Jesus and the Woman Caught in Sin

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery, in the very act. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say? This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8: 3 – 6)

This account raises several questions. It appears it is wrong to condemn sin.

What the scribes and Pharisees did was done publicly in order to try to discredit Jesus as openly as possible. According to custom they did not have to bring the accused, but did so as to afford the maximum awkwardness. 

The motive of the group clearly is not to preserve morality, but to impel Jesus on the horns of an impossible dilemma.

If Jesus said not to stone her He would appear to disobey the law of Moses. An outcry of the Jews would have resulted.  

If He said stone her He would have been advocating violation of Roman law for the Romans had stripped the Jews of the right to execute. There would have been an outcry from the Romans.

There did not appear to be an answer that would have satisfied everyone.

In interpreting the situation a vital aspect is often overlooked. There were two distinct matters involved. At play was a legal issue and the other a moral issue.

According to Jewish tradition for a person to be executed for adultery there had to be more than two persons who actually saw the sex act in progress who gave the exact account of it. In reality rarely was a person executed for adultery because of it commonly being a private sin there was not enough proof.

For her accusers to have “caught” her it would have been a set up. Her male accomplice was not charged implying he was a party to the setup and allowed to go free.

Twice Jesus knelt and wrote in the dust. What He wrote is only speculation. It evidently had a compelling influence. 

Their accusation was of an act considered by Mosaic Law a capital offense. Jesus turned the table on them by challenging them, “He who is without sin (moral conduct) let him cast the first stone.(legal action).”

“Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one….” (John 8: 9) Thus, the capital charges were dropped.

The legal matter being dealt with Jesus now turns to the spiritual, that is the moral issue. Jesus asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” When she answered “no one,” Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; (legally) go and sin no more’” (morally). Thus Jesus was saying neither do I condemn you of the capital offense.

He continued in that same statement  noting her conduct was “sin.” It was not of sin that He forgave her. He exhorted her to “sin no more.” Thus, He identified the act for what it was, an act of moral disobedience to God’s law. If she became obedient to Jesus’ exhortation and turned from her sin that would indicate a repentant heart. However, at this point the sin was condemned and forgiveness was yet to be determined.