Jesus in John 8: The Friend of Sinners

But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.

John 20:31

Today, rather than cover the entire chapter, I’d like to focus on verses 1–11, where we see Jesus, the Friend of sinners.

Jesus went to the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They said unto Him, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what do You say?” 6 This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” 8 And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are your accusers? has no man condemned you?” 11 She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

A Trap

The religious leaders caught a woman in the act of adultery and immediately brought her to Jesus, demanding justice. Were they truly interested in upholding the law? No. They only wanted to find fault with Jesus. They said, “Moses commanded us in the Torah that such should be stoned; but what do You say?” Notice that they got it wrong, and on two points at that. Moses pronounced death upon both the individuals, not just the woman. So where was the man? Did he run away? or was he one of the accusers? The woman had obviously been set up. They didn’t care about her or the law she had broken; they cared only about trapping Jesus.

Secondly, while Moses did state that adultery was punishable by death, the Torah did not specify how the sentence was to be carried out.

…the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:10

The scribes and Pharisees figured they had Jesus cornered with this question. If He said, “Stone her,” then they would have asked, “But where is the mercy and forgiveness You talk about?” Yet if He had said “Release her,” they would’ve accused Him of breaking the Law and leading others to do the same.

A Surprise

Instead, Jesus did something they did not expect—He stooped down and wrote in the sand as though He had not heard them. Many have speculated about what Jesus wrote in the sand. Some theories include:

  1. He scribbled, not writing anything in particular, but simply making lines the in the sand.
  2. He listed the sins of the men who had accused the woman.
  3. He named their sins of adultery in particular.

The men grew impatient with Jesus’ inattentiveness and pressed Him to give them an answer. He paused for a minute and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” What wisdom! They could not argue with this, for every one of them knew he was a sinner. Though adultery was not socially acceptable, it was nevertheless widely practiced and rarely if ever punished, much like today in our own culture. It is very likely that every one of these men was guilty on this point. The Bible says they dropped their stones and left, beginning at the eldest, all the way to the youngest. Theories about this detail suggest that the oldest men carried the most guilt because they had perhaps been weak in this area for a very long time. But even the young men knew they too were guilty, if not in deed then certainly in thought.

A Reprieve

When the men had all left, Jesus stood up and faced the woman. She could have left too, for her accusers were gone. But she stayed and faced the only Man who had the right to stone her. Then came the most comforting words she had ever heard: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” Jesus forgave the woman for her sin, but commanded her to turn from her sin and not yield to it ever again. That is true repentance.

Jesus cared about the Law, but He cared more about the woman. He truly is the Friend of sinners. He did not break the Law when He released her: Jesus came to fulfill the Law. In fact, He knew that in a short while He was going to suffer on the cross, and this woman’s sin of adultery was just one of the sins He would bear there. Indeed, Jesus was going to bear everyone’s sin, whether adultery or otherwise—even those sins for which we never seek forgiveness.

The men who walked away could have received the same forgiveness offered to this woman. How different the outcome might have been if, instead of leaving, they had dropped their stones and knelt alongside the woman, identifying themselves as also being worthy of death. Jesus would’ve gladly forgiven them all, saying to each of them, “Go, and sin no more.” After all, He came to this earth to die for all their sins—all our sins.

A Reflection

What about you? Have you knelt at the feet of Jesus and sought His forgiveness for your sins? Have you left them behind, to go and sin no more? We’ll never be perfect as long as we live in these jars of clay, but we can grow, little by little, into the image of Christ—not by our own strength, mind you, but by His grace.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4

This is one of my favorite stories in the Gospel of John because I am that woman. The devil threw me down at the feet of Jesus and said, “This woman deserves death for the things she has done.” But the devil could not cast a stone at me because Jesus already knew about my sin and forgave it all. The Lord Jesus, however, had every right to cast a stone, but He didn’t do it. Instead, He loved me, forgave me, and gave me not only a second chance to do right, but the power and the will to do so.

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13

An Application

How does this account reveal Christ’s deity? We can forgive others because we identify with their guilt. Christ also identified with our guilt, but in a different way. He had no sin of His own, but He took our sin upon Himself when He went to the cross. Easter is coming, the day we celebrate His resurrection from the dead. As we rejoice in His resurrection, let us remember the reason why He died in the first place. It was our sin, yours and mine, that put Christ on the cross. He took our death upon Himself so that He could give us His life. All of us can die, and will. But only Jesus had the power to return to life. Only Jesus has the power to wash away our sins. Only Jesus can cover us with His robe of righteousness. My friend, be covered, learn of Him; then go, and sin no more.

That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.

Philippians 3:10

This week’s reading:

John 9

NOTE: I use the term “week” rather loosely here. Due to my schedule, I’ve come to find out that I cannot write every week. But I’ll write as often as I can, for this message is important. Please comment below with your own thoughts on this subject. I would love to know where you stand in your relationship with Christ, and if what I have written has helped you in any way. Until next time, may God richly bless you!

This week’s memory verse

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 9:5

Photo taken at Princess Beach in Destin, Florida, 2019

One thought on “Jesus in John 8: The Friend of Sinners

  1. Pingback: Jesus in John 8: The Friend of Sinners – Tonya LaLonde

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