by Pastor Noel Due
Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.
Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ (John 8:10).
Without a doubt, this is one of the most moving encounters recorded in any of the Gospels. Though some ancient versions of John’s Gospel don’t contain this passage, and others have it in a different location, its spirit and message are entirely in keeping with all we know about Jesus.
Moreover, it is (sadly) entirely in keeping with the legalistic religiosity from which God came to save us. This was a classic set-up. The text emphasises that the woman was caught ‘in the very act’ of adultery (John 8:4). So, one asks, ‘Where’s the man?’ Why was he not also arraigned for summary execution, as the law required (for example, Leviticus 20:10–12)? And how could they be ‘sprung’ by a group of men – the religiously zealous scribes and Pharisees no less? Was that mere happenstance? And what was their purpose in dragging her before Jesus?
The answer to the last question is easy: they wanted to play Jesus off against the letter of the law. If he said she should be set free, they would have him as a law-breaker because chapter and verse would be on their side. If he said that she should indeed be stoned to death, then Jesus would be in their camp and under their control. She was the bait. Jesus was the target.
There is indeed ‘a time for silence’ (Ecclesiastes 3:7), and this was one of those. Jesus said not a word, but whatever he wrote in the dust on the ground said plenty. His demeanour and their consciences got the better of them, and they drifted off, knowing the plot had failed, leaving Jesus and the woman alone.
There is also a time to speak. And this was it. ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and sin no more.’ Jesus doesn’t dishonour the law by excusing the sin. He goes beyond that – to forgive it. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse sin, as if it didn’t really matter; rather, it obliterates it because it matters so much.
That is the engine room of Jesus’ comment to ‘sin no more’. Without forgiveness, it’s an impossible command. Jesus’ verdict is mercy in the face of sin, not condemnation because of it. That is the word God loves to speak to us and the world. And it is the word that Jesus still speaks to us today: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and sin no more’.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the blessing of your words and deeds, revealed to us in the Gospels. Thank you for your mercy and the verdict of ‘no condemnation’ spoken to us through the testimony of your Spirit. Thank you that your words bring life, not death. Amen.