The Woman Caught in Adultery

1. Purposes of this passage

A. Shows the compassion and mercy of Christ/God
B. Shows the call to repent of Sin
C. Shows the wicked hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees
D. Teaches us about the role of conscience (Note: from Oldest to youngest)

2. Introduction:

A. Tell the Story
B. Jesus was always confronting sin. First he confronts the Scribes and Pharisees, then he confronts the woman.

3. The Trap is set...

A. They have Jesus between the horns of a dilemma. All the Jews know the Law against adultery.
B. Leviticus 20:10 "the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death"
C. Yet they also know that to demand the death of a woman would be considered harsh in the reality of first century Judaism, no doubt driving away some of His followers.

4. Jesus responds

A. He ignores them, stoops down and begins to write on the ground with his finger, as though they weren't even there. But they were not to be deterred so easily. Notice the text "So when they continued asking Him". They are forcing Him to respond publically to this challenge.
B. Once again, they have underestimated their foe...the one who wrote the scripture surely knew the scripture, and he knew that Deuteronomy 22:22 said
"If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband,
then both of them shall die-the man that lay with the woman, and the woman;
so you shall put away the evil from Israel"
C. So here was their Achilles heal...where was the man? Why did they drag the woman here, to be condemned, and not the man?
D. So he says "He that is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone"
E. Now, we need to notice a couple of things about this verse.

1. First, this is one of only two verses many people know from the New Testament. [Judge not that ye be not judged is the other]
2. It is often used to shield the guilty from criticism..."don't judge me!"
a. The idea is that only if you are without sin can you bring accusation.
b. But that is not what this passage teaches.
3. "Without sin" here means without sin "in this case" that you've brought before me. Not if you are sinless.
a. Jesus knew no-one (except Himself) was without sin totally.
b. God, when He gave the command in Leviticus 20:10 knew that the people he gave the command to were not sinless. If executing God's righteous judgment on sin required sinlessness, the command was meaningless.
c. No one could have ever been put to death for sin in the Old Testament.
4. What had happened here was that they were all in on the set up...the woman was a pawn in their game against Christ. He knew that, they knew that...by now, she may even realize that.
a. Jesus is telling them If you are not as guilty as she is in this, you cast the first stone at her
b. Jesus also knows that without 2 or 3 witnesses, the woman could not be convicted of the sin and executed...so...how did they get 2 or 3 witnesses to her sin of adultery? An obvious set up.

F. These Jewish leaders were also aware of Exodus 23:1-2 which is what Jesus convicts them of:

...Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute
so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.

G. They were confronted, and convicted by their consciences and one by one they left.

1. I think it is instructive that the oldest left first. They knew the gig was up, they knew they had gotten caught...the younger men weren't quite as willing to give up the fight...yet in the end they did also.

5. Now Jesus turns His attention to the woman "Be sure, you're sin will find you out..."

A. Consider the woman

1. The excitement of the moment earlier that day -. You know the feeling don't you? That moment of excitement when you do something you know is wrong, but you do it anyway...you actually stick your hand down in the cookie jar and grab a cookie...There is no doubt that this woman's pulse quickened with the excitement...
2. The passion ignited in her - Adultery is normally a sin of passion, how the strong feelings of passion surge within a person...the "I'm actually going to do this" passion that just overtakes a heart...did she love this man she was cheating with? Did she love the husband she was cheating against? Was this a long time affair? Or was it a one-night stand? We don't know the answers to these questions, but we do know that, regardless of the circumstances, it was (and is) sin.
3. Now she faces the horror of being caught and publicly humiliated- How do you think Bill Clinton felt, when he knew the truth was coming out about Monica Lewinski? Do you think there was a moment of terror in his soul? Consider how Sadam Houssein felt when the door to that hidey-hole opened up, streaming in sunlight and US soldiers...Have you ever faced that moment? That time you were caught, and there was no way out? You think quickly, is there any plausible lie you can tell to explain it away? Can you do an OJ and deny, deny, deny? Can you do a Clinton and "It depends on the meaning of the word..." Is there some way out of this mess?!?!? And slowly, the painful realization ripens...there is no way out...this time I'm just caught. I can't deny, I can't talk my way out of this one, I am just plain caught!
4. The specter of ultimate punishment...immediate, painful, death. Her mood had to be frantic, she is like a caged animal, wanting, trying, searching for a way to get away...yet there is none, this group of men far outnumber her, they are physically stronger, there are many of them, does she fight? Does she watch their movements looking for her chance? Or does she quietly surrender, resolved to her fate? At least it would be a quick death, though painful.
Then, up ahead she sees the crowd and she knows they will be the instrument of her death, hurling stones with vitriol, smug in their self-righteousness that they had exterminated another low life sinner, a home wrecker. As she draws near to the crowd, quietly gathered, listening to someone, the mood changes. Now she is a pawn in the ugly game the Pharisee's had in store for Jesus.

B. Jesus asks her a question

1. Now the scene has changed again...those so thirsty for her blood as a tool to accuse Jesus were gone...the bewildered crowd stands silently looking on, and Jesus...What will he say now?
The Law still stands over her head "...the...adulteress, shall surely be put to death"
Jesus hadn't said to the Pharisee's "let her go". No, in fact, He said just the opposite, "He who is without sin Cast the first stone"...He had acknowledged her just punishment was death by stoning...
The crowd is still here and will be glad to stone her at the word of Jesus...will he give the word?
2. "Woman, where those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "no one Lord"

6. "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more"

A. Someone might protest here that Jesus should have had her stoned if He were following the Law of Moses, yet that is not true because that same law required at least two witnesses, and now there are NONE. So we find Jesus strictly following the Law of Moses here.
B. There are three things we need to consider about the answer of Jesus:
1. First is that Jesus stands ready to forgive and show mercy to this woman.

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

Jesus didn't come to condemn, He came to save, and we see this in everything he does.

1. I was asked recently if I would tell my children, especially my son when he gets older, that I have software installed on our computer that records all the websites they go to.
My response is "of course I will. I don't want to ‘catch them' doing something wrong, I want to guard them against doing it."

2. Second, Jesus does tell her not to sin anymore. It seems that it is so difficult for us to take the stand that Jesus took. The stand that says "I don't condemn you...don't sin anymore".

a. We either end up with "you are condemned for what you did", or "Don't worry about it, we all sin, it doesn't matter".
b. Jesus laid the responsibility for her sin squarely on her own shoulders.

3. Finally, there is a very common error in rearranging the order of Jesus words in the passage.

a. Often our response to those who have sinned is: Go and sin no more, then I won't condemn you.
b. Don't we many times feel like that is God's response to our sin also?
c. But is isn't. Listen to what he really said "neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more".
d. The order is God forgives and then we quit sinning, not "we quit sinning, then God forgives".

4. We tend to rate sin. There are the "really bad sins" like adultery and murder, and there are the sins that everyone does like lust and anger.

a. It is true that the outward consequences of adultery are worse than lust, but the condition of the heart that produces them both is the same.
b. The truth is that when we commit sin, any sin, we are guilty of sin. Not big sin, or little sin, but sin. (James 2:10)

5. 1 John 4:19 - God always stands as the initiator of love, forgiveness, and righteousness.

a. He doesn't love us because we are good, or because we love him, but we love Him because He first loved us.

7. Conclusion

A. Where do you stand today? One who condemns? One who is guilty? To you both, Jesus says:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

- Matthew 11:28-30