Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NLT)
The woman brought to Jesus by the Pharisees was in a tough spot. The powerful leaders were using her as a pawn in a chess game against Jesus, trying to discredit him with trick questions. That was bad enough; but the woman’s life was on the line.
Jesus didn’t answer the Pharisees’ question directly, but simply wrote in the sand. Some say he wrote a list of the religious leader’s sins. His non-answer turned the whole focus off this woman’s trespasses, and shined a disturbing light on sinful religious leaders who only wanted to maintain their power – even at the cost of a woman’s life.
If Jesus had said, “OK…you know the law, stone her,” they could have blunted Jesus’ teaching on mercy with her blood. If He had said, “No…let her go,” they would have convicted Jesus of disrespecting the Law of God. They really weren’t interested in the woman, only embarrassing Jesus!
But either way, the woman’s life was at an end.
As an exposed adulteress, any respectability was gone, even if they didn’t kill her body. There are worse things than dying!
At least two questions always leap to the forefront when I read this account:
1. Where was the man? It does take two to commit adultery.
--- but even more…
2. When forgiven, did the woman REALLY sin no more?
Well, I suspect she didn’t!
No, I’m not running her down like a Pharisee – it’s just that I know me; and knowing human failure when it comes to sin prevents me from assuming that woman was anything like “perfect” after she left Jesus’ presence. But, then again, she wasn’t perfect before.
So what difference did meeting Jesus make? You would have to ask her that question.
The whole point of the story seems to be that we all must be careful about pointing out the sins of other people’s lives – unless, of course, we can honestly say we’re free of any sin. THEN we could pick up the first stone.
For you, today
If you thought about asking that woman what difference meeting Jesus made in her life, here’s another question that might bear fruit:
What difference has meeting Him made in your life?