The Woman Taken in Adultery
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 8:3a (Holman) Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery . . .
Taken in the very act, she couldn=t plead not guilty. Her obvious guilt was a blessing in disguise.
If never caught, she might have kept sinning till her heart finally hardened. It can be a mercy for sinners to have their sin brought to light.
The thief was blessed when condemned to a cross, for while dying at Calvary he met Jesus. It is better for our sin to embarrass us than to condemn us.
This woman, even in her horrifying predicament, was better off than many today are. Some foolishly think they have learned how to
succeed in secret sin. They feel they will get away with it, beat the system, miss retribution.
Don=t be fooled. God sees our sin. If we sin, imagining we will not be punished, we had best keep looking over our shoulder. Retribution is coming.
Some view God=s delay in punishing sins as a license to sin more boldly. But the reprieve is rather God=s way of giving us ample time to repent and receive His mercy. Prolonged sin ripens for increased judgment.
John 8:3b-5 . . . making her stand in the center. ATeacher,@ they said to Him, Athis woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do You say?@
It is distressing to see sinners deal harshly with other sinners. It=s terrible for a sinner to fall into the hands of fellow sinners, especially self-righteous ones. We are tempted to be Church Policemen, to drag in sinful prisoners for judgment, but our duty is to be like Him who wept and bled to free prisoners.
Christ=s followers must be compassionate to sinners. Being tender when dealing with the fallen is a beautiful virtue. God forbid we would ever look on the misery of sinners with joy.
Our first reaction toward any who fall into sin should be pity. Our vocabulary should be replete with words like, AWhat can I do to help? Call me. I love you. I=m praying for you. Don=t give up.@
There is no virtue in gleefully branding others, and sending them to the Devil while we gleefully clap our unclean hands. Eagerness to expose the sin of others is no guarantee of personal rectitude.
Hurrying people off to punishment, as the Pharisees did here, is a poor sign of piety. We are to rise as eagles, not vultures.
George Eliot, the authoress, caught a falling vase and said she hoped a time would come when we would instinctively hold up people who begin to fall as naturally and unconsciously as we catch a falling piece of furniture.
John 8:6-8 They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, AThe one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.@ Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground.
It is impossible to know what Jesus wrote. My assistant says He sent an email to His Father.
He may have been buying time. In difficult cases, hesitate to decide. Take time to pray and consult. Think twice before speaking once.
The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus. If Jesus acquitted her, they would accuse Him of opposing the law of Moses. If He favored stoning her, they would accuse Him of no longer being a friend of sinners.
The Pharisees= plot failed. Jesus neither disparaged the Law nor excused the woman=s guilt.
He intimated it might be right to prosecute her, but forced them to determine if they were fit to be prosecutors and judges. Law must be administered only by clean hands. Its precepts are to be articulated by pure lips.
John 8:9a When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men.
Jesus lodged their condemning arrow in their own hearts. Conscience served as God=s deputy in their spirits.
The leaders, thunderstruck with His words, respectfully looked to the oldest to make a decision. As each had his chance to decide, he bowed out and left.
All the accusers left, not because Jesus accused them, but because they who came to accuse Him accused themselves. Ultimately, the accused differed from the accusers in this way, her sin was found out, theirs was not.
When we evaluate others, reflect on ourselves. Fault-finders must examine themselves.
We tend to see our sin as less terrible than our neighbor=s, but the wisest and best among us are more severe against sin in themselves than in others. We all have flaws aplenty to make us gracious.
John 8:9b Only He was left, with the woman in the center.
She also could have left, but stayed. She did not fear Jesus. She was alone, guilty, and ashamed, yet strangely bound to the spot. Misery awaited mercy.
No repentant sinner has cause to shun Jesus. He does not repel, He invites. He knows our sinful history, yet wants us to flee as a bird to His arms.
John 8:10-11 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, AWoman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?@ ANo one, Lord,@ she answered. ANeither do I condemn you,@ said Jesus, AGo, and from now on do not sin any more.@
She had not repented. Thus, Jesus was not forgiving her. He was pardoning her from the death penalty.
He also gave her hope. The Pharisees wanted her dead. Jesus spread a new, clean page of life before her, and told her to begin again.
The accusers learned freedom from outward guilt is no claim to sinlessness. The accused learned flagrant guilt does not bar hope.
He did not say her sin was alright, nor did He tell her it would be okay for her to keep doing what she was doing. He challenged her to be pure, to change her life from top to bottom, to sin no more.
Jesus did not say she was innocent. He acknowledged her guilt. ADo not sin any more@ implies current sin. Never ignore the guilt of sin. Don=t treat a thief as if honest, or a murderer as if kind. Ever distinguish right from wrong.
At the same time, if a sinner leaves us feeling hopeless, we have failed. Never drive sinners into hopeless despair, closing the doors of their life and writing over them, ANo hope.@
A bad way to try to improve a person is to unconditionally condemn them. A hopeful word, kindness, and pointing toward Jesus can make all the difference. Nothing thaws frozen ground more quickly than warm rains.
In Jesus, sinners have a second chance (and a third, fourth, fifth, ad infinitum). He did not say what the woman had done did not matter. Broken laws, broken hearts, and broken lives always count.
Jesus taught us every person can have a positive future despite a negative past. He is ever the hope of a better tomorrow. Jesus alone had every right to cast a stone at her. Instead, He died for her. May His love for sinners become ours.