Go, and Sin No More
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
The opening passage, here, in the beginning of John chapter eight, touches my heart, every time I read it. We were reading in the previous chapters about preaching and promises, ministry and miracles, friends and enemies. But, here in John eight, some enemies show up during His teaching, with a test for Jesus: They brought to him a woman caught in adultery. (Nothing is said about what they may have already done to the man with whom she was found. That sort of thing tended to be dealt with rather summarily.) But the test they brought was really a trap:
If He condemned the woman, thus agreeing with the Law, then He would seem harsh to the people. They would see Him in league with the Pharisees, their oppressors. Thus, they would probably reject Him as their Savior.
But, if He said to not stone her, then He would be denying God’s Law, and the Pharisees, the scribes, and the chief priests could condemn Him for that. It looks like a classic “damned if you do and damned if you don’t ” type of trap! But let’s read through the passage and see how Jesus handled this situation.
The Teacher and the Accusers
1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
Jesus “camped” on the Mount of Olives, overnight, and He returned to the temple, early the next morning. Remember that He had been teaching there, the day before and He had promised the living Water to anyone who believed on Him. The officers (sent to arrest Him) heard Him speak, and refused to arrest him, because of the Spirit with which He spoke. But everyone eventuallywent home. Jesus had gone to the Mount of Olives, to sleep.
But, early in the morning, Jesus was back in the temple, teaching again, and all the people had come again, to hear Him. God does not tell us what He was teaching that morning, but the enemy interrupted the teaching that morning. His enemies came to disrupt his teaching and to test Jesus, trying to find a means by which to accuse Him of sin, and entrap Him.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
Enemies and Tempters
These men tried to catch Jesus in a disagreement with the Law of God. (It isn’t going to happen: He is the Author of the Law of God!) Jesus initially acted as though He had not heard them: He stooped and wrote on the ground with His finger. (I do wish I knew what He was writing!)
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So 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.
You, see, they offered only two possibilities: but Jesus gave then a third option. They thought that He would have to either agree with their interpretation of His Word, and call for the woman’s execution, or deny the Law altogether, and disobey God. Either way, they thought they had Him trapped. But Jesus presented a third option: Obey God, and condemn her for breaking God’s Moral Law, if (and only if) you, yourself, are worthy to extend condemnation to another…being free of sin, yourself.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Dismissing the Accusers
I find the result pretty astonishing: As humans, we usually feel pretty free to condemn one another. We almost never stop to think whether we have either the authority to accuse, or the secure platform of personal moral purity, from which to condemn someone else.
Jesus simply stood up, and told them, “Whoever among you is sinless, let him cast the first stone.” And then He stooped again and continued writing on the ground with His finger! (What was he writing? We are not told! I don’t think it is wise to make guesses, either.)
But somehow, His quiet authority served to reach their consciences, and to convict their hearts. One by one they slipped away, beginning with the eldest and working toward the younger men, until no one was left to accuse her.
Standing before the Judge
Why was the woman still there? I believe she recognized Jesus as “the Judge of all the Earth.” Abraham saw Him that way, in Genesis 18:25, and Jesus confirmed Himself to be the Judge, in John 5:22. He is the Judge! She could have run away, or perhaps just faded back into the crowd. But she stayed and she waited for His decision, waiting for His judgment concerning herself.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
When Jesus asked her where her accusers had gone, and whether no one was left to condemn her, she answered, respectfully, that they were all gone. But she was still standing there, waiting for His word. She knew His authority, somehow. The woman threw herself on His mercy, and trusted in Him as her faithful Creator, as it says in 1st Peter 4:19.
Her actions demonstrated that the accusation was true. She was awaiting judgment from Jesus. (Yes, she “called Him Lord,” but that phrase was often taken very lightly. It usually meant no more, to most speakers, than the word “sir” means, today.) So, her actions are the heaviest statement, here: She stood and waited for Jesus to address her case, as her Judge. And in so doing, she met Him as Her Savior!
Grace and Truth Came by Jesus Christ
We saw the contrast between Law and Grace, clear back in John 1:17. It says, “The Law came by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.”
The scribes and Pharisees came as proponents of the Law, demanding Judgment against this woman…demanding her execution. Jesus did not deny the Law: He offered Grace in its place. He did not deny the truth of her guilt: He offered Grace in spite of her guilt.
