“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ " (John 8:3-5).
Without doubt there is a lot of sin going on in our world. How do you react as you hear about how more and more sinful our society has become? How do you treat those so heavily engrossed in sin?
As the apostle John records Jesus’ earthly ministry, he notes how Jesus began to encounter opposition because He had healed a man on the Sabbath day (John 5:1-16; 7:21-24). As the opening text above shows, in order to try to entrap Him (John 8:6), the religious leaders who opposed Jesus now bring to Him a woman caught in the sin of adultery (John 8:3-5). How does Jesus react to her? Does He treat her with condemnation or with compassion?
Jesus reacts by stooping down and writing on the ground with His finger. John tells us that it appeared to some that He did not hear them, so they continue to ask Him what should be done with this sinful woman (John 8:6-7). Jesus stood up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). Jesus then stooped down again and wrote (John 8:8).
Those who had brought the woman to Jesus began to leave one by one as they were convicted of how callously they had treated her who had be taken captive in sin and how they had used her for their own purposes to try to get at Jesus. This left Jesus and the woman alone together (John 8:9).
As Jesus raised Himself up from the ground and hearing the woman respond to a question He had asked her regarding the location of her accusers and whether or not there was anyone left to condemn her (John 8:10), Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Why didn’t Jesus condemn her? Clearly she had sinned. Was not the sin she had committed wrong?
Sin is wrong. It separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Those who die in sin will be forever separated from God (Romans 6:23; John 8:24). Clearly the woman was guilty and if she had remained in this state of sin she would be forever separated from God. But what did this woman need from Jesus at this hour? Did she need to hear Him add to her pain, at having been exposed and embarrassed for having committed the sin of adultery, by proclaiming His condemnation of her as well or did she need something else from Jesus at this hour?
Jesus knew this woman did not need Him to point out her sin. Everyone else had done that. She was well aware of her sin. Jesus knew this woman needed someone to be able to sympathize with her struggle with sin. She desperately desired someone to treat her with some compassion. The Hebrew writer reminds us that Jesus is compassionate towards those who have fallen in sin: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). As I look at other sinners who struggle with sin, I pray I may remember not to look down on them harshly in a condemning way. Today, I rejoice that Christ chooses to treat me with compassion not condemnation when I sin!
“Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22).