The Adulterous Woman

What do we focus on in this familiar story?

What did Jesus focus on?

adulterous-woman

Most of us are familiar with the story of adulterous woman in John 7:53-8:11.

Jesus was at the Temple. A crowd gathered before him, and he sat down and began to teach them.

Where else have we seen this?

One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him and he began to teach them. (Matthew 5:1-2)

This time, religious leaders brought to a crowd a woman caught in the act of adultery. They did not bring the man, as required by law; only the woman, to humiliate her. Was this a set-up? Did they want to humiliate Jesus, too? They obviously wanted to test Jesus so they could accuse him of crimes against Mosaic Law Yet the Law called for stoning the woman and the man. They baited Jesus to see what he would do.

Even though this story was not included in original Greek manuscripts prior to the fifth century, we can still take wisdom from it. The question is, do we take from it the wisdom of Jesus, or do we make up our own doctrine?

Jesus did not respond to the men at first. The story tells us he bent down to write in the dirt. Why is this included when we don’t know what he wrote? Perhaps to remind those hearing the story that Jesus was not a simple carpenter: he was a learned, literate man who knew how to write. Perhaps to show the religious leaders standing before him he not only claimed to know the Law, but offered proof he could write it and transform it.

“Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”

After saying this, Jesus again stooped to write in the dirt. Was he writing their sins?

One by one, the men dropped their stones and slipped away.

If we look at the Gospels, we find Jesus said these words many times before:

Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

Matthew 7:3-5 Why is it that you see the dust in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but you can’t see what is in your own eye? Don’t ignore the wooden plank in your eye, while you criticize the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyelashes. That type of criticism and judgment is a sham! Remove the plank from your own eye, and then perhaps you will be able to see clearly how to help your brother flush out his sawdust.”

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”

John 3:17 “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Let the first stone be thrown by the one among you who has not sinned. John 8:7

Jesus said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she said.

Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go and sin no more.”

Now many will jump on the last part, and say, “There it is! Sin no more!”

That is a mistake. Just as it is a mistake to focus on then perhaps you will be able to see clearly how to help your brother flush out his sawdust” in Matthew 7:3-5.

If you say to yourself, “Aha! Once I’ve dealt with my own sin, I can turn around and deal with the sin of others,” you miss the entire point of both conversations.

The emphasis is on your own sin. The significance is on the abstinence of judging. The message is about God’s mercy. There is no “and.”

Read the story again. Do not sacrifice your relationships by pointing out sin. Employ God’s love and mercy.

“I am not here to attend to people who are already right with God; I am here to attend to sinners. In the book of the prophet Hosea, we read, ‘It is not sacrifice I want, but mercy.’ Go and meditate on that for a while—maybe you’ll come to understand it. (Matthew 9:13)

22 comments

  1. Emma Slocum · ·

    Excellent post and very insightful.

    Like

    1. Thank you Emma.

      Like

  2. Love this Susan. He is ALWAYS redemptive in His dealings with us. I’ve often heard a “mercy and…go and sin no more” (or whatever) message taught from these verses but you are so right, when it comes to His amazing mercy and grace there is no “and” added to the equation. His grace is quite sufficient all in its own! Blessings to you 😊

    Like

    1. Absolutely, Cindy. We must begin to offer grace and mercy without the condemnation. That is exclusively between God and His son or daughter.
      Wishing you a most peaceful and joyous Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great, thought-provoking post!

    Like

    1. Thank you – glad you came over to read and think about this. So important to our walk.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “If you say to yourself, “Aha! Once I’ve dealt with my own sin, I can turn around and deal with the sin of others,” you miss the entire point of both conversations.
    The emphasis is on your own sin. The significance is on the abstinence of judging. The message is about God’s mercy. There is no “and.” ”

    Amen. Really important point, Susan. I think Jesus not sticking the woman’s sin in her face (and He had NO log in His eye) tells us we don’t have license to bludgeon other people with our self-righteousness, even after we deal with our own issues. When we do help to restore (not judge) someone who’s fallen (Gal.6:1-2), it should be full of mercy and with the heart and “eyesight” of Jesus.

