“Woman, Where are They?”

John 8:1-11 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.

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.”

Have you ever had other people try to trip you up with your words and for the sole purpose to accuse you of wrongdoing? They will say things to bait you to try to get you to enter into a conversation with them, and then they will purposefully direct the conversation in the direction they want it to go so that they can trap you in their wicked schemes and in the hopes of tripping you up with your own words. For their whole goal is to accuse you of something and to try to make you look bad, or perhaps to silence you.

That is what this whole scenario is about here in this story. This really had nothing to do with justice or with doing the right thing. These men just used this woman in order to test Jesus, hoping to have some cause to accuse him of wrong. And if the woman was caught in adultery, where was the man who was committing adultery with her? Why were they protecting him? Why was it only her they brought before Jesus and not the man also? [And when we study the Scriptures it is good to ask ourselves questions.]

Now, if we are wise, we should learn from Jesus’ example here in how to respond to people who are trying to bait us into useless conversations. And I am not suggesting that we write with our fingers in the dirt, but that we not take the bait, and that we not get into those meaningless conversations with them. We should pause, and we should pray, and we should seek the Lord for wisdom in knowing if we should respond at all or if we should just remain silent, or if we should respond, then what we should say.

Anyway, there are many speculations as to what it was that Jesus wrote in that dirt, and I have my own ideas about this, too, but the story does not tell us, so none of us knows for sure. But this is my thinking on the matter. Jesus knew these men. And he knew the evil deeds they were committing in secret, for he chided them on numerous occasions with regard to their secret sins. So, I suspect that Jesus may have written some people’s names in that dirt or something incriminating regarding them that they would know about.

So, when Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” I believe the reason the men left is that they then knew that Jesus knew what they were doing in secret, and they realized that he could expose their dirty little secrets. And since they did not want to be exposed, they willfully walked away. For I don’t believe that Jesus’ verbal words spoken were enough to prick them to the heart so that, in good conscience, they walked away. For that is not who those men were.

Now, Jesus also knew the heart of this woman. And, although it does not say, the indication here is that she was humbled by what had just happened to her, and perhaps she was genuinely sorrowful for her sins. For her response to Jesus was a humble and a respectful response and not the response of someone who fully intended to go right back to the life she had lived before. But now, when Jesus forgave her, and he did not condemn her, he was not giving her permission to go right back to how she was living.

For, when Jesus forgives our sins, it is so that we will go and sin no more. For Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. And by faith in him, we are crucified and buried with Christ in death to sin, and we are raised with him to walk in newness of life in him, no longer as slaves to sin, but now as slaves to God and to his righteousness. And Jesus said if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, die daily to sin and to self (in essence), and follow (obey) him.

[1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:1-23; Luke 9:23-26; Ephesians 4:17-24]

So, there is a dual lesson here, I believe. The first has to do with how we should respond to people who try to bait us into conversations or into situations where we should not go. We are wise if we follow Jesus’ example and if we do not take the bait, and if we are silent, and if we pray for wisdom before we respond. It is never good to respond with our emotions. And that is what they want us to do, for they want to trap us and to trip us up with our words, and they want us to get worked up emotionally.

The other lesson is that our God is a forgiving God, and he will forgive the sins of the truly repentant. But his message to us always is to “go and sin no more.” Forgiveness is to never equal permission to keep on living in sin only now without guilt and without remorse. Forgiveness is always for the purpose to free us from our slavery to sin so that we will now become slaves of God and of his righteousness. For if we continue making sin our practice, and if obedience to our Lord is not our practice, then we will not have eternal life with God. For this is what the Scriptures teach us:

[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

He Keeps Me Singing

by Luther B. Bridgers, 1910

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,”
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ‘neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face –
That is why I shout and sing.

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep
See His foot-prints all the way.

Soon He’s coming back to welcome me
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to world’s unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus –
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

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2 thoughts on ““Woman, Where are They?”

  1. We recently had a Bible study lesson on these verses. The very points that you made are the ones we also had. Jesus very clearly knew the law, and in a backhanded way, perhaps with the writing in the dirt, pointed out the grievous error in bringing only the woman to be punished. And, He refused to take the bait of the Pharisees by pointed out that each and every one of them were sinners with the simple statement, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. This was particularly directed at those who were hypocrites who were just using this woman to get at Jesus. This, however, is not an indictment against calling out sin and against calling people to repentance. It is an indictment against hypocritically judging others in a condemning way while the one casting judgment is doing the same or worse (Romans 2). And that was what the Pharisees were doing. And so Jesus basically called them out on it via what he wrote in the dirt, I believe. And thank you for your comment. Well said. Glory to God.

      Liked by 1 person

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