John 8:1-11

“He who is without sin let him cast the first stone.”

This may be one of the most misunderstood, misused and misapplied Bible quotes by both Christians and non-Christians alike.

The quote occurs in today’s passage, while Jesus was teaching in the Temple. He was rudely interrupted by the scribes and Pharisees, parading an immoral woman, who was placed in the center of the crowd.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act,” they accused. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

Bible students are aware of the contentious relationship the religious leaders had with Jesus. They questioned His authority. Dismissed His teaching. Impugned His character. Criticized His association with sinners. Disparaged His disciples. Rejected His Messiahship. And denied His Deity.

So, it’s not surprising, they asked this question, not from a sincere heart, but the text says, “testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.”

They thought they had Jesus between a rock and hard place. If He said “set her free,” then He would be labeled as a lawbreaker, disrespecting Moses’ mandate.  However, if He said “Stone her” then His message of mercy would become ineffectual and his reputation with the common people would be compromised. Furthermore, it would put Him at odds with Roman law, since the Jews could not impose the death penalty.

Instead, Jesus quietly knelt down and wrote in the dirt. Why? And what was He doing? Thinking? Buying time? Contemplating an answer? Allowing them to become more and more agitated and impatient?

Finally, he rose up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

Then he knelt down again and wrote in the dirt. What did he write? Some suggest He was writing the names of those hypocritical accusers also guilty of adultery. Others suggest He was writing the sins committed by the pompous Pharisees.

Jesus knew and common sense tells us something was missing in this scenario. Where’s the man? According to the law, both were guilty of a capital crime, and both should be executed. Was this a set up? Was a man induced to seduce this woman, so they could trap Jesus? And was he promised anonymity and immunity?

As the old expression goes, “this didn’t pass the smell test.” Jesus knew it. He knew their hearts. And He offered a challenge that convicted their consciences. Everyone. From the oldest to the youngest they departed.

“Where are your accusers?” Jesus asked the woman when he stood up. “Has no one condemned you?”

“Not one, Lord,” she replied.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Some observations.

#1 Motive is important. Are we guilty of twisting the Truth in order to condemn someone else? Is our heart pure? Our attitude Christ-like? And our motives holy?

#2 Do we use Jesus’ statement as a means to excuse ourselves? “He that is without sin, cast the first stone,” has been used as a retort to justify immorality, greed, gossip, and practically every sin known to mankind.

#3 Jesus response did not minimize sin. Jesus charged the woman to “leave your life of sin.” The often repeated quote, “He that is without sin…” neither denies the reality of sin, or diminishes the seriousness of sin. Jesus acknowledged the woman was wrong. And admonished her to leave that lifestyle.

#4 What is our attitude toward the sinner? The Pharisees felt no pity for her plight. She was simply a pawn to be exploited for their ungodly purpose. Do we delight in the sins and shortcomings of others? Do we show any concern for their feelings of shame or embarrassment?

#5 Are we like Jesus or the Pharisees? The Pharisees were quick to condemn, Jesus was ready to forgive. They were hard-hearted. He was merciful. They were cruel. He was kind. They saw the woman as a sinner. He saw a soul needing saving. They saw her merely as a scapegoat in their scheme. He saw a person created in God’s image. They saw a hopeless, worthless, immoral woman. He saw someone who deserved a second chance and could change.

What do you see and what do you learn when you look at this text?

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Passage To Ponder

4 responses to “John 8:1-11

  1. Pingback: John 8:1-11 | A disciple's study

  2. Jim Grushon

    I learn the cry of the publican: “God be merciful to me a sinner”, I learn to bow my head in humility and shame, and I learn to beat my chest and judge my unworthiness first and foremost, I learn to glorify God that my salvation is in Christ and not in my own righteousness. I learn mercy and hope for the lost and message for my future walk. Thanks for your thoughts.


  3. Pingback: Weekly Recap: October 31-November 4 | ThePreachersWord

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.