My Thoughts on John 8:1-11
I do not know if the woman was set up to trap Jesus, or just an accidental discovery used for that purpose. We do not know why the man was not included when the woman was caught in the act. Wasn’t he? Was he too fleet of foot, or was he a pawn in this episode to destroy Jesus? Was this woman’s sin known to the Pharisees and they were waiting to catch and use her to condemn Jesus? They caught her. She was committing an act of adultery. She knew her fate. She did not deny her actions. She did not cry “foul” because her sex partner was not included. She did not attempt to justify her actions. She knew she was going to die and how she would be killed. Jesus was just another stone throwing male who would add his condemnation to theirs.
There were some highly intelligent minds among the Pharisees and scribes. They had prepared themselves on how to adequately answer Jesus’ rebuttals. They were elated that Jesus was teaching a crowd. Those folks would be their witnesses. They knew how Jesus would attempt to justify his answers once they were given. They were ready. They would answer any argument this young Rabbi offered. They explained what the woman was doing. They had caught her doing it. They remind him of what the Law said her punishment should be. Then, their fatal question, “What do you say about her?” (John 8:5). They would use whatever reply he offered and make him eat his own words.
Jesus did not answer right away. He let them stew in their own smugness. Then he answered (v. 7). It left them speechless. He was not supposed to burden their shoulders with truth. Sometimes those who want to be recognized as holy are eloquent about your sins, but silent about theirs. Their sins ended their plans. The mighty in polemic artistry had no foundation to support their shortcomings. One by one they disappeared. Soon, not one Pharisee nor scribe was present. The original crowd remained but were silent. Jesus was still there. The adulterous woman stood in place marveling at Jesus’ answer and the wisdom that stopped and immediately silenced the ugliness in an accusing crowd.
Jesus and the adulterous woman looked at one another. She was still an adulterous female. She had been caught in the act. She had been accused. She had broken the Law of Moses. She knew she was guilty and deserved death. She did not ask for mercy. She did not deny her sin. Jesus asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). The accusers were gone. Jesus was still there. He had heard their charges. He knew she had broken the Law. She did not deny it. She knew he would carry out what those Pharisees and scribes failed to do. The crowd that remained was sufficient, with nearby stones available, to carry out that sentence. She waited for Jesus’ final condemning words. He opened his mouth and said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:11). You can almost hear the gasp coming from the crowd. Even the accused woman was wide-eyed and speechless.
Even today some question Jesus’ response. Some believe Jesus failed to give her what she deserved. Some cannot understand why he allowed her to escape that death penalty. Sadly, some of those objectors would have easily picked up a heavy stone and carried out their God given duty to crush her skull. Their justification would have demonstrated to all that they stood with God and were His instrument of judgment.
What we see in John 8 is a wake up call. We are all walking in that woman’s shoes. We are all sinners. We will not show mercy to others, but we want God’s mercy poured out on us. Why? We believe we deserve mercy. Our faith keeps us from being adulterers. Sadly, no one’s faith keeps him from sinning. You and I need God’s mercy just as much as that John 8 woman. Those who congratulate themselves because their sins are not as bad as the John 8 female, fail to understand that they need mercy just as much as she did. To gloat that one is not an adulterer, a murderer, a sex offender, or a wife beater, is wallowing in his own tainted hypocrisy. When we justify white lies, make gossip shared information, confiscate items from work, treat cursing lightly, make condescending slurs about others, and make our sins “good,” we completely swallow the devil’s lie.
We talk about being followers of Jesus, but why are we more selective than he? Why do we refuse to follow him in saying, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”? Perhaps there is a lesson in John 8:1-11 that we have missed.