caused everyone to leave by simply suggesting that the sinless one start the execution. Jesus, however didn’t leave. This suggests that Jesus was the only one qualified to start the execution. The question still remains, “Why didn’t Jesus follow His own rule and have her stoned?” The reason is clear. Jesus was going to take the punishment for her as He has for the world. Let’s not forget what Jesus said to Nicodemus:
John 3:16 : For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.
All things considered, Jesus was saying, “I’m going to take your punishment for you, so, stop sinning.” If Jesus tells us to stop sinning, He will provide us the power we need to stop. As Christians, we require the power of the Holy Spirit to live a good life. Even if we do sin, Jesus continues to provide forgiveness for us when we sin as Christians (1 John 2:1,2). What an amazing thing to have been given the mercy of God.