What is Grace? Grace is unearned favor: Unmerited favor. She had no merit to which she could point, saying how she had earned God’s forgiveness or blessing. Apparently, her accusers also recognized their unworthiness, but they did not stay and wait for Grace: they simply left, knowing they were not in a position to accuse. She stayed: her actions confessed her guilt and confessed that Jesus was her Judge. And she received Grace and forgiveness. Not because she deserved it. We don’t know the circumstances, nor do we need to know. Grace and works are completely separated.
The Same Grace is Extended to Us
The fact is, we are each just as guilty as she. We may not necessarily be guilty of the same sin: but read through the extensive list in Romans chapter one. If we are honest about our hearts, then the truth is, we are all guilty of the same kinds of sin, and we were also condemned before God and hopelessly deep in guilt.
By the time we read as far as Romans 3:19, we see that the whole world is lost, and that Jesus is our only hope. This woman saw herself that way, that morning: she was inescapably caught in sin, for which she expected capital punishment. And she correctly saw Jesus as her Eternal Judge. She silently placed her faith in His judgment, trusting in Him to extend Mercy if it was available. He acknowledged the Truth of her guilt (and, by extension, ours,) but He chose to extend Mercy and Grace.
Grace is Honest and Free
Grace tells the truth: it recognizes the “bad news” of our fatal illness, called Sin, and it offers the only cure for that disease, the Blood of Jesus at the Cross. And that is “Good News!”
Grace is free to us, but it came at a terrible price for Jesus, the Creator God in the Flesh. The Holy, Righteous God of the Universe, the Creator, God, the Son, became Sin for us, so that God the Father could pour out all His righteous wrath upon our Sin, without destroying us: the Sinners.
2nd Corinthians 5:21 makes it clear that He, God the Son, became Sin for us, so that we could be made the righteousness of God in Him. What an incredible trade! He took all my sins and gave me all His righteousness! That is beyond my understanding, and beyond my imagination.
I can’t see this woman’s heart (nor anyone else’s, for that matter) but it seems that, somewhere along here, she placed her faith in Jesus…both as her Judge and as her Savior. Abraham did exactly the same thing, and he was declared Righteous on the basis of his faith. The Thief on the Cross did exactly the same thing, and he was promised, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!” So… How does this happen?
Romans 4:8, (quoting Psalm 32:1, 2) says “blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven…unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” How can God fail to impute iniquity to someone who, beyond question, is clearly guilty? The fact of “forgiving sins” presupposes that there are sins to be forgiven. So, right here in this context, we have a hard question. How can God not only forgive sins, but render the sinner permanently righteous: beyond further accusation?
The Unsalvageable Old Man
God says my old sin nature cannot be saved…it cannot be repaired. It is not subject to God, and it cannot be subject to God. Romans 8:7 flatly states that to be the case. So, since my old nature cannot be saved, the only way for me to stand before God at all is through the new birth! God had to give me a new nature. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It is the simple truth!
So, in John 1:12, He says He gives the new birth through faith: believing in Him personally, trusting in Him as my Savior. I recognize that He is my Judge, and I fear His devastating Holiness, just as every other honest sinner before me has done. But I also trust in Him as my Savior. I have no other Hope. Either His full payment of His blood at the Cross is sufficient, or I have nothing whatever to offer.
Jesus is the Wise and Gracious Judge and Savior
The Woman stood before Him condemned by her own sin, and confessing that she was a condemned sinner. But she was also submitting herself to Him for that judgment, and trusting in Him to deal mercifully with her. And He did!
That’s what it is all about; right there, my friends!
Can you explain that simple story to your friends and family? To your neighbors? To a stranger?
This is a priceless account of a precious soul for whom Jesus died. And His counsel to her, on the basis of the received Mercy and Grace, was: “Go, and Sin No More!” That is His counsel to us, as well. Let’s take it seriously.
Lord Jesus, open our hearts to understand Your Gospel well enough to share it with those around us. Free our hearts to serve You in humility and Love. All we have to offer others is what You have already given to us. Mercy, Grace, and Eternal Life, all through faith in Your shed blood!