When they kept on questioning [Jesus], he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ (John 8:7)
The Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery before Jesus. Their motivation isn’t to condemn the woman but to entrap and compromise Jesus. They remind Jesus that in the law, Moses commanded them to stone such women. If Jesus says, “No, don’t stone her,” they hope the people will see that Jesus couldn’t be a rabbi. If He says, “Yes, stone her,” they hope Jesus will lose their support.
Jesus doesn’t say “yes” or “no.” Instead, He says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
How long did it take for the people to drop their stones?
As they looked at each other, they knew they had sinned against each other. Their shame must have caused them to look down at their feet. And then those stones they had been so eager to throw must have felt pretty heavy. Shame makes everything heavier. In their shame, they had enough awareness to turn their gaze from the woman to themselves. They had tried to entrap Jesus; instead, they were entrapped. They realized that they all lived in glass houses. It’s dangerous to get into a rock fight when you live in a glass house.
Jesus didn’t indulge the bloodlust of the crowd, nor did He indulge the woman. She had indeed been committing adultery, and Jesus doesn’t condone her behavior. He saves her life literally, and He also wants to save her life morally. He says, “Go your way, and from now on, do not sin again.”
Jesus sends packing all those who wanted to condemn her. And He himself doesn’t condemn her. If Jesus refrained from condemnation, we must do as well. It’s not our business to condemn. Since only those without sin get to throw stones, and since we all fall short, that means that no one gets permission to throw stones at anyone—not even at ourselves.
If we ever have the itch to throw stones, today’s scripture encourages us to look in the mirror. As we look at our life, we’ll be reminded why we all need to drop our stones.
- Have you ever condemned a particular person or a particular group? If so, how did you justify your judgments? If so, did you ever talk with Jesus about what you were doing?
- Have you ever been condemned by anyone? If so, what did that feel like? What was this person’s rationale? How did you respond? In your condemned state, did you turn to Jesus for solace?
- Have you ever tried to protect someone who was being condemned, like Jesus protected the woman in today’s story? If not, have you ever considered that what Jesus did for that woman is what He calls us to do for anyone who is being unfairly condemned?