The teachers of the Law create an impossible situation for Jesus. If he lets the woman off the hook, he is a lawbreaker – which the Pharisees suspect. If he approves of the stoning, he allows the woman to die. Additionally, if he condones the stoning he is breaking Roman law, which reserves capital punishment for the Romans state, so the leaders can bring him up on state charges.
Yet Jesus is concerned with what no one else is really concerned with: the woman herself. To the religious leaders she is only a prop to make their point and expose Jesus, but Jesus is most concerned with her as a person and her future. Perhaps he recognizes the injustice at work- that though the law demands both man and woman to be stoned, only the woman is dragged into this mock court, while the man is no where to be seen. Jesus handles the situation with brilliance by approving of the law but suggesting a process for it, that the person without sin cast the first stone. One by one they walk away, only leaving the person who does indeed have no sin and can actually proceed with the stoning. He doesn’t, instead assuring her of grace and calling her to live a new life.
This question invites us to consider first who we allow to condemn us, and to embrace the amazing truth that with Jesus there truly is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus certainly convicts us- and calls us to new pattern of life- but with him we are never condemned. We can look at other people who do condemn us- coworkers, family, church members, ourselves- and imagine them silenced before the grace of Jesus who pronounces us free of condemnation.
This question also invites us to consider who we may condemn, and why. Jesus disturbs our sense of self-righteousness and our desire to draw lines, and invites us to drop our stones before him. We call one another to the glory and greatness Jesus wants for us, but we do so without condemnation.
As you prepare for worship this week, ask yourself: Is there are any area of your life in which you are feeling condemned? Jesus is calling you to see that with him there are no more accusers.
Our weekly worship guide can downloaded here.
1 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 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6 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. 10 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.”