Go And Sin No More

John 8:1-11

We find Jesus entering the temple, as was often the case, only to be confronted by the scribes and Pharisees. They bring an adulterous woman before the Lord to test Him, hoping they might catch Him in a compromising situation, only to be foiled by the Master’s timely response and cool head.

“And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground” (John 8:6). One can only wonder what was written, but the character of Jesus shines as both amusing and provocative. I tend to think that He was writing a list of sins, in preparation for His next statement.

“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). He immediately stoops down again and resumes writing on the ground. Unfortunately, many have abused this text, asserting that it offers justification for unquestioned tolerance of other people’s sinful habits. Those who love sin throw this verse in the faces of those who oppose it, saying, “See, even Jesus says we can’t judge each other, or tell each other not to sin.” But if this verse we are never allowed to pass judgment in any situation, then most of the Bible is worthless to us. We need judgment to deem somebody our enemy; to ostracize a sinner; to baptize anybody; to stand up for truth. To say that we can never judge is to go beyond the scriptures, for Jesus also commands us to judge, but with righteousness (John 7:24).

Jesus is not justifying sin by this statement, nor is He saying that only perfect, sinless men can pass judgments in this world. Rather, Jesus’ words were meant to illustrate how incompetent the Pharisees and scribes were in administering justice for the adulteress. The Law made it clear that only the witnesses of an adulterous act were to cast stones (Deuteronomy 17:7). Jesus is not saying that only sinless individuals could do this, otherwise the Law would have been impractical. More accurately, Jesus is exaggerating to prove a point, using hyperbole to convey the idea that they were terribly qualified to cast the first stone. This is why it seems to make the most sense that Jesus was listing sins of the Pharisees on the ground. While the woman committed adultery, one Pharisee over here could have been committing tax fraud, another over there with a covered up sexual sin, and still another gluttony. The Lord saps the motivation from the mob by displaying all of their intimate secrets on the floor for all to see. Embarrassed and deflated, each one leaves the scene in turn, beginning with the eldest of them.

“And straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ And she said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Then neither do I condemn you; go your way and sin no more from now on’” (John 8:10-11). The simplicity of “go” is very refreshing. She has a life to live, and it will be a happy one if it is not associated with sinful habits. Notice that the fun does not stop for a person once he or she becomes a Christian.

“Sin no more” is also a refreshing statement. It shows the expectation by God for a complete change in our lives. Even though a sin like adultery is commonly associated with habit, deep emotional desires, and physical passions, Jesus expected that this woman could from this day forward cease committing that sin.