John 8:1-5 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
The religious leaders who opposed Jesus used the opportunity of Him teaching a crowd to trap and discredit Him in the eyes of the people. They planned to present Him with a problem that would draw criticism no matter what solution He chose.
In Israel’s early history, drastic measures were needed in Israel’s education, so adultery was punishable by death. And the religious leaders believed they had created the perfect inescapable situation for Jesus.
If He answered that the woman should be stoned, He would lose His reputation for mercy and for being a friend to sinners. If He called for her death, He would become a criminal in the eyes of Roman government. Roman law forbade any Jew from exercising the death penalty (except in the case of a Gentile trespassing in the temple.)
If He said the woman should be pardoned the leaders would accuse Him of breaking the law of Moses and permitting a sin that dishonored the bodies God created in His image.
Here’s His answer:
John 8:6-9 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
What was He writing? Some suggest He was gaining time while He reflected on His answer in dependence on His Father. Some that He was giving her accusers time to think. Another possibility suggested is that the whole scene: the terrified woman, the triumphant looks on the faces of the scribes and Pharisees, the curiosity of the crowd – filled Jesus’ holy soul with so much shame that He hid His eyes.
Yet another suggestion comes out of the Armenian translation, “He Himself bowing His head was writing with His finger on the earth to declare their sins.” Could He have been writing down each accuser’s sins for them to see?
We don’t really know what He wrote – just that after He did it and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one they went away.
Jesus didn’t dispute the law OR her guilt. But He did turn the situation around and cast light on the character of those who set themselves up as her judges.
John 8:10-11 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Standing in front of Jesus, the woman had no plea. No defense. Only Jesus. He gave her His full attention, asking, who was there to condemn her. And when she said no one, He said then neither do I condemn you.
Was He tolerant of her sin? Was He saying, “It wasn’t your fault”? No – but remember – God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it through Him.
There is no condemnation in those who are in Christ.
He didn’t discount her sins, but came to save her from them. Compassionately He told her “Go now and leave your life of sin.” His will for her was a transformed life.