One of my favorite stories from the Bible is the story of the woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11. However, the earliest manuscripts do not include this story in the Gospel of John. (Some ancient manuscripts place this story in the Gospel of Luke) Even though this story is in question of where it should be placed, the overwhelming consensus is that this account is authentic, it’s apostolic, and it should be contained in any edition of the New Testament.
If you are unfamiliar with this story, I’ll set the scene for you. Jesus was down at the temple teaching the people that had come to listen. While teaching, “the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery” (John 8:3) They go on to say to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:4-5) The scribes and Pharisees were trying to test Jesus, to trap Him. They were trying to find something that they could charge Jesus with.
So how were they going to test Jesus? I’m going to use some commentary from R.C. Sproul to explain how they were trying to do this.
We need to remember that Israel was under Roman occupation at this time. The Romans permitted significant self-rule in the nations they conquered, but they did not allow vassal nations to exercise the death penalty in capital cases. If someone was to be put to death for a crime in a Roman province, it had to be done through the Roman judicial system. That’s why Jesus was sentenced by Pontius Pilate and not by Caiaphas. The people, who followed Jesus, hated the Roman occupation, so the sly scribes and Pharisees laid a clever trap for Jesus. If Jesus were to say, “Stone the woman,” they would run to the Roman headquarters and say, “This teacher is advocating that we exercise capital punishment without going through the Roman system.” That way they would get Jesus in trouble with the Romans. But if He were to say, “Don’t stone her,” they would run back to the Sanhedrin and say, “This Jesus is a heretic because He denies the law of Moses.” No matter how Jesus answered the question, He would be in serious trouble.
I wanted to put that in here to make sure you know what they were trying to do to Jesus. But Jesus did a Jesus thing after they brought this to Him, “Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground” (John 8:6) There are many theories on what Jesus was writing, but no one is very sure on what He exactly was writing. They continued to ask Him, and so he stood up and said this “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) MIC DROP. SAY IT AGAIN FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK.
Jesus did not play the fence between the Jewish law and the Roman law. He agreed with Moses, He gave His answer— the woman was guilty and should be stoned. However, He also examined the scribes and the Pharisees and found them lacking. After Jesus says His thing this happens, “And once more He bent down on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.” (John 8:8-9) They got His message and got out of there.
The story ends with Jesus saying this to the woman, “Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ ”
Okay, I’ve given you the story. Now, why is this one of my favorite stories from the Bible? Simple, don’t throw stones at people when you have a log in your eye. (Matthew 7:3-5) Now, I believe there is a time and place to point out sin in fellow believers lives, especially if they have not repented but even then, you do it with love and grace knowing that you have sin in your life. (Galatians 6:1)
The scribes and Pharisees had no concept of God’s grace. And guess what, a lot of times, we don’t either. We forget that we’re sinners as well. We believe that we have it all together and because of that, we believe we have the right to throw stones at people. Not literal stones, but stones that come out of our mouth. Our words. Our actions. We believe we have the right to do this to other people because their sin is worse than our sin. So we justify that our sins aren’t as bad as theirs, so we keep throwing stones at them to make ourselves look “good”
I’m included in this. I’ve thrown stones at others. I’ve said that my sins are not as bad as theirs. I believed that I was actually “more Christian” than them. I’ve had to repent of all that. I had to realize that I have no right, to throw stones at somebody. Regardless, of what they have done. Over the past two years, I’ve realized that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) I’ve realized that we all need grace upon grace. I’ve realized that we are supposed to show others grace, no matter what. I’ve realized that we need to make other people shine. Not tear them down. We do this by helping them, by showing them grace, mercy, love, and compassion.
We should be pointing people to Christ when they are in sin. We should be telling them that we are saved by His righteousness. Not ours. We should be telling them that they are covered in His robes of righteousness when they are truly saved. Not their robes. We should be telling them “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We should be putting our stones down.