Jesus and the Adulterous Woman
Today we are going to discover a story that should grab our attention and “wake us up” so to speak every time we read it. This story comes out of the gospel of John and we are going to look at this story from three different lenses. The lens of the Hebrew Bible, the lens of Jesus, and our lens as readers of the story today. Let’s dive in to the story of Jesus and the Adulterous woman.
- The Pharisees confirm their unbelief and disgust with Jesus. They try to get the temple guards to arrest Jesus and their excuse when they come back empty handed is that no one speaks like him. They are almost asking “Have you heard him teach? He’s pretty amazing”. Nicodemus tries to stick up for Jesus as he had an earlier conversation with Jesus himself back in John 3.
- They decide to trap Jesus and find some way to accuse him and that is where John 8 begins.
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
- In the Hebrew Bible, in the Law, there is such a command as the one the Pharisees are referring to. They are correct that the Law says a woman is to be put to death if caught in adultery.
- Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22
6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
- Here’s why it is a trap:
- If Jesus were to say let her go do not stone her, he would be breaking the Jewish Law that he has said he is here to fulfill and uphold, making him out to be a liar and a traitor of God’s people. In other words if he is really who he says he is then he will follow God’s law and proceed with the stoning.
- There’s a flip side. If Jesus says to stone her, then he would be in trouble with the Roman government as they did not allow such things without the government approval. Then the Pharisees could get the people riled up that Jesus is a troublemaker look at what he’s done because they were already under Roman oppression, they didn’t need any more.
- So we have this two sided trap that whatever decision Jesus makes, it won’t be a good one and the Pharisees will have the upper hand.
6b But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
- If only we knew what he was writing. There’s been speculation of course about what it could have been but no one really knows for sure. Jesus is deescalating the situation by doing something unexpected.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
- Jesus now challenges the Pharisees. After being challenged in what seems like an inescapable trap, Jesus now turns the table on them and gives them an inescapable challenge. This challenge is two fold:
- If one of them decides to throw the stone, he is claiming he is without sin and therefore claiming to be God, which they considered blasphemy. So they can not throw the stone because they cannot claim to be God and that would not look good in the eyes of the people.
- If they decide not to throw the stone, then the law of Moses they claim to uphold would not be obeyed by them. In other words, they would fail their own law and lose their authority and credibility with the people.
- They are stuck. They have to choose and there is no way out. This is what Jesus does with us. When we come in contact with Jesus, we have a choice. We either have to confess that we are wrong or refuse him in our life.
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
- Jesus just leaves them here to make the decision for themselves. He gets on the ground and continues writing.
9 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.
- We see they have made their decision. They decide to claim to have sin and walk away, without stoning her. Notice how the oldest one leaves first. A little bit of wisdom from the oldest of the group to leave. They went away one at a time, signaling each one has made the personal decision not to throw a stone. John makes it clear that it was only Jesus and the woman left. A sinner and her Savior left alone.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
- Jesus asks a rhetorical question here. He wants to make a point that no one is there, and no one threw a stone meaning no one condemned her.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
- Then Jesus tells her that He does not condemn either. He was not going to stone her. But he does leave her with a warning. To leave her sinful life. She has come in contact with the Messiah and she now should leave her sin behind and live a new life because she now has been saved by Jesus.
There are lots of implications for this story. I like this story to remind myself that when I encounter someone lost or stuck in sin that I am no better. I am not more righteous than that person and I am not less sinful. We are all on the same page according to Romans and therefore we should not act like we are better as the Pharisees did. Each person is just as undeserving as we are of God’s love, mercy, and grace. He gave his life for everyone, including you and those we see as “more sinful”. But they are just as sinful as us and God showed his love for all of us.