John 8:2-11 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This 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. And 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.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But 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 stood up and said to her, “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.”
(Regarding authenticity, look at appendix)
Jesus came to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Booths. In the evenings, he took refuge in his tent or booth. It is likely he did so on the sloping hillside attached to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, he went back to work. At the Temple, Jesus proclaimed truth to all who would hear — friend and foe alike.
It did not take long for Jesus’ enemies to interrupt him. As he was speaking, Israel’s ministers placed before him a woman. She had been caught in the very act of sleeping with someone who was not her husband.
Where was the fellow? He was nowhere to be found. Either he was really fast, or there was some selective justice and systemic sexism going on here. I’ll go with the second.
According to God’s moral law, this woman was an adulterous. Divine excommunication and the Lake of Fire were the stated consequences of her transgression. And if Israel followed the civil and ceremonial laws given to and through Moses, she could be executed. (Deuteronomy 22; Leviticus 20)
However, Jesus held neither political nor ecclesiastical post. Why were they interrupting Jesus’ morning devotions in the Temple courtyard?
This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him … (John 8:6)
They knew, from Jesus’ previous actions and words, he had a soft spot in his heart for vile sinners. He was kindly towards Samaritan women. He uttered forth grace regarding prodigal sons. He befriended tax-collecting turncoats and turned them into Apostles. And he wasn’t offended by scandalous women of the night anointing and washing his feet with their hair. Yes, Jesus was the friend of sinners, and they had a sense they could trap him in discounting Moses, discounting God’s Law, and promoting promiscuity.
Additionally, if Jesus called for the death penalty, he would be harming his public image of the compassionate one, and he might even be putting himself at odds with the law of Caesar. No one could prescribe the death penalty without Roman blessing.
Jesus looked about him and saw sin everywhere. Before him should have been the adulterous man. Before him was the adulterous woman, and she was surrounded by adulterous worshipers being led by adulterous ministers. Jesus was the only righteous worshiper on the Temple grounds that day. All about him were excommunicated, hell-deserving, spiritual harlots. Sure …
- Some hid their sins better than others
- Some were outed and others were still in the closet
- Some cleaned up better than others
- Some acted out their heinous lusts while others wished they could
But most were guilty of breaking God’s law regarding sexual adultery, and all were guilty of breaking God’s law regarding spiritual adultery. And the scribes and Pharisees, they were the worst of the lot. There they were showing partiality in justice while seeking to trap God’s Anointed Messiah to protect their seats of power. They were all vile. There was none righteous, no not one.
Jesus then bent down and wrote something in the dirt. We are not told what he wrote and vast have been the imaginations of theologians.
- Some believe Jesus was delaying and thinking.
- Some believe Jesus was practicing the Roman tradition of writing out his verdict before declaring it.
- Some believe Jesus was writing out Jeremiah 17:13, “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.”
- Some believe Jesus was writing the 10th commandment while looking at the watching, coveting men.
- Some believe Jesus was writing scripture passages which required the witnesses to cast the first stone. (Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:7; Leviticus 24:14)
- Some believe Jesus is penning the names and sins of each man standing there.
Either way, on that day, the Divine Writer who penned the Law and Order with his finger, he proved also to be the Divine Writer promoting the Gospel Grace. Whatever Jesus wrote is unclear; it has been lost in the mud forever. However, what he did and said, it has become a means of great blessing and comfort for millions of adulterous worshipers ever since. Jesus said …
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Bottom line, they had best be morally perfect to throw the first stone at this woman.
Jesus continued writing in the sand, and one by one, the elder ministers walked away. Had they sparred and lost with Jesus before? Did they exit first out of a sense of pragmatic self-preservation? Did they see where this was going and realized retreat was best at this point? Or, were they the wisest and knew they had the greatest number of sins to confess? We do not know, but we do know they left first and all the other scribes and Pharisees followed their lead. In the words of D.A. Carson, “They all came to shame Jesus, and they all left in shame.”
Israel’s ministers exited. Left were the disciples, the watching crowd, the adulterous woman, and Jesus — the holy, righteous, and perfect Son of God, the one who hated adultery with all his being, the one without sin who could justly cast the first stone. It was then that Jesus rose to his feet and said …
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you.”
She was guilty. Her conduct was deplorable and not condoned. She was condemnable. Jesus meant what he said in Matthew 5:27-30, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out … If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off … It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
However, she was not condemned. God held not her sins against her. The deserved consequences of her transgressions were not coming her way. Law and order declared one sentence. Gospel grace declared another.
Jesus then continued …
“Go, and from now on, sin no more.”
