John 8:1-6 ESV
“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.”
Caught in Adultery
Have you ever been caught in sin? How did you respond? Were you embarrassed? Ashamed? Sorrowful? Or did you make excuses for your sin? And did you blame someone else for your sin? And/or did you attack the person who discovered your sin? How we respond makes all the difference in whether or not we ever become free from our slavery (addiction) to sin.
Jesus caught the Pharisees in their sins many times, and he confronted them with their sins, but their response was just to get angry with him and to get even with him, and that is what this is really all about. This had nothing to do with justice or the law, for if it did, where was the man? Wasn’t he caught, too? Certainly, she was not caught in adultery with herself.
So, this was about revenge. The scribes and the Pharisees brought this woman before Jesus to test him, in hopes they would have cause to accuse Jesus. But Jesus knew their hearts, and he knew the woman’s heart, too. He knew what they were all thinking. And he knew the motivation of the men who were trying to trip him up with his words.
For, they cared nothing about this woman or her sin. They were just using her to get at Jesus. She was just a pawn in their hands. They looked down on her as though she was less than them, as though she was sinful, but they were not. They had a high opinion of themselves which was not merited, for Jesus often took them to task for their hypocrisy.
And there are hypocrites among us still today who pretend to be religious, who put on a performance of righteousness for an audience, and who in their hypocrisy easily point a finger at those who have sinned far less severely than them, and yet they will be quick to the trigger to accuse while they fail to point the rest of their fingers back at themselves.
John 8:6-11 ESV
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’.”
Jesus Wrote with His Finger
No one knows exactly what Jesus wrote with his finger on the ground. So, any suggestions of what he wrote are just that, suggestions. But I think it is fair to assess the situation at hand, and to look at who these men were, and at what we know about them from other Scriptures, and I think we can pretty much surmise what Jesus may have written.
For, we know these men were very proud and self-righteous, and we know that they were envious of Jesus and that they were out to get him in any way that they could. We know they were hypocrites who liked looking good on the outside while they were doing all kinds of evil behind closed doors. So, they were not the type to easily be persuaded to back down.
They also didn’t seem to have a conscience, so I don’t think they all of a sudden got a conscience and that is why they backed down. So, based on what we know of these men and their character, I surmise that Jesus wrote something that let them know that Jesus knew of their specific sins, too, like perhaps names of prostitutes they had slept with.
Since they were very prideful men, and they wanted everyone to think well of them, if they realized that Jesus could expose their sins publicly, although he had certainly done that, at least generally many times, they might be inclined to drop their stones because they knew that if they went ahead with stoning the woman that they could be next to be stoned.
Let Him who is Without Sin
I think that when Jesus finished writing, and when he stood up, that the men could now see what he had written. And it was at this point that Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then he continued writing, thus making a connection between what he was writing and his statement to them about being without sin.
But let me interject something here before I move on. Not one of us is without sin. We are born into sin with sin natures, so all have sinned and have come up short of attaining God’s divine approval, i.e., his acceptance. Now, if we are believing in Jesus, we have died with Christ to sin and we are to be living to Christ and to his righteousness, but we still are capable of sin.
But just because we have all come into this world with sin natures, and just because we still have the propensity to sin against God, and it is possible that we may sin against God (1 Jn 2:1-2), that doesn’t mean that we are all living in sin. For, if we are believing in Jesus, we should now be walking (in conduct) not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And let me say something else here. Many people quote Jesus’ words to say that none of us should ever judge anyone else’s sin because we are all sinners. The Bible doesn’t teach that, though. The Bible teaches that we should not judge hypocritically, or unjustly, or by human standards, or by comparing others to ourselves, but we are to judge righteously.
So, Jesus wasn’t teaching that we should never judge sin, but that we should not judge hypocritically, or in hate, or with the wrong motives, or prejudicially, or by human standards, or by comparing others to ourselves, etc. We who are walking righteously are to judge sin, but in order to rescue people from bondage to sin and to save their souls from hell.
But our judging needs to be done lovingly, speaking the truth in love, and always with a goal to restore the person sinning to a right relationship with God. It should be for the good of others, not to harm them.
Go and Sin No More
Also, when Jesus forgives sin it is not so that we can continue living in sin only now without guilt or punishment. For, Jesus died to deliver us from our slavery to sin so we would now be slaves of God and of his righteousness. He died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness and that we might walk according to the Spirit, not by the flesh.
When Jesus said he did not condemn her for her sin, he wasn’t saying that she didn’t sin or that what she did wasn’t a sin, nor was he giving her a free pass to continue living in sin. He was just letting her know that he forgave her, but that forgiveness meant she was to go and from that moment on sin no more. And that is what our salvation from sin is about, too.
Living by Faith
Lyrics by James Wells, 1918
v. 4 by Robert E. Winsett, 1918
Music by J. L. Heath, 1918
I care not today what the morrow may bring,
If shadow or sunshine or rain,
The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything,
And all of my worries are vain.
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.
Though tempests may blow and the storm clouds arise,
Obscuring the brightness of life,
I’m never alarmed at the overcast skies—
The Master looks on at the strife.
I know that He safely will carry me through,
No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow,
If Jesus walks close to my side.
Our Lord will return for His loved ones someday,
Our troubles will then all be o’er;
The Master so gently will lead us away,
Beyond that blest heavenly shore.
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