2 Early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and [began] to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center [of the court,] 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him [be the] first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they [began] to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center [of the court.] 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” [John 8:2-11 NASB]
Why do I follow Jesus?
Because Jesus is very wise and caring in handling hard problems.
This story has always touched my heart.
Here we have religious men playing politics and using the life of a woman as a pawn in their conspiracy to discredit and destroy Jesus.
They don’t care about the woman or her adultery. If they did the man would be there as well. No, they are using her as a pawn in a game of religious hypocrisy.
They think that if Jesus says:
“Yes, follow Moses and stone her, they can report Jesus to the Roman authorities after the execution and say; “Look this man is ordering executions not allowed by Rome and is rebelling against Roman law” and so by so doing have the Romans arrest Jesus.
Or if Jesus says; “No, don’t obey Moses” then they can tell the people that Jesus is a heretical Jew and does not believe Moses. Then the crowds would turn away from him.
So regardless of what Jesus does, they win.
But, Jesus does not play their game and HE does care about the woman.
Here is a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. Dragged out of bed. Embarrassed, exposed, and shamed by her whole community. Perhaps she was made to stand or was possibly cowering on the ground, in the public square, in fear, possibly naked or ill clad, maybe with just a blanket covering her, since she had taken out of the bedroom while in the midst of sexual activity. She is there guilty, judged, and awaiting death.
The Pharisees don’t see her as any thing more than a pawn.
Jesus, sees her as a person.
So, Jesus’ response is just silence and writing in the sand.
What did he write?
We don’t know.
But, we may be able to guess.
One idea is that it was the finger of God that wrote the ten commandments and it could be that Jesus writes Hebrew letters which represented these commandments. So the men would have had to ask themselves if they had fully obeyed the law before they threw a stone.
or Jesus may have been pointing out that they were disobeying God even as they were accusing this woman of adultery.
The law said that the man and the woman needed to be there.
There needed to be two eye witnesses and not just a general accusation of the woman being caught in adultery.
So it could be that Jesus did what the priest was suppose to do in such cases according to Dr. Julie Barrier.
“Secondly, the priest was required to then stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the Temple (which Jesus did) [actually, the priest could write the law and the names anywhere, as long as the marks were not permanent — and the dust of the floor of the Temple was the most commonplace]”
So if this is true, then Jesus would have written down the name of the women and have had a blank where the name of the man should have been written. This would have been a clear indictment that everyone involved in this action to execute the woman was guilty of a gross injustice towards her.
Jesus had turned the tables on them. It was the ones calling for her death that were guilty of breaking the law.
Then as they persist, Jesus simply calls on any of them that are without sin, to cast the first stone, when it is clear from what HE has written, that none of them are without sin, He has forced them and not HIM to be the ones that condemn her and justify themselves. This evaporates their plan. Perhaps, it even lead to conviction in their hearts.
So HE had not broken Roman law or denied the authority of Moses. Their trap had turned around on those who had hoped to destroy Jesus through this staged outrage against adultery.
The woman is forgotten by those who had dragged her into this public disgrace. But she was not forgotten by Jesus. She was no pawn to HIM. She was a precious person made in God’s image.
He grants her HIS forgiveness, removes fear of condemnation, and commands her to repent, turn and change her ways in her sexual life. He calls her to live a life of sexual purity with new purpose having received both true justice and wild grace that day from the Lord Jesus.
So I follow Jesus because HE wildly impresses me in his character, competence, and compassion. This is the type of King and Leader I would want to follow.
Thought Notes
This story is not found in the earliest versions of the gospel of John, but I believe that it was a historical account that actually happened and due to its popularity was introduced into John’s gospel. I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired its inclusion.
A video from the gospel of John
Fuller explanation of Jesus’ writing in the sand