In John 8, we find a story that demonstrates the compassion and kindness of Jesus. In stark contrast to the self-righteous, ruthless ways of the religious elites, Jesus gently and tenderly showed love for the outcasts and rejects in society. Never did He condone sinfulness as acceptable, but regularly He made a point to be a friend to sinners so that He could call them out of their hopeless slavery.
The Feast of Tabernacles was ended, but before Jesus left the temple a group of scribes and Pharisees dragged a helpless woman who had been caught in adultery into the temple and threw her on the ground in front of Him.
“Moses, said that we should kill her, Jesus. What do you think we should do?”
In the minds of the Sanhedrin Jesus opposed and subverted what Moses taught. They had not been able to prove it yet, but they knew with attempt after attempt eventually they and all of His followers would see it.
Now, they manufactured a circumstance whereby they could hopefully discredit Jesus in one of two ways. First, if the woman was punished, Jesus would no longer seem to be the friend of sinners, but instead the executioner of sinners. His sinful followers would quickly dissipate and He would lose the influence He had gained with the masses. Second, if the woman wasn’t punished, it would appear that Jesus did not want to obey the Law of Moses, and ultimately He disregarded the Law of God.
Jesus was not fazed by this dilemma. There was no quandary too great for His perfect wisdom. As quickly as they had come and challenged Him to kill her, Jesus turned the tide on them.
“You guys should stone her. Whoever hasn’t sinned let him start the process.”
With one statement, Jesus turned the quandary back on the Pharisees. If they said they were sinless, they would be claiming they were perfect like God. But if they admitted they were sinners, then they had no right to come and execute another sinner. The point was very clear; they were being self-righteous and as sinful men they had no right to carry out the justice of a Holy God.
In the story, Jesus looked to the woman and acknowledged that all of her accusers had walked away. In love, he spoke to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” He would not punish her for the sin that she had committed. She deserved death, but He wouldn’t execute that sentence on her.
As we think back through the story, we must realize one thing, if Jesus let the woman’s sin go unpunished, He would be violating the Law of Moses as the Pharisees had presumed. But Jesus did not let the woman’s sin go unpunished. 1 Peter 2:24 tells us that eventually Jesus “bore our sins (and hers) in His own body,” when He died on the cross. The punishment the woman deserved – death, Jesus, the forgiving friend of sinners, bore in His own body for her. He did not dismiss the sin, He paid for it himself. He would not allow the holiness of God to be defiled; He would fight for it with His own life. Later, Jesus would tell His disciples, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down His life for His friends.” This is glorious news, because as a friend of sinners, Jesus laid down His life for us.
Food For Thought: Did Jesus let the woman’s sin go unpunished? Explain your answer.