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Our status as sinners does not allow us to pass condemnation on other individuals, despite their obvious sins.

What is our motivation in passing judgment on others?

– to elevate ourselves

– to exalt our own legalistic soapboxes

Textual Problems: Generally acknowledged that this was probably an authentic incident in the life and ministry of Christ. However, this passage has serious textual problems; not included in many manuscripts; many variants even where it was included; difficult to resolve such issues. See what we can learn from this story.

Deffinbaugh: Quoting Calvin regarding authenticity of the text:

It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.


“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.”

The incident happened early in the morning following a night spent by Jesus communing with the Father on the Mount of Olives.

Contrast with 7:53 — where everyone else had a home to go to; Son of Man did not have a place to lay His head.

Remember earlier theme: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (7:24)


A. (:2) Stacking the Deck = their timing — the right context to put Jesus on the spot

“And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.”

Another Public Teaching Opportunity

Sitting down = common posture for rabbinical teaching in the temple.

B. (:3-5) Staging the Test Case = their presentation

1. Selective Presenters = Experts in the OT Law

“And the scribes and the Pharisees”

2. Selective Perpetrator

“brought a woman caught in adultery”

– Why this particular woman?

– Where was the man? Was he involved in enticing this woman into the act in order to set up this test case? Was he present in cognito, observing the reaction of Jesus? Double Standard

– Why this particular sin?

3. Selective Audience

“and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, Teacher”

– people who were serious about the OT law; the most orthodox

4. Selective Crime

“this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act”

– No denying the crime;

– No denying her guilt

– How humiliating this must have been for her.

Deffinbaugh: The group does not come alone. They have with them an unwilling accomplice—a woman whose sin the law condemns, a sin for which she deserves to die. If, indeed, she is caught “in the very act of adultery,” she may be only partly clothed, if at all. I suspect they do not gently bring her along, but probably drag her “kicking and screaming.” No doubt, the woman is in tears, humiliated by her guilt and her exposure. Worse yet, she is stationed before the One who knows no sin—and at the same time, before the eyes of the crowd gathered at the temple.

5. Selective Case Law

“Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”

Why hadn’t they taken the woman to the proper authorities if their real motive was justice?

Stedman: It is clear they feel they have Jesus trapped by this; they have an airtight case, this “get-Jesus” committee!

C. (:6a) Setting Jesus Up = their motivation

“And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him.”


1. Agree that she should be stoned:

– lose favor with the common people who were well aware of their own sins

– compromise the tone of His ministry = come to save rather than to condemn

– possibly put Him at odds with Roman govt officials by taking vigilante approach

2. Advocate that she go free:

– appear to compromise the standards of Moses and OT law

– appear to be soft on sin

Stedman: They knew that Jesus was “The Friend of Sinners,” that he was always on the side of the unfortunate and that he spent his time, not with the righteous, the wealthy or the respected, but with publicans and sinners. They obviously expected him to turn this woman loose. If he said that, he would be contradicting the Law of Moses and they would have him. They thought surely they had him trapped.


(JUDGING THE JUDGES — from Stedman)

A. (:6b) Condemning the Condemners

“But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground.”

– Either by His silence; by ignoring them as not worthy to bring such a complaint

– Or condemning them by something he wrote – but probably not enough dirt to accomplish this! (Deffinbaugh)

B. (:7) Only Perfection Qualifies One for Exercising Condemnation

“But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’”

They misunderstood His silence; thought that He was stalling and avoiding them because He could not wriggle out of the dilemma; so they press their case.

Legal Principle: Beware asking a question when you don’t know the answer!

C. (:8) Condemning the Condemners

“And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”

D. (:9) Conviction of Sin Silences the Spirit of Hypocritical Condemnation

“And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older one, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst.”


A. Free to Go

“Did no one condemn you? … Neither do I condemn you; go your way.”

– treated her with respect and dignity

– treated her with compassion and mercy

Not being soft on sin.

Not minimizing the significance of adultery and all of its hurtful consequences.

Stedman: Even today if you are arrested for a crime, and nobody appears in court to accuse you, the judge will dismiss the case.

(Personal Illustration – Speeding ticket; court case on Christmas Eve)

B. Sin No More

“From now on sin no more.”

Not just, Don’t get caught … but don’t even commit the sin.

Had she experienced a heart change through this encounter with Jesus?