Read John 8:2-11
2 But early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (NLT)
Many outside the church and a disturbing number inside the church seem to imagine that the Christian message is all about telling one another how bad we are. Get involved in the Christian faith and learn all about condemnation.
Episodes like this tell a different story. A woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. (We may well ask, what happened to the man?). Her accusers want Jesus to approve of stoning her in which case he would be seen to be harsh and cutting across the authority of Romans to execute people. Or perhaps to let her off and so be seen as dismissive of the Law of Moses and weak on sin.
Jesus won’t play their game. He sees through their hypocritical judgementalism and invites those who haven’t sinned to cast the first stone. And of course none can do so: the older men recognise this first since they have lived longer and presumably sinned more.
Jesus does not condemn the woman. But he does not approve of her sin. He is neither harsh nor easy going. He did what he usually did: accepted her as the person she was and invited her to become a better person than that. Only as she and we hear the words, I do not condemn can she and we go and sin no more.