John 8:2 – 11 NKJV  “Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3The the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.  And when they had set her in the midst, 4they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do You say?” 6This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.  But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.  And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” “

There have been many sermons preached on this topic, but never have I heard a preacher relate this story to the real issue of Jesus following the Law.  It has always been a message of forgiveness and grace.  Though the Lord is full of forgiveness, grace and mercy, during His ministry time on this earth, He never operated contrary to the Law.  Throughout this article, the Law refers to the Torah (the written Law of the Jews), which is also the Old Testament for Christians.  What we do find in the Scriptures is that Jesus had no issues with challenging the rabbinical laws that had been added to the Torah (O.T.).

The real issue of this story is not the woman who was caught in adultery.  This situation was brought about as a trap set for Jesus, to see if He really knew and understood the Law.  This is actually somewhat humorous, as they were testing the very One who wrote the Law, of which they are trying to defend.  Examine what is said in John 8:6a:

  • KJV  “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”
  • ESV  “This they said to test him, that they might have some charges to bring against him.”
  • NIV  “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.”
  • NLT  “They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him . . .”

Because Jesus was radically teaching the truth of the Word of God, the rabbis and Pharisees were trying to find a way to convict Jesus of blasphemy, which would give them cause to put Him to death, according to the Law in Leviticus 24:16.  Once we can see the real issue of this story, then we can address it from a correct biblical standpoint, according to the precepts of God.

  • Leviticus 24:16  NKJV  “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.  All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land.  When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.”

The first issue is that this group of rabbis and Pharisees only brought the woman before Jesus.  The Law, as stated in Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22, requires that both the man and the woman involved in the adulterous affair were to be brought for judgment and killed.  This account gives no recognition of the man involved in the act of adultery, nor was he brought with the woman to face Jesus.

  • Leviticus 20:10  NKJV  “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.”
  • Deuteronomy 22:22  NKJV  “If a man is found lying with a woman married to another husband, then both of them shall die — the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away evil from Israel.”

The second issue is that there is no mention of the witnesses that actually caught the couple in the act of adultery.  Again, the Law states in Deuteronomy 17:6 – 7, that the guilty parties must be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses and that the hands of the witnesses shall be the ones who cast the first stones.

  • Deuteronomy 17:6 – 7  NKJV  “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.  The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people.  So you shall put away the evil from among you.”

Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and scribes is actually quite interesting.  The Scriptures tell us in John 8:6 that Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger as they started to press Him for His response to the situation, but He just keep writing as though He didn’t hear them.  There has been much speculation regarding what it was He wrote on the ground.  But, in keeping with His usual pursuit to be about His Father’s business, I believe there is a strong possibility that He was writing the actual scripture verses of the Law, which the Pharisees and scribes had failed to fulfill.

Again, His response was of mercy toward the woman, because she was wrongfully brought forward to Him.  But, His statement of “He who is without sin among you . . .” was also a stinging rebuke toward those who were trying to trap Him.  Not only did Jesus respond the only way possible without inciting the crowd, but He also let them know that He understood exactly what they were trying to accomplish.

Jesus, in releasing the woman, was not excusing her actions as a part of grace and mercy, but rather setting her free because there was not an adequate and correct provision of proof and witnesses against her, as according to the Law.  Remember, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17).  And by the way, the dispensation of grace had not yet started, since Jesus had not yet been executed on the cross.  Had the rabbis and Pharisees provided the man involved, as well as two or three witnesses, Jesus would have had no choice but to find the two adulterers guilty and put to death.

  • Matthew 5:17 – 18  NKJV  “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” 

This was not an issue of grace versus the law, but of grace through the law!  For in this manner the Word of God was not compromised!!