Read: John 8:1-11
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.
It was a blush-worthy scene: She was locked in the embrace of a man other than her husband. Their interlude was abruptly interrupted when the two of them were discovered. She was dragged unceremoniously, without dignity, and led by rough hands to the Temple Courts. She barely had time to cover her body before being exposed literally and figuratively to the public.
This woman, who remains nameless, was caught “in the act” according to John 8:4. In the original Greek text, the word, which is a derivative of phor (a thief), means the woman was caught while committing the act. There was no question as to her guilt. Interestingly, that Greek word doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Bible except for this book and verse.
This woman, who had absolutely no defense against the accusations being made, was paraded before everyone and made to stand in front of the people and Jesus. We know nothing of her past; whether she was a promiscuous woman or whether she was an upstanding woman of faith who become entangled in sin, although verse 11 refers to a “life of sin.”
The next several verses tell how the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. As they present the woman and her sin, they remind Jesus that the Law according to Moses commanded that a woman caught in adultery be stoned (Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 20:10).
What Jesus does next could be considered peculiar. We will never know this side of Heaven exactly what Jesus was writing in the dirt, but some scholars speculate that He was writing the 10 Commandments. Others suggest He was writing the sins of each pharisee present. In any case, whatever He was writing caused every man accusing her to eventually drop their stones and walk away.
The conversation that follows between Jesus and the woman is simple, yet life-changing:
“At this, those who heard [Jesus saying he who was sinless should cast the first stone] 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.”
A handful of words later, and that woman’s existence has changed dramatically. She went from being publicly humiliated and charged with a crime worthy of death to being fully acquitted, forgiven, and set free.
She was sinful. She was caught red-handed. She was a pawn in the Pharisees’ ploy to trap Jesus. Yet Jesus, the Son of God, looked her in the eye and told her she was not condemned, that He did not condemn her.
Not only did Jesus have the Law of Moses on which to justify her execution, He was God in the flesh and could have easily and justly called for her stoning.
What did He do instead?
He went against the Jewish custom and against the teachers of the law to set her free.
This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or circumstantial evidence. This was an open-and-shut case of GUILTY.
We may scratch our heads at such an unfitting outcome, but let’s put ourselves in her situation. Maybe we aren’t embroiled in adultery like she was, but surely we have sin in our lives.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.
It doesn’t matter what our sin is…any amount of sin is too much to be in the presence of God. For that reason, God sent Jesus to take our sin upon Himself and make us clean.
The very sin that Jesus came to earth to atone for, He forgave right in front of Him. In this unexpected turn of events, an adulteress woman was brought before Him to be judged. Adultery is not something God takes lightly. There are nearly 40 verses in the English Standard Version Bible alone for “adultery.” The law was very clear about the consequences of adultery and Jesus went a step further to expound on what exactly constitutes adultery in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:27-28). The Lord railed against the Israelites as an “adulteress nation” in the Old Testament when they continually turned their back on their God. It’s a serious matter in God’s eyes. Yet, here we see Jesus do the complete opposite of what we’d expect and of what this woman deserved.
In this beautiful moment of forgiveness, we see the grace of Jesus revealed. We see a foreshadowing of what’s to come on a much grander scale. Jesus, the perfect Man, the Son of God, offers grace and forgiveness to sinners; to those who don’t deserve it. He offers Himself as the only worthy sacrifice big enough to atone for our sins once and for all. He reveals the greatest love story of all time: God’s plan to send His one and only Son to save us from ourselves.
Jesus’ surprise acquittal of this woman, His grace, unmerited in every instance, is the revelation of God’s own heart. He came to set His people free: Free from sin and free from the bondage of the Law.
Written by Mandy.
Jesus revealed at every turn of His ministry, Grace, forgiveness, and mercy. He came to fulfill the call for righteous justice that the Holiness of God requires. He took every opportunity to reinforce the understanding that the Law could not be whole without Him, and that with Him, grace will prevail. Those who had not yet accepted His grace were struggling to keep their faith what it was. Jesus threatened their very understanding of who God was. They could not yet see the limitless possibilities Christ was bringing to the table through His ministry of Grace.