John 8:1-2 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
When first reading the context of the passage of the woman taken in adultery, of course we are all struck by the outflanking of the pharisees when they set a trap for Christ. They did this time and time again and yet they could not best Him. They tried intellectual traps and traps of tradition and in this particular case, they tried to hang Him, so to speak, on the trap of the law. They tried to get Him to implicate himself in either violating Moses’ law or the law of Rome. Although it is not my desire to linger on it, I want you to notice what was going on around this event and then we will address the event of the “Woman Taken In Adultery” itself.
In chapter 7, we have the Pharisees attempting to have officers of the law take Christ into custody. They won’t do it.
John 7:44-46 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
They were moved by His speaking and by the evidence that He was who He said He was. The Pharisees were livid, but none of them could catch Jesus and do it lawfully. Nicodemus, one of the pharisees tries to restore reason to the group but they cast him aside. They mockingly called him a Galilean and appealed to his knowledge that there would be no Messiah coming out of Galilee from the holy scriptures.
As is typical for bullies, they appeal to authority to make their argument against Christ and even that did not go well.
John 7:48-52 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
They said there were no rulers or Pharisees that believed on him. Then old Nicodemus, the same one found in John 3, simply suggests they hear what Jesus has to say for Himself. He is mockingly accused of being a Galilean, which was a slight at that time and rest their case on the fact that scriptures did not predict the Messiah would come out of Galilee, but out of Bethlehem. One has to ask at this point, what if they simply would have investigated His background or even asked Him where He was born. What would they have found out? Hindsight is 20/20.
I want you to notice something in verse 53 and going into the passage in John 8.
John 7:53-John 8:1 And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
Now this is a fact that I had never considered, but Christ had no place to lay his head. Of all the people that were around him, some believing him and some not, there was not one person that would invite him in for the night? None is recorded. He went into the mount of Olives. I don’t suppose we should make such a very big deal out of this, the commentators hardly mention it. Maybe he was heading over to Bethany to spend time with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus or maybe he was just trying to avoid being ambushed in the night by his enemies. Regardless of the reason, we find him coming back down to the temple early in the morning to teach.
John 8:2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
This wasn’t a teacher in hiding. He was in the temple teaching. He was accessible. As was the usual case with the Pharisees, their self-importance forces them to break up a perfectly good teaching meeting because they needed answers to their questions. I can almost imagine being in that crowd, having come down early to hear Christ teach, sitting on the edge of the crowd and here come the Pharisees again. Now, I would dare not say anything against what they were doing. You know I would have burned inside for the incessant interruption they were to the teaching of the kind, gentle, miraculous man sitting before them. Then it all happens. Laid out in front of all of us, the students, observers, maybe a Roman guard or two to keep peace.
John 8:3-6a And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.
The very act of adultery. This was a violation of the law that was punishable by death.
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.Deuteronomy 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
It was certainly there in the Law of Moses in black and white, well in black and yellowish, as would be the look of the scrolls of the day. My only question here would be, where was the man? If the woman was caught in the very act of adultery, where was the man who, according to the same law should suffer the same fate?
Adultery is a horrible crime and sin against God. It is one of the ten commandments given to Moses and the nation of Israel. It defrauds your neighbor, your spouse and yourself. It is a horrific sin in the sight of God and man. It is often overlooked these days to a large degree as the basic bonds of society are breaking down. That, in no way, lessens the severity with which the Bible deals with adultery.
The fact is, however, that in practice this would have almost never been done, and certainly since the Romans had outlawed execution for religious purposes at this time.
Here, the Pharisees thought they had Jesus Christ trapped. Open and shut case. What would Christ do here? If he was to say she should not be stoned, He would be violating Moses’ law and disqualifying Himself as the Messiah. On the other hand, if He said to stone her, He would be violating that law of the ruling Romans for instigating the death penalty outside their system of justice. It would have been considered murder under Roman law.
There was no good way out of this situation. The Pharisees had found the perfect flanking maneuver, had finally outwitted their nemesis and sat and waited for the answer. And so did the students and observers. All would have been quiet as they waited for the response.
John 8:6a But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
This would have been somewhat comical from an outside perspective. Jesus, who had been standing, stoops down and begins writing with his finger on the ground, not even responding to what the supposed religious authorities of the day had to say. He ignored them. Some have speculated that perhaps it was the sins of the Pharisees that Christ had been writing on the ground. There is no evidence for this. You can almost see the faces, especially of the younger set of Pharisees, who had not learned to control their passions, turn beet red at this rebellion. The silence must have been deafening as the Pharisees stood waiting for a response from a man who was not paying any attention to them.
They persisted, demanded an answer, but it was not an answer they were looking for.
John 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
The students would have been confused, the woman who had been standing by this whole time would have been confounded and the Pharisees would have had to consider an answer that had never crossed their mind.
She was guilty. Christ pronounced the sentence of guilty. At least internally, the woman was probably frantic. She knew she was guilty but to hear it pronounced by a teacher in the Temple was to seal the sentence. She had not been asked to testify and yet she had not tried to proclaim her innocence either. The Pharisees knew she was guilty. The woman knew she was guilty. The students knew she was guilty. Christ declared her guilty and that the punishment of that sin was death.
Violation of the Law
Let us think about something for a second. Are we guilty? Oh, I don’t mean guilty of adultery necessarily, but are we guilty of violating the law? The answer to this can be found throughout scripture.
James 2:9-11 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
I John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The fact is, we are all guilty of violating God’s law, and this is called sin. Transgression. We are guilty. Each one of us is guilty before God and has no excuse. The penalty of this sin is death according to the word of God.
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:James 1:14-15 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
You don’t think this applies to you? Then let us look at just the 10 commandments and see if we haven’t all violated at least one of these.
Exodus 20:1-17 And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
How did we do? Are there any reading this that would say we have kept every part of the law, let alone every part of the 10 commandments. The answer to this is, of course, no. We are all transgressors. All condemned and guilty under the law, just as this woman was. Christ had declared her guilty, but who would be the first to pick up a stone? After all, Jesus was right in His condemnation of her, and of us and of the Pharisees and of the students and of the Roman soldiers. Here was the challenge.
John 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
All were guilty of violating the law. This was a direct challenge to the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. All were guilty of some facet of the law and all they needed was a reminder.
The Pharisees’ reaction at this point was very telling. It is interesting to note that those who were the oldest hung their heads first and melted away, followed by the younger. I began to ask myself why this would be? Could it be that the older Pharisees knew that what Christ was saying was true, and that they had been violating God’s law repeatedly. It is quite interesting to see this fit of conscience and self-condemnation when they were called out. Look what happens!
John 8:8-9a And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last:
One thing you can tell in this is that the older men at least had the decency to know when they had been beat. When the room began to clear, the younger ones reluctantly followed. That had been soundly whipped and their consciences pricked, but would they then give credence to the truth that Christ taught? Of course not, their whole religious system was built on pride. They weren’t going to quit that easily, but they had been defeated at this particular point of time.
It is true what Christ said in Luke about the Pharisees:
Luke 12:1-3 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
He said even worse things than that about the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 and other places. As Christ wrote in the dirt again, completely ignoring the high and mighty religious dictators (whatever he was doing, doodling, pronouncing sentence on the Pharisees in writing or pointing out individual sins of the accusers), the Pharisees took the opportunity to leave the area and regroup.
We must be very careful that we do not accuse others of what we are doing. This rank hypocrisy sometimes runs rampant in churches and it ought not to be. Can a preacher speak strongly against sin? He better make sure he is right before God first. Where is our humility in dealing with one another? Do we stand strongly pointing our fingers at others while we continue in some unrevealed sin? These things ought not to be!
Romans 2:17-24 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
Are we alright before God? Is our heart right with him? Do we claim to be able to instruct others and we instruct not ourselves. That is a question the Pharisees needed to answer and that we need to answer in ourselves.
The woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery now faced Christ alone.
John 8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Set this picture in your mind. The tension that must have been in the air as the woman probably looked down at her feet. She could have had no idea what was going to happen now. She had already seen things she would never believe, utter defiance of the authority of the Pharisees, their anger then shame then their departure. What was next?
I want every reader to understand this one thing. When we meet Jesus Christ it cannot be by committee. When we have been exposed in our sin and brought before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it will not matter who else is in the room. Here she was, face-to-face with Him. Her guilt already declared. No excuses. No holding back. Nothing for her to hide. Just bare guilt. Just her and her Creator.
Have you ever gotten to that point? The point where you stood fully exposed in your sin before God? At His mercy? Admitted your guilt to Him? Confessed your sin? Holding nothing back, knowing that you are worthy of condemnation? There she was. There we are.
For the first time in the event, a question is posed to the woman. She is now on trial.
John 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
It was all actually somewhat relaxed from an outsider’s standpoint. Jesus Christ was no longer hunched down drawing in the dirt, and he stood up and looked around. What did He see? Nobody but the woman. You can almost imagine him taking a bit of time, looking around, turning directly to the woman and asking “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” Her response was simple. “No man, Lord,” recognizing his authority to condemn her.
Then Christ comes back with this:
John 8:11b Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
One thing we can be sure of when we meet Christ and he becomes our Saviour is that we no longer are under condemnation of man or Christ.
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.Rom 8:33-34 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Christ has cleared us of any condemnation and paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross.
He pardoned this woman and he is ready to pardon those who come to Him in faith and repentance. We will never know on this earth if the woman had a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but we do know that Christ called her to repentance and told her to “go, and sin no more.”
That is His call for you today. Repent and believe and be cleansed of your sin and be made whole again and be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit through the blood of Jesus Christ.
I Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.II Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
So what are we? The condemned? Yes but for the grace of God. The hypocritical Pharisee. Yes, but for the grace of God. All have sinned. All are called to repentance.
I John 4:9-17 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.