Guilty! Guilty! I remember vividly these words spoken by the famous evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. I was in the University when he visited the City of Calabar, Cross River State in Nigeria. It was an open-air crusade with thousands of people scattered across the large field. The message that night was centered on the story of the woman caught in adultery, one of the unnamed women in the bible.
With that accent he was known for, he described that ‘guilty’ was probably the word Jesus scribbled on the ground. ‘Every one of this woman’s accusers was guilty’, he said, yet they were very quick to sentence her to death.
John 8:1-11: The Woman Caught in Adultery
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.” – John 8: 3-4
The book of John chapter 8 introduces us to one of the unnamed women in the bible. I personally see her as the most distinct of all the unnamed women. She is one woman who walked into a destiny-altering moment without an original plan.
The bible does not give us a clue about who she is, what she does or what family she came from. She is however introduced to us in a way and manner no one ever wants to be known. John 8:4 declares that this woman was caught in the act of adultery. That place where she sought comfort, satisfaction and pleasure secretly had been exposed for all to see.
She was then set in the midst of her accusers and words were thrown at her. Lost in her shame, while battling her inner demons and no words to speak. Was this the end? she may have asked within. The law had a consequence for her sin. Stones would be hurled at her and this life of hers will end abruptly.
Her fate was sealed. Judgement day was here, and forgiveness was nowhere near. Who would show her mercy? Surely, her end was here. She spoke no word. She was silent from her shame, pain and misery. Who would hear her out? What could she say that will change anything? And she remained silent.
Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery
As I write this, I think of those times I have been judgmental of others. I think about how often as Christians we slip into an attitude of self-righteousness towards the sin, misgivings and weaknesses of others. The Pharisees brought this woman before Jesus to trap him. But Jesus knew what was in their heart and refused to step into their legalistic trap. His mission was sure – to seek and save the lost and this woman was one of those in dire need of salvation.
“Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.” – John 8:6-8
It is amazing how sometimes your failures, mistakes, flaws, weaknesses and frustrations can push you into your destiny in God. Who would have thought that the actions of the Pharisees and scribes was about to bring this woman face to face with Jesus the son of God.
Her accusers pressed hard to know his thoughts. These scribes were eagerly awaiting Jesus to pronounce this woman’s judgment and seal her faith. But not the son of God. And when Jesus opened his mouth to speak, his words caught them unawares.
“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:8
Jesus points them back to their hearts and consciences. He takes them into a moment of self-reflection and wants them to consider their own lives. He simply said, “if your own life is free of sin, throw the first stone at this woman.” The bible says that when they heard this, they went away one by one and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
A quick self-check showed these men that they were as guilty as the accused and deserved the same punishment. And this part of the story helps you to remember this in those times you find yourself reacting judgmentally to someone else’s sin. You have no right to throw stones. We have a savior who did not come to condemn the sinner, but to extend grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37
Her Conversation with Jesus
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” – John 8:10-11
I love to imagine what may have been going on in this woman’s head in that moment. In a quick passage of time, she experienced God’s steadfast love, mercy and forgiveness all at once. And for the very first time, we hear her speak. She found courage to speak back to the stranger before her.
Jesus asks her – where are those that want to kill you? Where are those that have condemned you and said your life was over? Where are those that have used and abused you? Has anyone condemned you? And she says – No one Lord.
“And Jesus said unto her. Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”- John 8:11b
Have you wondered why she addressed this stranger as Lord? I believe she experienced his Lordship in that moment as mercy prevailed over judgement. Her sin had led her to the very door of death, but a chance encounter with Jesus took away her shame and guilt. And she was given another opportunity to rewrite her story.
Jesus offered her the gift of forgiveness and gave her a charge. He said to this woman who was caught in adultery – ‘neither do I condemn you.’ But here is one thing I want you to do – go and sin no more.
“I am not condemning you either, go and be who you are truly meant to be because you are more than this.” – (Paraphrase)
Are you trapped in a web of shame and guilt? Have your mistakes and weaknesses left you in a place of self-condemnation?
Do you feel like stones are being hurled at you because of your shameful past? Are you like this woman who had been sentenced to death? Jesus is here to show you mercy and give you a new life.
3 Great Lessons From the Woman Caught in Adultery
1. God Loves You
It is good to note that in all the chaos and drama surrounding this woman’s story, Jesus never addressed her by her actions. He simply called her woman. She was a woman who was ignorant of her place and identity in God. There was more about her life than finding comfort in unholy places. She only needed to experience God’s love and mercy to bring about change in her life.
God hates sin and not the sinner. This woman who was condemned and sentenced to death went on to experience God’s love, mercy and saving grace. No matter how deep you are sunk in sin, God loves you and is calling you back to him today. He wants to give you a new story filled with hope, possibilities and peace.
“But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
“However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!” – Ephesians 2: 4-5
2. God Wants to Restore Your Dignity
“It is not the condition of a thing that matters but the conclusion you have made about that thing.” – Pastor Sola Olubode
Jesus wanted this woman to see her real worth in God’s eyes. And so, he told her, look no one is condemning you. And neither do I condemn you. Go in this newness of life that you have been given and sin no more. (Paraphrase)
Even though this woman had found mercy, she probably still wondered how she was ever going to live through the shame and humiliation. Jesus had stripped her accusers of the power to condemn her to death. But he wanted her to see herself through God’s eyes. And that was all that really mattered.
If God calls you worthy, then you are worthy before him. However, the question is this – Can you see and embrace who God has called you to be? Remember this, you are not what or who you used to be. Jesus is saying to you today, I do not condemn you but go and embrace this new life I have given you.
3. God Has a Purpose for Your Life
“And Jesus said unto her. Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” – John 8:11b
The word ‘Go’ is an active word. With these seemingly simple words, Jesus set this woman free and opened her eyes to see her real worth before God.
Go and be who you are truly meant to be. Go and let go of a life of sin. Go, for I the Lord has empowered you to live purposefully. Go in this strength and wisdom. Go and fulfill your true purpose. Go and do not live less than your identity in God. Go and be a blessing. Go and be a solution. Go and fulfill your God given destiny.
No situation or human case is hopeless before God. He turns messes into masterpieces. He uses the foolish, weak and battered to confound the wise. God will give you beauty for the ashes of pain, trauma and abuse in your life. May you find the courage to walk free and embrace this new life.
Dear Lord, I pray for anyone reading this today trapped in a circle of guilt and shame. Set them free from every lie and deception the enemy has used to hold them captive to sin. May they encounter the person of Jesus, his loving grace and mercy. And even if they feel like all hope is lost and that they are at the door of death, Lord may your mercy prevail over judgement today. Father, lead them into a new life today. Amen!