In this passage of Scripture, the Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They have no interest in justice, grace, or truth. Their intentions are solely to catch Jesus. Will Jesus stone the woman? Will Jesus reject the law of God and let her go? Jesus effectively ignores them by writing in the sand. It is as if He is giving them time to retreat and withdraw their question. When they keep pressing Him, Jesus gives His answer.
No matter how you try to twist Jesus’ words, it is abundantly clear that Jesus gives them leave to stone her. Jesus did qualify who should do the stoning, but He did not let the sin of adultery pass. Many conceive that Jesus turns a blind eye towards sin or proclaims the woman innocent, but He clearly commands them to stone her. However, Jesus is not content with a half-hearted obedience to the Law of God. He advocates perfect and complete justice.
According to God’s Law the adulterer is to be stoned, and the witnesses are to be the ones who throw the first stones. However, Jesus uses a play on words. He does not mention witnesses, but He says that the one who is without sin. He is commanding that those who are witnesses should stone the woman first, and then they should stone all other lawbreakers next. The Pharisees were witnesses to each other’s sins as well as the woman’s. Jesus was here commanding that God’s Law be executed in its totality. Obviously, at the end of the day the only One Who can stone all law breakers is the only One Who is without sin, Jesus Christ. And truly, He will execute perfect justice on the day of judgment. No sin will be unpunished. He Who has always been without sin will throw all sinners into heck.
The Pharisees now come under conviction and begin to slip away. They did not find the soft “friend of sinners” that they thought they would encounter. They met a man who was so singularly devoted to God that He was would not allow the slightest violation of God’s Law to escape death. They had no intentions of stoning the woman, but now they have encountered a man who condemns all sinners to death.
The woman is now left alone at Jesus’ feet. She could have easily crept away with the others. However, for some reason she chose to stay. She knows her guilt and knows that under God’s Law she deserves death. She now stand before the only One Who can condemn her and by her kneeling at His feet acknowledges His just decree.
The woman now hears Jesus’ final verdict. She is not condemned. She is free to go. No death, no stoning, no punishment, no condemnation. How? Why? How can Jesus say stone her, and then a few moments later let her go free? The answer is perfect grace. Jesus forgives guilt and removes condemnation simply because He is good. Jesus is perfectly just, yet perfectly gracious.
The woman has no merit and no hope of gaining God’s favor. All she brings is sin, guilt, condemnation, and shame. As such she casts her condemned self solely upon Jesus’ mercy. It is in an open acknowledgment of her sin and condemnation that she finds complete and total forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ. How can Jesus just let the guilty go free? What about His sense of justice? “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” “Christ died for our sins.” The woman could go free because Jesus Christ would die as an adulterer in her place.
All those who walk away from the guilt the law brings will die. Jesus did not come for the righteous; He only came for sinners. To walk away from guilt is to walk away from grace. Jesus only saves sinners. All those who come to Jesus with their guilt will be forgiven. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us.” “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Will you acknowledge your guilt? Will you cast yourself at Jesus’ mercy? Will you believe that He has died in your place?