By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Why did Jesus allow the woman caught in adultery in John 8 to go away uncondemned?
Reply: The account of this incident is recorded in John 8:3-11. Before commenting on the question, let us notice the passage.
And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her? And this they said, trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning with the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman where she was, in the midst. And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.
Under the law of Moses, one guilty of adultery was to be stoned to death (Deut. 22:23, 24). Obviously; the woman’s accusers wanted to place Jesus in a dilemma. Since the Romans did not regard adultery as grounds for capital punishment, but yet the law of Moses commanded the Jews to stone one to death for this offense, they thought they had Jesus in a bind. If He endorsed stoning the woman, he would be acting contrary to Roman law; but, if He did not, He would be charged with violating the law of Moses.
When the scribes and Pharisees continued to ask Jesus what He would do in this case, He said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (v. 7). According to the law of Moses, the witness had to cast the first stone at the one to be put to death (Deut. 17:7). In the instance of this woman, the guiltless one was asked to cast the first stone at her. While legal punishment is to be exercised (when such is justified), these were not the ones authorized to administer it. Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. What He wrote we do not know, but He gave the woman’s accusers an opportunity to carry out whatever they desired to do. The responsibility of executing the law was upon them. They left, one by one, and only Jesus and the woman remained.
Jesus arose and asked the woman, “Where are they? did no man condemn thee?” (v. 10). The woman replied, “No man Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more” (v.. 11). Jesus was making no excuse for sin when He told the woman that He did not condemn her. They were not words of forgiveness (Lk. 7:48). The woman had sinned, but no one was present to execute the law; therefore, neither did He pronounce a sentence upon her. He did not array His judgment against the law of Moses nor did He violate Roman law. Then He admonished the woman to go her way and sin no more. He did not tell her to go in peace, but to “sin no more.” This was the condition of her pardon. She was to repent.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 14, p. 421
July 21, 1983