John 8:1-11 (NRSV)
Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.
3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
They ignore the obvious question: Where is the man who is equally culpable in this act of adultery?
5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.
In the eyes of the Jewish law adultery was a serious crime. Leviticus 20:10 lays it down: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” So they are correct. The woman was liable to death by stoning.
The dilemma into which they sought to put Jesus was this. If he said that the woman ought to be stoned to death, two things followed. First, he would lose the name he had gained for love and for mercy and never again would be called the friend of sinners. Second, he would come into collision with the Roman law, for the Jews had no power to pass or carry out the death sentence on anyone. If he said that the woman should be pardoned, it could immediately be said that he was teaching men to break the law of Moses, and that he was condoning and even encouraging people to commit adultery. That was the trap in which the scribes and Pharisees sought to entrap Jesus.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
St. Augustine says, “There remained a great misery, and a great compassion.”
10Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
It is a challenge for each of us, every day — Go, and sin no more.
Romans 8:1 (King James Version)
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Oh, the kindness of Jesus Christ! HERE is “Forgiving Eyes” by Michael Card. The video clips are from a 1999 television film called Jesus.
1) What do you think Jesus may have written on the ground? Some scholars have suggested that he may have been writing down the sins of the very men who were accusing the woman.
2) Jesus’ words in 8:7 — Let he who is without sin cast the first stone — are commonly used today. Have you used this phrase? Has anyone ever said these words to you? What do these words say to your heart, your life?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.