In the example of the woman caught in the act of adultery, we see Jesus and His righteous judgement. Although the world found this woman worthy of death, Jesus looks beyond the sin, into the true heart of the matter. If God simply wanted to condemn people and send them to hell, we would observe this here, as Jesus certainly has the opportunity to condemn her according to the law.
Instead, we learn that the heart of God’s law is mercy. God is not willing that any person should perish, but that every person would have the opportunity to have all their sins removed forever.
John 8:3-11 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
The law of the Old Testament called for the death of a man and woman who were caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees were the keepers and teachers of the Law of God. It was their responsibility to see that the law was exercised properly when the acts of individuals were found to be in violation of the the requirements of God.
Leviticus 20:10 “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.
When the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus, they should have also brought the man. Perhaps the man who had been with this woman was a member of the Sanhedrin, or a close friend of one the members of the council. The kind of judgement that the Pharisees practiced was unrighteous and biased. Jesus knew what was occurring when they brought the adulterous woman and placed her before Him. He understood that they were trying to trap Him, so that they would have enough evidence to convict Him of wrongful actions. The law of Moses called for the death of the adulterer. However, the Roman government had taken away this right to judge a person worthy of a capital crime and execute them. If Jesus were to order the woman stoned to death, He would be found guilty of murder by the Romans and put to death Himself.
The ultimate goal of the leaders of Israel was to silence Jesus because He threatened their positions of authority. If the people continued to listen to Jesus, they would realize that their leaders were not following the true laws of God, and they should be removed from their positions of authority.
Luke 22:2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.
The woman before Jesus was guilty; she was caught in the very act. Jesus could have rightly called for her death, according to the law of God. There was, however, more to be said here than simply condemning this woman, while allowing others—just as guilty, to escape punishment.
All of the men who were standing there before this woman were also adulterers. For it is certain that every man standing nearby, young and old, had at one time or another lusted after a woman in their hearts. Perhaps they had lusted after this woman.
Jesus knew each man who was present. As the Creator of all men, Jesus was intimately aware what is in us all.
John 2:25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Jesus pronounced His judgment: All those who were in attendance before this guilty woman could put her to death for her adultery, under the condition that they were not guilty of adultery themselves. For to look at a woman so as to lust for her was just as much a sin against God as it was to commit the physical act.
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
One by one, from the oldest to the youngest, the men began to walk away.
The older that a man becomes, the more acutely aware he is of his own sin. A younger man does not have the benefit of many years in observing his failures, and he is often less concerned about his sin. The older men, having more time to live on the earth, he has had increased opportunities to look and to lust. Convicted by Jesus’ righteous words, these older men remembered the many times they broke this law of God, either in their heart or by a physical act. They dropped the stones they carried and walked away. The younger men, probably not convicted as much by their own conscience, as by Jesus words, eventually conceded to their guilt also and walked away.
Some commentators have suggested that perhaps what Jesus was writing on the ground with His finger were the names of the men who were watching and their sins. I imagine that it was not so much what Jesus was writing on the ground, but his silence after stating that those who were without sin could throw their stones. In that moment of pause, each man was confronted with his own guilt.
It is the kindness of the Lord in giving us time to contemplate our sin and make the right decision that, many times, will lead us to repentance. We were created by God with a conscience which tells us when we are right or wrong. If we would follow this inner voice of the Holy Spirit which is seeking to direct us, we would make better decisions.
All the men who came to stone this woman, now departed, Jesus asks the woman: where are your accusers?
He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
God would prefer that we repent of our sin rather than He would have to bring judgment. Jesus was not telling the woman that her sin was acceptable before God, and that He would not condemn her for her sin. He was giving her an opportunity to do the right thing: To repent and not commit this grievous sin again.
The Lord desires that we receive mercy through our repentance before the law arrives to condemn us. Jesus came into the world to save us, but it is a mistake to think that God approves of our sin and will not condemn us if we fail to repent.
The prerequisite for God’s mercy is a sincere, humble heart that is willing to turn away from our present lifestyle of sin and follow the righteous example of Jesus’ life. Repentance is always required before forgiveness is given. There is no salvation for any person who is not truly sorry for his sins, enough so—to cease from committing them again.
John 8:11 “go and sin no more.”
The prophecy of Isaiah 11:3-4 speaks of the Messiah exercising righteous judgment and equity, or fairness—to the meek (submissive). Those who are sincerely sorry for their sins and ready to turn away from them and follow Jesus, they will receive forgiveness.
The wisdom that Jesus displayed in this serious confrontation between Himself, this adulterous woman, and the scribes and Pharisees, shows us that He has the type of wisdom and righteous judgment that Isaiah’s prophecy calls for. The example that we see in Jesus’ judgement between the woman and the Pharisees is the kind of perspicacity we would expect if He was the true Messiah.
There has never been any other person who has lived on the earth who has displayed greater wisdom, or more righteous discernment, than Jesus. All of His judgements are righteous, merciful, and fair. He condemns sin but not the sinner who is willing to repent and begin a new life—following Him. No one has shown greater mercy and a correct use of the Laws of God, better than Jesus. He is the true and only Messiah who has come into the world.