“Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.””
Controversial subject for this post. Although Palestine was under the rule of the morally lax Roman Empire, the Jewish people still claimed allegiance to the Law of the Lord, given to Moses in the Sinai wilderness. Jesus was a Teacher of the Law who called people to follow Him and His demanding application of the law: where he says even wanting to commit adultery is to break the seventh commandment of the 10 commandments. So when the Pharisees caught a woman in adultery, they decided to use her to trap Jesus. The Law might demand death for adultery, but the Romans held the authority to put people to death. So would Jesus side with the Law, or the Romans?
Strangely, rather than answer, he simply wrote in the dusty ground. We’re not told what he wrote, but the finger of God that wrote on the stone tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai could quite easily stoop down to the dust of the earth to bring us back to Himself. Apparently the Pharisees ignored Him because they kept on with their questioning. So He said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. Of course, only God is without sin. Jesus continued writing. And the Pharisees went away, the elders first, until only Jesus was left: with the woman still standing there. Only God has the right to kill, and Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who became man asked if any man condemned her. No. So neither did the Son of Man, commanding her to leave her life of sin.
It’s a powerful story, but perhaps in the 21st Century West it seems distant, primitive, and unsavoury. But what Jesus did that morning was to prevent an honour killing. The woman deserved death. Whoever the man was deserved death. Any unborn child they may have had would have died too. And with very few words, Jesus saved the day. He’s the only one named in the story. We don’t know what happened to the other people, apart from the fact that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees (the religious people) would eventually persuade the Romans to put Jesus to death. But on that morning, no-one was going to die for anyone’s sins. And when Jesus died he died for the sins of the world: for all who will believe in Him.