Sinless Jesus Did Not Condemn an Adulterous Woman
I spoke this afternoon for my campus group. We’ve been conducting a series on the life-changing encounters with the Savior, so I tackled Jesus’ encounter with an adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). It’s been a while since I last made a study of a passage and did an exposition of it. I’m really glad about the opportunity. Anyway…
Let’s read John 7:53-8:11. And let’s start with verse 3:
3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst.
Here we have the scribes, who are professional interpreters of the law, and the Pharisees, the religious leaders who advocated strict obedience to the law and to traditions. Just a day ago, the Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus (7:32). Throughout the Gospels, we will find that there’s a friction between these religious and Jesus.
Now the scribes and the Pharisees “brought a woman [who] had been caught in adultery.” Adultery is forbidden by the Bible: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). It defiles a person (Matthew 15:18-20).
4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
So I had to ask myself the question: Why didn’t the scribes and the Pharisees stone the woman right away? After all, that’s what the Law requires. Something’s fishy is going on!
But let’s know for now what did Moses command? Leviticus 20:10 says:
10“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
And Deuteronomy 22:22:
22“If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
The Law requires that “both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death,” purging the evil from Israel. But the scribes and the Pharisees only brought the woman. So they’ve already disregarded the Law. Okay, something’s fishy is really going on!
6This 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.
That’s it! Here we find the true motives of the religious leaders. They wanted to trap Jesus. If Jesus said that the woman shouldn’t be executed, they would accuse Him of violating Moses’ law. But if He permits her execution, the leaders would report Him to the Roman authorities. The Jews cannot carry out their own executions (see John 18:31).
They were trying to trap Jesus. And this is not the only place where they were trying to do so (see Matthew 22:15-40 and its parallels, Mark 12:13-34 and Luke 20:1-8, 20-40). Then Jesus wrote something on the ground. As to what He wrote, we aren’t sure.
7And 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.”
So only a sinless person can throw a stone at the adulterous woman.
8And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9But 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 wrote on the ground again. Then when the leaders heard what Jesus said, “they went away one by one.” Apparently, none of them is without sin. The older ones went away first perhaps because their longer lives had more seasons of stumbling and sinning.
Then Jesus was left alone with the woman. Compared to the leaders, and to every human being, He is sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15). He is God and He is holy. If there’s one person who can throw a stone at the woman, that would be Jesus, since He without sin. He is God and will not tolerate sin. He will not make Himself less of a God if He purges evil, because He is holy.
10Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
So Jesus asked the woman if no one has condemned her. She replied, “No one, Lord.” She called her Lord. Perhaps she has heard, or even seen, Jesus and His works before. And perhaps she is somehow convinced that He is the Messiah and the Son of God.
Let’s be imaginative for a moment and place ourselves on that scenario. We see Jesus, the woman, and the religious leaders. And the leaders just left away. We see that woman felt relief. “Finally, they’re gone,” she could’ve said. But the relief was temporary. And there’s now a greater fear in her. She says to herself, “I’m now in front of this Person, who is sinless, who had every right to stone me, whom I’m now calling Lord.” But instead of a stone hitting her head, she hears, “Neither do I condemn you!”
Jesus says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” Sinless Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman. This is grace! Amazing grace!
And since the woman had been graced by Jesus, she can now live triumphantly over sin. She had a life-changing encounter with the Savior of the world, and she can go and sin no more!
Remember these. Only those who have been graced by God can live lives victorious over sin. And only those who have been extended grace by God can extend grace to others (the scribes and the Pharisees are obviously the opposite). Graced people should be gracious people! If Jesus did not condemn the woman (Of course, this does not mean that He is tolerant of sin. He even commanded her to go and sin no more) but instead showed her grace, who are we to condemn (or judge) others and be ungracious, unforgiving, and merciless to them?
Let’s not be quick to condemn or judge anyone. Rather, let’s be ready to extend grace, just as God extended us grace.
Sinless Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman.