“Did no one condemn you?” (John 8:10)
This is the story of the woman caught in adultery. Dragged before Jesus by the oh-so-righteous religious leaders, she waits to hear the inevitable verdict.
That’s what the law demands.
But in the end she walks away free and forgiven because when Jesus is finished with the religious mafia, there was no one left to accuse her of anything. At one point Jesus stooped to write something in the dust. No one really knows what he wrote. Some have speculated that he wrote the names of the girlfriends of the accusers. Maybe. I think it’s more likely that he wrote Bible references to verses warning about bearing false witness.
One thing is clear. The men didn’t care about the woman one way or another. They were using her to trap Jesus. She was the “bait,” not the intended victim. But Jesus turned the tables on them by exposing their hypocrisy.
“Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
I have a tiny rock inscribed with the words of John 8:7, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” And then the words, “Jesus Christ.” It reminds me of the importance of self-examination. As the old preachers used to say, “If I point my finger at you, I’d better remember that I’ve got three pointing back at me."
Motives do matter. In essence Jesus is saying, “Before you pick up that stone, take a good look in the mirror. Make sure you are morally qualified to put this woman to death. Make sure there is no malice, no deceit, no trickery, no dishonesty, and make sure you are not guilty of the same crime yourself.” He is reminding them that if they testify maliciously or deceitfully, they are signing their own death warrant.
The order of Christ’s words in John 8:11 is very important. He didn’t say, “Sin no more and then I won’t condemn you.” That’s what religious people like to say: “Clean up your act and then we will accept you.” Jesus says, “I will forgive you and give you the power to clean up your act.” Religion says, “Change or I will condemn you." It uses fear and intimidation to make people measure up. Grace says, “I have forgiven you. Now let me also change your life.” We don’t change in order to be accepted; we change because we have already been accepted. Nothing motivates a new life like grace received into the heart. Grace does what rules can never do.
The Savior speaks the same words today that he spoke so long ago: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."
Lord Jesus, they called you the “Friend of Sinners,” and so you are. You are the friend and we are the sinners. Thank you for mercy that flows like a river from your bloody cross. Glory to your name forever. Amen.
Read John 8:1-11. Why did the religious leaders bring the woman to Jesus in the first place? Why didn’t they bring the man also? What does that say about their motives?
Compare this passage with Matthew 7:1-5. What do these passages teach us about the need for self-examination? Ask God to reveal to you any self-righteous pride that might be in your heart.