Summary: What does the story of the adulterous woman teach us about how we are to act with one another
The Adulterous Woman
Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou? This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
During Jesus’ time on earth, He was continually challenged as to His authority and with what He taught the people. The Pharisees and other spiritual leaders tried many times and with many different traps to discredit Him, but Jesus always managed to wriggle out of these traps, from their point of view. You can almost see them after yet another of Jesus’ escapes, slowly walking back to the Temple, heads hung low, only to be met by the others and that constant question: “Not again?” How Jesus must have frustrated these leaders.
And then the opportunity of a lifetime gets dropped almost literally in their laps. Jesus was nearby and a woman was caught in the act of adultery at that time. The Law handed down from Moses clearly stated that she was to be stoned to death, but as a territory of Rome, the only ones able to sentence anyone to death were the Roman leadership. If Jesus said she should die, then the Pharisees would have enough to have the Roman leadership arrest Jesus, if Jesus said to spare the woman, the Pharisees could show the people that Jesus did not follow the Laws of Moses and the Elders. Even after 2000 years I can hear the Pharisees triumphant “We finally got Him!!” cry.
The woman was drug by the Pharisees to where Jesus was teaching. The poor woman must have been in a panic. It was very probable she had heard of Jesus and His tendency for helping people. Perhaps when brought before Him she even believed she would survive. But Jesus was also a prophet of God and He had to obey God’s Law. But Jesus just sat on the ground and wrote as if He didn’t care. And just what was Jesus writing on the ground while the woman stood in judgment before Him? Perhaps something He had said before, maybe a something mathematical? It is very possible He had looked into this woman’s heart and discovered she was truly repentant of the wrong she has done and deserved forgiveness. We really don’t know, so we cannot say for sure. What is recorded for us is Jesus used this opportunity to teach the children of Israel some lessons.
As the Pharisees brought the woman before Jesus, the judgment for her belonged to Jesus alone; His decision was final. Jesus’ answer must have drained the all the blood out all of them. He neither said to execute the woman, nor to spare her life. He gave a very unique and unexpected response for such a grave matter. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” How many people actually considered casting the first stone before their conscience got the better of them? How long would you have held on to the stone? Would you have thrown the stone or would you let it drop to the ground?
There is that sinful part in all of us that makes us want to believe that we are not that bad of a person, and usually, we look at others to justify this belief. We might think “Yeah, I’m late for work every day, but this guy over here doesn’t do anything all day,” and in our minds, we justify ourselves, make our wrong seem not so wrong. The woman had committed adultery, and to those around, whatever wrong they had done, it was less than what this woman had done.