John 8: 3-11 (NIV): The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “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?” 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. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 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. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus was being set up in this situation. John tells us it was a trap. If Jesus had condemned her to death, as the Jewish law stated (Deuteronomy 22:22), he would have gone afoul of the Roman authorities -- who alone had the right to condemn a person to death. But if he failed to condemn her to death, he would have openly broken the Jewish law and shown himself to be a lawbreaker.
They thought they had him in a no-win situation. But Jesus was too smart for them. He neither condemned her to death, nor showed himself to be a lawbreaker. What he did showed his genius: he said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Where was the man? The law also stated that the man must be stoned to death. But their hypocrisy is not the true message here, the true message is that we have all sinned and none of us has the right to throw that first stone. None of us should tell our neighbor he has a splinter in his eye when we have a plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3).
Jesus did not condone or overlook her sin; he told her to stop doing it, but he used this occasion to teach us not to judge others. We should hate sin and stand against it, but we should love people and offer them grace, not judgment. That's God's job.
Craig Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek United Methodist Church in Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Pert. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. at Brushy Creek and 11 a.m. at Pert. See more of his columns at www.instantmessagelive.com.