Neither do I condemn you
According to Jewish law, adultery was a capital crime punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). But according to Roman law—which governed occupied Palestine—Jews had no authority to put a man to death. So if Jesus had agreed with the Pharisees, he would have violated the Roman law. But if he had disagreed, he would have been identified as a false teacher. Jesus’ opponents must have felt very secure about their trap!
Once again, Jesus’ enemies underestimated him. He needed only one sentence to silence them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Why did this one sentence have such a dramatic impact? Because Jesus made it clear that whatever judgment they leveled against this woman for her sin would be leveled against them for their own sins. If she were condemned, they would be condemned too. There were only two responses: to confess their sins or to walk away. Since they were unwilling to repent, they walked away, and the woman lived.
They should have stayed. That’s what the woman did, and her life was changed. Jesus showered her with grace and washed away her sins. Even though she was guilty, Jesus issued a decree of divine forgiveness and set her on a new path.
John Newton, the eighteenth-century writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” learned this lesson well. He was sailing a ship in the midst of a violent storm that had all but sunk the vessel. Terrified, he called out to God for mercy, and the winds calmed down immediately.
Newton was a slave trader. He focused almost exclusively on material gain and cared little about the people he put into chains. After experiencing God’s mercy so dramatically, he gave his life to Jesus and became a tireless servant of the Lord, witnessing about what God had done for him.
Like John Newton, we will feel moved to change our lives to the degree to which we experience God’s mercy. We will remember that, like the woman caught in adultery, we too deserve punishment but have been given mercy, peace, and life instead.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on my soul.”
Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62