Our focus and attention is drawn to the story of a woman caught in adultery. The name of the woman was not given to us; neither do we know what family or lineage she came from. The story in the Bible starts with “A Woman was caught in adultery”. For the woman to be caught in adultery she has to be someone’s wife and she must be found with someone else’s husband. She was dragged to where Jesus was (at the temple in Jerusalem) and the man she was caught in adultery with was not brought to Jesus. John 8:2-11.
It was the Scribes and Pharisees, the Mr. Do-goods, the holier than thou self righteous, who brought the woman to Jesus. The Bible described them as a set of individuals who would not go in and yet prevent other people from going into the temple. It was on the basis of the Law of Moses, which states, “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel”. Deut 22:22.
How were they able to get this woman, and was she by herself committing the act? What about the man she was caught with. The woman did not try to defend herself; neither did she make an issue with the man that was with her? She did not make any remarks. Since these questions were not answered in the sacred scriptures, we would be doing injustice to the Word of God if we try in an attempt to write our suppositions (or read into the story using the sense of the fallen man) in answering the questions. We’d rather stay within the parameters given in the story.
The reason we have this story in this part of the scripture stemmed from the fact that when people heard him teach in the Temple, the Pharisees and Scribes heard people call him the Prophet, some called him the Christ while some doubted if the Christ should come from Galilee. If indeed he came from Galilee, their argument would have been no Prophet, looking through the whole of history ever came from Galilee. They were wrong again and again. Christ was not born in Galilee but Bethlehem-Judah. There was division amongst the people because of him. Some wanted to take him while some believed him; but no man laid hands on him.
The Bible records that the episode was a setup not for the woman but for Jesus because the Pharisees as verbal terrorists had been looking for some kind of reason to trip Jesus using tricky questions with stones in their hands. The woman like I said was just a pawn in the deadly ploy in which they sought to kill Jesus. Now if Jesus had said, ‘stone her’, he would on the one hand be fulfilling the Law of Moses but on the other hand be breaking the Roman law, which forbade any condemnation to death, except the person in question (the woman) was condemned by the Romans themselves.
Looking at this story meticulously, his accusers pretended to entrust and delegate the judgment to Jesus, meanwhile they had determined to accuse and judge him peradventure he fell for their trick and machinations. They called him “Teacher”, but they knew that what he was teaching was contrary to what the Law stipulated, which punished the sin of adultery with stoning.
Again if Jesus had absolved or pardoned the woman brought to him, he would have transgressed the laws of Moses; if he had condemned her, he would have become a hypocrite teacher who is not consistent with his message of grace and mercy. So it was a win-win case for the Scribes and Pharisees. They have finally caught up with him in their myopic, parochial and bigoted minds. God had a better way of making fools out of fools.
Jesus kept silent at their request after he stooped down and wrote with his finger on the floor. As they hurriedly and continued to press upon him in their request expecting to get an answer from him, He lifted up himself and said to them “He that is without sin amongst all of you should stone the woman first”. He stooped down again giving his hearers time to reflect on his statement. They were convicted in their consciences and didn’t lie about their convictions.
According to the Jewish custom, when it comes to execution by stoning, the eldest flung the stone first. In this case, they had examined their consciences and by that they walked, beginning with the eldest. They were all gone and defeated in their game. The only one who had the right to stone first remained (Jesus). He turned to the woman and told her, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”.
Remember the woman had no name and genealogy but she could be traced back to God. When God brought the woman He had made to Adam, he called her Eve, because she would become the mother of all living. We will all proceed or come from the woman. This implies as the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the saints at Rome that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This includes anyone who came into this world through the Woman; in other words, the whole of humanity.
We can all identify with this woman; our sins can also be described as adultery because according to Apostle Paul, when we knew God, we didn’t glorify Him as God but were vain in our imaginations and our foolish hearts were darkened. The invisible things made by God from creation of the world were clearly seen, they were understood by the things that were made, so that we were left without excuse. Rather than worship God, we started in our imagination to change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made by man; we worshipped the creature in place of the Creator. We became adulterers and by the Law of Moses, we deserve to be stoned to death.
It would have been easy for Jesus to get into theological deliberations with his interlocutors on this part of the Law of Moses. He felt rather not concerned with winning an academic dispute about an interpretation of that part of the Law but had an intention and a goal to save a soul and also divulge a repeal of the Law and introduce a revelation of the love of God, which was why He came from Heaven to earth. This is why He has to die on the cross and the reason why God has to raise Him up on the third day. St Augustine builds a better picture when he said in his commentary on the gospel of John that “The Lord, in his response, neither failed to respect the law nor departed from his meekness”.
Jesus is still saying “Neither do I condemn you” today because He knows that we would continue to need this mercy and grace as long as we are still on this planet earth. Moment after moment our self-acclaimed righteousness would never present us right before God. Paul introduces us to righteousness aside the Law of Moses. It is the righteousness that humbles you; one that was paid for by Jesus, and the one we do not deserve.
In conclusion, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was impeccably veracious when he said: “The fact that Christ died for the ungodly renders self-righteousness a folly. Would God have taken the trouble to make another righteousness if you could have made one of your own? Alas, that folly should be so desperately entrenched in the heart of man, that he will spend his whole life in a persevering attempt to insult his Maker by preparing a righteousness of his own, when his Maker has already wrought out, and brought in, a righteousness perfect in every respect!”