The story of Jesus in John 8:2-12 is one of the remarkable stories recorded in the gospels. It is not just a story that turns out to be good news to the adulterous woman, but also a story that greatly teaches us who Jesus really is. Jesus in this story does not affirm the sin (that the woman committed) but delivers the sinner. By bringing her to Jesus, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were unknowingly bringing a sinner to the right person.
Jesus did not allow her to be stoned simply because in Him there is:
- Life- The adulterous woman (we don’t have her real name) had already received her death sentence from her accusers: people and the religious leaders. Perhaps they pondered, “why should she live?” contrastingly, Jesus’ perspective was, “why should she die?” Jesus had come for the very purpose to seek and save that which was lost and to give his life as a ransom for many, (Mk 10:45). Jesus also declares, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. He is the fountain of life and any sinner who turns to Him in faith is never turned away but given eternal life.
- Love- The woman in this story suffered rejection and hate. She was brought early in the morning and before everyone to shame her before stoning her. But Jesus does the unexpected. He accepts her. He embraces her. This does not mean that he affirmed her sin but in accepting her to come to him he clearly displayed God’s unconditional love. We see this love clearer when we look at the cross. God is love, (1 Jn 4:8). A very familiar verse summarizes it all, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, (Jn 3:16).
- Forgiveness-All we know about the woman in this story is that she was an adulterer. She was a sinner. Like any other sinner, she deserved death. The wages of sin is death. The people and the religious leaders would justify themselves from Scripture (Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22). But Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29) took her sin upon himself.
When Jesus forgives he does it completely: he removes them as far as the east is from the west (Ps103:12); he casts them behind his back (Isa 38:17); he casts them into the depths of the sea Mic 7:19; he forgives all our trespasses Col 2:13, and he remembers them no more Heb 10:17. Amazing! He never leaves the woman the same point he found her, he forgives her and gives her a new beginning. Jesus said, It is not healthy who need a doctor but the sick, (Matt 9:12).
- Justification– In Jesus there is declaration of righteousness. This righteousness is not based on works but purely on the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, (Heb 5:10). It is received by those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The woman had no righteousness of her own but Jesus’ righteousness was imputed on her. This is precisely what grace is.
The ultimate Judge took away her guilt and declared her righteous. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death, Rom 8:1-2. We also know that God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him Jn 3:17. Who else can condemn those who the Righteous Judge of all has declared as righteous?
- Freedom– It is only in Jesus that sinners are set free. In this case, it is the freedom to not sin again. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees had a water-tight case against this particular woman until they brought it to Jesus who dismantled it. It is worth noting that Jesus eventually lets her go by telling her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” v11. The newfound freedom is a freedom not to further indulge sin but to serve the living Savior who had freed her.
In the words of Apostle Paul she was told, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your boy to him as instruments of righteousness” Rom 6:11-13.
- Reconciliation- Sin separates us from a holy God. In no other way is the wall of hostility between us and God bridged apart from the only one Mediator between men and God- Jesus Christ. Through the death of Jesus Christ, we are once again reconciled to God, Rom 5:11,12; 2 Cor 5:18,19.
The adulterous woman had broken the law of God, in fact caught in the act, and by status an enemy of God, but Jesus actions toward her demonstrates that God has made a way that sinners can find hope. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, Col 1:22.
- Redemption and deliverance– The penalty for sin is death and Jesus’ audience, together with the adulterous woman, must have understood this fact from the Law of Moses. But when they presented her to Jesus, they unknowingly presented her to the One who ultimately pays the penalty of sin once and for all. Jesus’ death on the cross was substitutionary. His death satisfied the wrath and justice of God. He died on our behalf that those who live might live for him.
Therefore the adulterous woman, and any other sinner like you and me, can live because of the redemption through the shed blood of Jesus. The biblical authors testified, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14. She, like any other sinner who comes to Jesus, was delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
In the same story in verse 12 Jesus further instructs, I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.