Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
– John 8:1 – 11, NLT
I love this story. I don’t love the way it is often used in debates/discussions – especially ones dealing with sexual sin. One side will say, “See the way Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery? He was kind and loving and didn’t condemn her.” The other side is quick to respond, “Yes, but notice he also told her to go and sin no more.”
This one story is dissected into two morality lessons which are then pitted against each other. Each side picks the morality lesson they believe supports their position. Both sides miss the larger point.
What exactly was Jesus saying in this encounter?
He is not saying that adultery is not a sin. That’s why he said go and sin no more.
He is saying it is never right to kill someone because of adultery. Jesus actually takes it a step further. He is also saying it is never right for some sinners to judge other sinners and then stone those other sinners for being sinners like them.
Instead of making this story about the woman, her sexual sin, and Jesus’ disposition towards her, why not take his message to the crowd to heart? It is never right for you, a sinner, to judge another sinner and then condemn that other sinner for being what you, yourself, are, too. I’m not sure who said it, but it has been said that while we do not all sin alike, we are all alike, sinners. Better to step in, like Jesus, put a halt to all the condemnation, and point out the path that leads to life in and through Jesus.