    Like

    1. “Jesus not sticking the woman’s sin in her face (and He had NO log in His eye) tells us we don’t have license to bludgeon other people with our self-righteousness, even after we deal with our own issues.”

      GREAT way to say this, Mel. We forget Jesus always had compassion, never a hammer. He lifted and restored, which is why so many followed and made their own decision to allow Him to give them the metanoia experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good writing! One of my pastor’s once asked the question: ” if we were in the crowd that day would we be picking up a stone?” Good question…challenging to answer. Thankfully, Jesus showed us to drop the stone if we had picked one up. Thank you for sharing your walk of faith!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, great question. Here’s another: If you were in the crowd, would you have stood up for the woman?

      Nowadays, it is not enough to not participate in bullying. We must stand up for the one being bullied.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jesus knew the religious leaders of his day just like today’s modern ones were hypocrites. While we don’t know what he was writing in the sandy dirt perhaps he was writing their sins. Jesus knew the woman was being set up. After all how can you so quickly and conveniently just happen to find a woman in the very act of adultery? Also she was probably with one of the church leaders same as current preachers/ministers commonly sleep with the women in their congregations. Hmmm…. Not much has changed. In addition I believe that somewhere in the book of Leviticus both the Man as well as the woman must be brought for judgment. Same as today men get away with sexual sins while a double standard is applied to women resulting in women being vilified. I’m glad Jesus stood up for this poor beleaguered woman. Poor women with little or no education are often forced to sell their bodies because they don’t get any help from either the government or the church. In fact the church mostly condemns women. That’s one of the reasons I left the church and don’t plan on returning. The men in the church are allowed to proposition the women yet we are supposed to be submissive. Go figure! Ladies always get the short end of the stick but when Jesus returns he is going to rectify all this worldwide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are right on both counts: Jesus addressed the culture of sin and hypocrisy in the religious leadership; and the law against adultery is from Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.”
      It seems obvious the whole thing was a trap against the woman, for they did not bring the man to Jesus. And yes, it is the same now – we haven’t come very far, have we?
      But Jesus is watching.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah,yes. The adulterous woman about to be stoned is a story that creates so much controversy. There is real value in studying ourselves, our emotional reactions to something in scripture. There’s a whole group of people who actually want that edited out of the bible,who question it’s validity. Then there are those who focus exclusively on, “go and sin no more.”

    Something I find really fascinating, the evidence of the Divinity of Christ is always linked to a fallen woman, so the woman at the well, the adulteress about to be stoned, the woman with the issue of blood. Were you to ever edit these women out, you would also be removing the evidence that lays out who Jesus really is. He is tested by the pharisees,there are traps set for Him that He responds to beautifully, that establish who He really is, and each one of those has a woman in it. If you consider the times and the culture, that is really miraculous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent point, IB. Actually, the story wasn’t written into the Bible until the fifth century. It was told orally but never included in original papyrus manuscripts. It is believed it was finally included to illustrate the great mercy of Christ.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That passage has an interesting history. Since we don’t have any original manuscripts (we only have copies), it’s impossible to know for sure if it was in the original gospel letter. We do know that it was in the Latin Vulgate (383 AD), and that Augustine referred to this passage extensively. Interestingly, the story’s also been said to be in other books! For instance, Papias (c.110 AD) refers to a story of Jesus and a woman “accused of many sins” in the Gospel of the Hebrews!
        My personal take is that it’s an actual event, something Jesus did and said. And, either way, it’s an important truth, as you said. I think the points IB is making here are important, too. Jesus subverted the misogynous culture of His day with these interactions with fallen or marginalized women.

        Like

  8. And all God’s people cheered.

    Like

    1. Thank you, kind sir. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome Sister!!

        Like

  9. I completely agree we should not point out sin unless God specifically asks us to. Sometimes He does ask this, but it is rare. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16:8-11). It is our mission to edify believers so they will draw closer to Jesus and have a greater love for Him. Thanks Susan for this reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It is our mission to edify believers so they will draw closer to Jesus and have a greater love for Him.” Yes, the key is, “believers.” And our other job is to love those who don’t believe so they see the love and compassion of Christ.

      Liked by 1 person

%d bloggers like this: