Focus Text: John 8.3-11

A study of this subject matter, How God Treats Sinners, could not be complete without introducing the story of the woman taken in adultery. We quote the passage in its entirety:

“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” (John 8.3-11).

Some truly amazing things occurred in conjunction with this story. The first amazing thing was that the Pharisees would openly attempt to array the counsel of Jesus against the teachings of Moses. Indeed, Moses did say that those taken in adultery should be stoned (see Deuteronomy 22.22). However, Jesus gave those guilty of setting this “trap” an opportunity to extricate themselves without implicating themselves further. He did this by stooping down and writing on the ground. However, rather than using this opportunity to abort their mission, John records that “…they continued asking him.” This phrase contains a present active participle, i.e. asking, and means just exactly what it says; they asked and kept on asking!

Rather than entrap Jesus, however, they simply gave Him an opportunity to cite the law and its other provisions. For instance, when Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” He made correct application of Deuteronomy 17.7 which required the witness to be the first to cast a stone. Since there were no witnesses that could stand such scrutiny of their own lives, the result was as you see in the story; “They went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.”

When Jesus raised Himself a second time from His writing on the ground, the picture had changed drastically; all of her conscience-smitten accusers had stolen away. Here is an amazing fact that is often overlooked in this story. Many consider how Jesus treated the woman, but few consider how He treated her accusers. He knew their trickery, but caused things to occur in such a way so as to force every one of them to examine his own heart and feel the pangs of conscience. He could have dispatched them with such swiftness so as not to allow any of them to benefit from the experience; such is not the way Jesus treats sinners, even those who seek to do Him direct harm. The love of Christ that extends to all men is seen even in a story such as this!


1. Besides the woman taken in adultery, who else was to be stoned in such cases?

2. In what sequence did the woman’s accusers depart? Do you see any possible significance in this?

3. What did Jesus have to gain by dealing with these accusers as He did?

4. What can we learn in dealing with others whom we perceive to be in sin? What approach is better than allowing a person to see his/her own faults as Jesus did here?