"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." – John 8:7
It’s one of the most beloved accounts in any of the Gospels.
In John 8, Jesus was teaching in the temple courts when he was rudely interrupted by the teachers of the law and some Pharisees. They brought Him a woman and said: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” (vs. 4-5). And then John adds a quick little FYI in verse 6: “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.”
You see, the religious leaders knew that if Jesus said they SHOULDN’T stone the woman, they could arrest Him for rebelling against the Law of Moses. On the other hand, if Jesus said the woman SHOULD be stoned, He could be arrested by the government, because it was against Roman law for the Jews to carry out capital punishment without Roman approval. So, Jesus was stuck with a lose-lose question. Or so everyone thought.
But Jesus’ response in verse 7 is genius: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
At that, the woman’s accusers slunk away, one by one, too convicted by their own sins to start hurling rocks. When Jesus was left alone with the woman, He asked, “Has no one condemned you?” And when she responded with a “no,” He said, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).
Jesus showed the woman mercy – undeserved forgiveness. And in this passage, Jesus gives us three important lessons about showing mercy:
1. Legalists prefer to CONDEMN. Jesus prefers to FORGIVE. Often, it’s easier to condemn than it is to forgive. But when we start preferring condemnation over forgiveness, we can be sure that we are following in the footsteps of the Pharisees. Forgiveness is the path of Christ.
2. Jesus’ mercy comes with an implied warning: “If you reject My mercy, one day you will suffer God’s wrath.” Some Christians think that Jesus was soft on this woman’s sin. But He really wasn’t. Notice that He didn’t just say, “Neither do I condemn you. Tell your lover I said ‘Hi!’” He said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus called upon this woman to make a radical change in her life.
4. Where legalists see miserable sinners, Jesus sees potential saints. Throughout the New Testament, we see lives radically transformed by following Jesus Christ. God doesn’t offer us a time machine to go back and change what we’ve done. But Jesus Christ gives us the next best thing: a second chance. Jesus is the God of second chances. He gives you the opportunity to change your life – beginning today.
Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for worship on Sunday
at 8:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. at