Those were the same words uttered by Jesus to the healed paralytic in John 5:14. She was to “love God and others because God first loved her.” She was to enjoy forgiveness and then enjoy worshiping. From a heart of gratitude and affection, she was to glorify God whether she ate, drank, played, dated, slept, had sex, or whatever else she might do. (1 Cor. 10:13) Purity was to follow pardon. Sanctification was to follow the sanctifying work of Christ. God was her Savior, her Lord, her Teacher, and her Friend, and she was to enjoy the blessed and fruitful life of Psalm 1 by meditating and practicing the path of wisdom prescribed for her by her Divine Husband’s gracious finger.
Sordid sinners, let us take a moment and think about our transgressions — hidden and seen. Let us not be concerned about what church elders and congregants might know about. Instead, let us be concerned about what the Judge of all men has witnessed. He has seen and heard it all. All our adulterous, murderous, and idolatrous thoughts are known and abhorrent to him. No action has gone unnoticed. We are far more vile and guilty than we pretend. We are spiritual adulterers, prostitutes, whores, or harlots — pick your preferred word. And we deserve outing, condemnation, excommunication, death, and the Lake of Fire.
Sordid sinners, let us take a moment and think about Jesus. He hates sin with a passion; it is he who prescribes the fiery justice of God. He does not overlook or pretend not to see our transgressions. He grants no cheap and easy pardon. Instead, he comes to earth to take our adulterous sins upon his back and suffer the wrath of God — his own wrath — in our stead. Jesus takes his own condemnation and leaves us “with no condemnation.” (Romans 8:1) Go ahead, let’s look in his eyes. Let’s see his serious commitment to holiness. Let’s see his serious commitment to grace and mercy. Let’s see him smile and show us undeserved affection and fidelity. Forgiveness, reconciliation, comfort, satisfaction, rest, peace, and shameless delight is available for all who see, confess, repent, and believe. So, let’s do it again! Let’s come to Jesus and get a fresh experiential washing. He is the Friend of sordid sinners. He is our Friend. Do not discount his radical affection. Talk with him now.
Then … sordid sinners … let’s go and seek to sin no more. Oh, we will. Sin is crouching at our door, and we are still prone to let it in. But, while we can never be sinless in and of ourselves, we can endeavor to sin less in one area and then another. Let’s see God’s good laws as gracious expressions of his affectionate wisdom. Let’s understand and seek to do what he says. Let’s do so because we delight in him. Let’s do so because we delight in wisdom. Let’s do so because this is what we were made — and have now been remade — to do. To worship and walk after God’s ways is right, expected, profitable, and fun. Would we, who have escaped condemnation, continue in sin? No way! Not today!
Then … pretenders … scribes and Pharisees … church leaders and elders … all of us who imagine our sin does not stink as badly as others, let us learn the lesson from Jesus’ Divine Finger.
- Would we be like Satan who accuses the brethren?
- Would we be like Judah who was quick to damn Tamar whom he impregnated?
- Would we be like David who condemned the one who stole another man’s lamb while he stole another man’s wife and life?
- Would we be like the Pharisees who highlight the log in their neighbor’s eye while ignoring the beam in their own?
- Would we be like these scribes and Pharisees who preferred justice over mercy?
Do we have the mind and heart of Christ? What is our attitude towards sinners like us — whether they be swindling thieves, foolish prodigals, gluttons, drunkards, materialists, heterosexual or homosexual adulterers and pornographers, abortion providers or recipients, religious moralists or humanistic idolaters? Let us have the mind of Christ towards sinners, publicans, and pastors. Like these elders, let us put down our stones. Like Paul, let us see ourselves as the chiefest of sinners. Let us be so busy enjoying and expressing God’s Gospel grace to ourselves that we have little interest in casting stones at those who do not know the grace of God’s Son and his Gospel finger. And let’s build churches ready to grace and not judge adulterer’s like us.
Regarding the Authenticity of this Text
- Inspiration is the work of God in causing his words, and his prophets words, to be synonymous.
- Translation is the work of man, under the providence of God, in making copies into languages other than Hebrew and Greek.
- These verses are absent from the oldest Greek manuscripts.
- These verses are absent from the oldest Non-Greek manuscripts.
- These verses are absent from the oldest commentaries who pass from 7:52 to 8:12.
- These verses begin to appear in the 3rd century writings and 4th century manuscripts.
- These verses appear with asterisks and diversity in placement; some at John 7:36; 7:44; 7:53; 21:25; and Luke 21:38.
- These verses are written with vocabulary that appears not to be Johannine.
- These verses are aligned with the doctrine found in the rest of Scripture.
- These verses are characteristic of Jesus’ actions and attitudes.
- These verses appear to fit the context and pattern of John.
- These verses are strangely beautiful and seem to me impossible to ignore or bypass.
- These verses are believed by me and others to be a true account in the life and ministry of Jesus.
- These verses are believed by me and others to be a later addition to the Gospels.
- These verses are believed by me and others to be inspired and providentially protected by the Holy Spirit.
- These verses are utilized in a manner that, if I am wrong, at least the truths presented will not be wrong.