“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” ” (John 8:1–11, NIV)
It’s a trap. Jesus has the attention of the crowd. Everyone is listening to Him teach… and in walk the religious leaders.
Picture a college classroom. Hundreds of students listening to the teacher and in the middle of the lecture, the Administration walks in.
“Excuse me. We have a question.”
Behind them is a woman. Disheveled. Humiliated. Turning her face to the ground.
“This woman was caught in adultery. The Law of Moses says we should stone her. What do I you say?”
It’s a trap! They want him fired. Discredited. If he tells them to let her go, they condemn him for ignoring the law of God. If he instructs them to stone her, then they will condemn him for ignoring the law of Rome which prohibits such action. Either way, He’s a lawbreaker. There is no right answer and this is exactly the reason they ask the question. It’s a trap.
But Jesus understands their motives. If they were truly concerned about the law, they would know that the law requires both the man and woman to be stoned. The man is missing. Not to mention the fact that they said she was caught “in the act”. How did that happen?
The fact of the matter is, the religious leaders were quick to point out the sins of others and yet they were so blind to their own defiance of the law by arresting the woman without the man – not to mention their unwillingness to accept Jesus as their own Messiah.
So Jesus is silent and He begins to write with His finger in the sand. No one knows what He writes but whatever it was, it made the accusers uncomfortable. Suffice it to say, whatever He did was supernatural because the accusers relinquished their position of authority. Jesus answers the question by instructing the one who has not sinned to cast the first stone. The tables have turned.
The one who casts the stone is an obvious liar and therefore defies the judgment of God who says all have sinned and fallen short His glory. By making the accusers examine themselves, He exposed their true motives. Now they stood condemned and rightly chose to walk away.
Jesus doesn’t ignore the woman’s sin, but His compassion does reveal that she is more important than the wrong she had done. Jesus had not come to judge the world but to save the world. Because of this truth, the woman could still repent and her life could be redeemed. One day, however, Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead and on that day, there will be no time to repent. Jesus is patient, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to eternal life. Jesus is offering the woman the forgiveness she needs to avoid this day of judgment. Her lifestyle will reflect the response to His offer.
Here is what we need to see: Sin is blinding. It leads us to judge others with a standard we refuse to apply to our own lives. Self justification reveals our pride and we cannot live in humble obedience when the sin of pride reigns in our heart. It is the choice to look in the mirror with our eyes closed.
On the other hand, humility brings compassion. It does not condone sin but calls us to repentance and a life of faithful devotion by trusting in His forgiveness and love - An obedience which flows out of gratitude.
Jesus drew a line in the sand. What side of the line are you on?