All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” (John 8:7b NLT)
We often condemn people for the same sins we are committing. The accused in this story becomes more righteous than her accusers. Christ is the only one qualified to throw the first stone.
Jesus had a way of turning the trickery of the Pharisees back on themselves. They intended to entrap him about their Law, which said that adultery was punishable by death. Jesus cleverly turned the accusations against the accused to the accusers. Jesus knew the motive of the teachers of the Law and the condition of their hearts. Those who are guilty of a particular sin are more severe in their judgment of it in others to ease their own guilt. Jesus appeals to the general Law of morality. He who accuses someone of something he is doing condemns himself.
Jesus proceeds by changing the conversation from the punishment of one, to the conviction of all. He brought repentance to the women by showing her mercy and conviction to the Pharisees by showing them their sin. Jesus did this my neither negating the Law of Moses or excusing the prisoner’s guilt but by exercising mercy and judgment simultaneously as he would do on the Cross.
Shame can soften or harden our hearts. The Pharisees left in disgrace and the women stayed to repent. The religious leaders were more concerned about their reputation than their souls. The women lingered and kept silent about her hypocritical prosecutors. Repentant people dwell on their own sin, not that of others. Mercy is showcased, self-righteousness is exposed, and the sinless Jesus is revealed as the only one qualified to cast the first stone.
Image used with permission by Microsoft.
Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing