7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]] John 8:7 - 11 (ESV)
Jesus’ reply to the accusers is classic. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t retort, he simply squats down and
starts writing in the sand. What did he write? There are a lot of speculations, but the truth is we have no
idea. Some speculate that he was imitating the Roman practice of the magistrates who would write their
sentence down, others say he was making a reference to the law, and some have said Jesus was just
doodling to gather some time. Again, we don’t know.
When Jesus does speak, he answers the question in a way they were not expecting. He says, “He who is
without sin, let him cast the first stone.” He knows all of them were far from perfection and there was no
way any of them could pick up the first stone. According to Leviticus 24:14 the witnesses of the crime
were the ones who are to stone the sinner, and they could not be participants in the sinful act. It is not too
far out of the question to suggest that maybe the reason they couldn’t cast the first stone was because they
were the ones guilty of committing this sin. Maybe one of them was the one she was caught with? We’ll
Once again Jesus stoops down and writes in the sand and as he does each accuser turns and walks away,
starting with the oldest. I can imagine their faces burning hot with anger and frustration as their plan
Jesus asks the woman, “Where are those who condemn you?” You can almost hear the authoritative
compassion and mercy as he speaks to the woman. He was the only one who could have cast the first
stone, but he does not.
Some have suggested that Jesus is being apathetic towards sin, that he was taking it easy on the woman. I
firmly believe Jesus responds with compassion because he saw the regret, repentance and fear in the
woman’s eyes as she faced potential death. She was humiliated in front of many people; her life was
ruined because she would now and forever be known as the adulterer. Her chances of being shunned from
her family and community were very likely.
Jesus’ response is beautiful, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” He takes sin
seriously, but he also takes forgiveness seriously. He gives the woman a second chance at true life, just
like he gives you and me a second chance at life because of the cross of Calvary.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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