It is worth noting the earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. However, as they are in our given passage we will consider what they have to say. I don’t know about you but people in work often say “O you are a Christian you are “goody good” Christians they do no wrong” How far from the truth! – we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It is only by the grace of God Christians have been made righteous through Jesus blood on the cross. In this passage we see the compassion, concern, acceptance and forgiveness of Jesus to the woman who committed adultery. Once again we see the conflict of the Jewish religious leaders with Jesus. They were trying to trap Him hoping to get enough evidence to arrest Him. He was teaching in the temple courts when this woman was brought to Him and humiliated in front of everyone, noting that the other participant (the man) seems to be absent! Firstly they brought the woman to the temple; the Law required both people caught in “the act” to be stoned. Leviticus 20:10. Jesus was in a difficult position, if he set the woman free he would be breaking the Law of Moses and would be arrested. If he had the woman stoned, he would lose his claim to be the one who forgives Sins. Jesus challenges them and highlights the need of compassion and forgiveness. Only a sinless person can cast the first stone. It was required by Jewish law that the accusers cast the first stones Deuteronomy 17:7. Many have wondered what Jesus was writing on the ground, whatever it was it helped defuse the tension of the situation and potentially calmed some of the crowd when Jesus did not react to the challenge but rather chose to reflect and identify with the woman by stooping down to write on the ground. The crowd was left in expectation for Jesus to slip up. Similar to the trap with giving taxes to Caesar, when Jesus confounded the critics. Jesus challenges the crowd that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone and they all drifted away from the oldest first. The woman is neither judged nor condemned by Jesus but told to sin no more.
The challenge to us has to be are we too quick to judge people? We need to look at ourselves first; we are all sinners and need forgiveness Ro 3 v22. We can experience the thrill of exercising power to condemn as we know all the “rules”; Jesus knew the thrill of exercising the power to forgive. How liberating would it be for us to emulate Jesus in exercising the power for us to forgive those that we “catch” in sin? Forgiveness empowers the people affected to make the change themselves and bring it to Jesus in genuine repentance. The compassion offered by Jesus is free for us today. When we mess up, feel unworthy and we all have areas in our lives that we need to change and confess to Jesus, we can then receive His forgiveness if we repent and ask Him.
Help us not to react in judgemental victory, but to learn to respond with grace, compassion and forgiveness as we point ourselves and others to the example of Jesus so He can work out His purposes in each and every situation. Amen.