Bible Reference: John 8.1-11 ESV
Heart of the Story: When an adulterous woman was brought before Jesus, he didn’t condemn her; rather Jesus told her that from now on she shouldn’t sin (John 8.11, ESV).
Back Story: Before the story of the adulterous woman, St. John recorded that there was a division between the chief priests/Pharisees and the Temple officers (John 7.45-52). The priest/Pharisees sent Temple soldiers to arrest Jesus; however, they didn’t do so. There reason was twofold: 1) the officers reported that no one previously spoke as Jesus did, and 2) ask – does Mosaic Law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does. Perhaps, the soldiers were also intimidated by the number of people who believed that Jesus was a Prophet and even the Christ (John 7. 40-44).
Story Line: Jesus came to the Temple, sat down, and began to teach the people. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do you say?” (John 8.4-5 ESV).
Jesus initial response was to bend down and write with his finger on the ground. As the scribes/Pharisees continued to badger Jesus for an answer, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone” (John 8.7, ESV). Once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. The scribes/Pharisees left the area around the adulterous woman and Jesus, older leaving first. When only Jesus and the woman remained, Jesus stood up again. Only then did he address the adulterous woman. Jesus asked, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more’” (John 8.10-11 ESV)
Pondering Relationships: Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus wrote on the ground with his finger? Was what Jesus wrote, the reason scribes and Pharisees left Jesus and the adulterous woman? John doesn’t tell Bible readers the relationship between Jesus’s writings and the scribes/Pharisees decision to leave the woman and him. Apparently, John saw a relationship between the two events, or he wouldn’t have included the information that Jesus wrote in the ground.
When I read the short story in John 8.1-11, I am offended because the man who the woman had intercourse with wasn’t brought to Jesus. I asked, where was the man? According to Mosaic Law, the man whom the married woman had intercourse with was also an adulterer. He deserved the same punishment as the woman (See information on Adultery posted May 5, 2018).
Yet, the real story in these short 11 verses isn’t about adultery and who is and is not guilty. The real story is the motivation of the scribes/Pharisees who brought the woman to Jesus. They brought the woman to test Jesus, so they could bring a charge against him. Essentially, the scribes/Pharisees tried to put Jesus in a “no win” situation. They could damn him if he responded that the woman should be stoned because the entire Mosaic Law that addressed adultery involving two individuals wasn’t being followed. If Jesus said, “Let her go free” likewise they would criticize his response because Jesus was contradicting Mosaic Law.
Reflection: Notice Verse 11: Jesus didn’t condemn the adulterous woman; however, he told her to not sin (not commit adultery) from now on. Jesus doen’t condone sin even though he has mercy on the sinner.
Copyright June 3, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth