Because they didn’t believe in Him, the Pharisees and religious teachers wanted to prove that Jesus was not from God. So they formed a plan that they hoped would expose Him as a fraud. In the Law of Moses, God commanded that adulterers be stoned to death for their sin, and the Pharisees figured that if Jesus didn’t endorse what God’s Law required, that would be proof that He really wasn’t from God. So, they somehow caught a woman in the act of committing adultery and brought her to Jesus to see if He would say the same thing God said through Moses.
Filled with wisdom, Jesus masterfully turned the tables on the Pharisees. They had passed judgment on Him and the woman they’d brought, but He forced them to judge themselves. “All right, stone her,” He told them, “but let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” (John 8:7). Jesus actually proved that they were guilty of what they accused Him of: not keeping the Law of Moses. In Moses’ Law, the one who accused another person of a sin that was punishable by death was required to throw the first stone if the accused person was found guilty. Jesus was simply asking the woman’s accusers to obey the Law, and He reminded them of part of the reason God required accusers to throw the first stone at people they helped condemn: When a person is as guilty as the person he’s accusing, he has no right to accuse that person, much less throw the first of many stones that will kill that person!
Jesus’ challengers got the message, and slowly snuck away, beginning with the oldest. They realized that none of them had the right to throw the first stone.
The only person who had the right to stone the woman was Jesus, because He was sinless. He, however, demonstrated God’s mercy, giving the guilty woman a chance to repent and begin following Him. I hope she did!
Q. When she died years later, what would have happened to the adulterous woman if she didn’t do as Jesus said, repenting of her sins after He showed her mercy?
A. She would have been condemned to hell forever. Just because God shows a person mercy during his or her lifetime doesn’t guarantee that person will receive mercy after death.
Q. What do you think Jesus was writing in the dust with His finger as the Pharisees waited for His answer to their question?
A. No one knows because the Bible doesn’t say. However, many have wondered if He wasn’t writing the names of the women with whom the accusing Pharisees had committed adultery!
Application: God has treated everyone in the world just like Jesus treated the adulterous woman. All of us have broken God’s laws, but He has shown us mercy and given us an opportunity to repent and come to Him. As those who have repented, let us be especially careful that we don’t become like the Pharisees, condemning people who are just like we were!