A woman was caught in the very act of adultery. They brought her to Jesus to test Him, that they might find something of which to accuse Him. Perhaps they sought to accuse Him of breaking Moses’ law. The Law of Moses was clear, that such a one should be stoned to death (though they were very selective in their application of the law in this case – cf. Lev. 20:10). They pressed Jesus and waited to see what He would say.
His eventual reply was simple, profound and struck to the core of the issue with astounding effect.
He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7b).
None could or would cast the first stone. Their consciences overwhelmed them and one-by-one they left, leaving only Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, Lord.” Jesus then said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:10b-11).
This powerful account begs three questions…
1) Would I have been among those who would have used the Law of Moses to test Jesus? We do this much more often than we are willing to admit, pitting things said in the Old Testament against things said in the New Testament to justify actions and conduct today. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36b). Jesus is Lord, period. Let us live by His teachings.
2) Would I have felt justified in casting the first stone or would my conscience have spurred me to depart with the others? When we turn a blind eye to our own sins, casting stones at others is easy. When we remember that we are no better than any other sinner (cf. Rom. 3:23), those stones become intolerably heavy. As disciples we all live in glass houses. God sees right through us. Therefore, we would do well to drop the stones, which were implements of death and condemnation, and walk in the grace and mercy in which we were called.
3) Would I have pressed firmly that the adulteress be condemned or condemned her myself in my own heart? There is a mountain of difference in pointing out sin to spur godly sorrow, repentance and reconciliation with God and pointing out sin to judge and condemn a soul to death (whether in deed or in heart). Even Jesus chose not to condemn this woman to death, instead giving her the chance to repent. We often judge some sins (others’ sins) as worthy of condemnation, whereas other sins (our sins) are somehow lesser and worthy of mercy. Are we so bold as to whittle on God’s end of the stick? Even Jesus says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Do we think that Jesus sent us, His disciples, into the world to condemn those He died to save? He sent us to preach the gospel! God will condemn. God will judge.
At the end of the day, let us remember that we are subject to the same condemnation as “the adulteresses” in our lives. Therefore, before we pick up a stone to cast at another to condemn them to death, let us be challenged by the words of Jesus, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”