Saturday in the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time

John 7:53-8:11

Neither Do I Condemn You

Here is one of the most beloved accounts in all of Scripture.  It preaches Christ as we understand him in the gospels, offering both mercy and exhortation to righteous living.  It shows Christ in all of his divine wit foiling his adversaries.  Finally, it openly manifests the truth of the gospel against all hypocrisy and pretense.  It is worthy of the Gospel of John.

The charade is plain enough.  These pathetic men who obviously need hobbies set this poor woman up.  She undoubtedly was of questionable character given that she did not deny the charge, nor did Jesus dispute it.  Of course, the question is, that if there is an adulteress, then where is the adulterer?  Well, he somehow got away, which only makes the scene more sinister.  The law called for the stoning of both the man and the woman if she were the wife of another man or a virgin betrothed to another man (Deuteronomy 22:22-29).  Presumably, there would be no stoning if she were neither.

But the truth of the whole affair is that what we have here is nothing other than a lynching.  And what’s worse is that this poor woman doesn’t even matter; she is merely a pawn in a dangerous game of “gotcha.”  If Jesus agrees to stone her, then he is passing judgment that only the Romans can render; if he decides against stoning her, he is going against the Mosaic law, their pretense, notwithstanding.  Or, depending on his decision, he would offend either those who stood for leniency in such situations or those who demanded prosecution.  Either way, Jesus knows that it’s a lose/lose no matter which way he goes.  And, by the way, at this time in Jewish history, such behavior was rarely if ever condemned by stoning, only adding to the travesty.

Jesus bends down to write in the sand.  Some have tried to guess what he was writing, which I think is entirely futile.  The best explanation I have heard is that Jesus did this to avert attention away from their poor victim.  She was doubtless drug to the scene and probably had no time to properly adjust her clothing.  He forestalls their attention long enough so that she can pull herself together to regain what was left of the dignity these barbarians had stolen from her.  When Jesus finally rises, at their persistent nagging, he speaks those immortal words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (KJV).  At these words, the posturing of these self-righteous imposters is destroyed in but a moment, such that they cannot respond.  So, one by one, they drop their stones, and, we hope, become decent men.

Jesus is left alone with the woman: “Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, Lord.”  “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  The ESV’s translation is closer to the Greek with the, “from now on,” part.  It speaks to the continuous need to keep from sin, beginning now and into the future.  Jesus is telling her to amend her life; in short, repent.  After all, Jesus just saved her life from a mob; she owes it to him to leave sin behind–from now on.

And so do we.  We walk in holiness because our Lord is worth it.  We repent of sin because our Lord has given his blood for our salvation.  We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:10, 19).  No doubt, this woman was set up, she was unjustly humiliated and publicly shamed, but that does not excuse her sin–and she did sin–and so do we.  So let us hear those same words and respond with gratitude, and from now on, sin no more.


Some of your study Bibles probably note that this account is not in the earliest manuscripts.  Even evangelical scholars admit this, and there is no shame in doing so.  Also, if you skip from 7:52 to 8:12, it appears that the passage runs seamlessly.  None of this means that the event did not happen.  It, no doubt, circulated on its own, and then was assigned by early copyists to this place in John’s gospel.

This raises questions about how this could happen.  Understand that when our Lord commissioned his disciples before his ascension, he did not tell them to sit down and write books; he told them to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).  The gospels were written when it became obvious that a record would be needed for the Church when the apostles were gone.  So before such writing occurred (Mark in the 60s, the other three a few years later), all that Jesus said and did was passed along orally.  It was this apostolic “oral tradition” that was later written down, which the Church then received as the word of God based upon its apostolicity, authenticity, and integrity (that is, this is what they had heard all along that had happened).  Many books, the Church did not receive because they did not meet this criteria.  At any rate, this is how the account of “The Adulteress” is explained.  It circulated on its own and was apostolically received.  However, John did not include it in his gospel, for reasons we don’t know.  But early in the Church’s history, it was added, no doubt because of its own authenticity, and the wonderful truth it proclaims.

This is not what we would do in this situation, but it is exactly what Jesus would do–and we instantly know it!

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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