There are those who suspect it was all a set up. Those who look at the facts presented and scratch their head and smell something fishy going on. After all, how does someone get “caught in adultery?” Literally the term is ” to laid hold of” or “to seize upon” or “to take possession of.” Wouldn’t a woman who is cheating on her husband ensure she was being discreet? How does the bedroom door get crashed in on unless someone was tipped off?
And hey, if she was caught in the act, then where was the guy? If they got her, what happened to him? If it was about contending for righteousness, then his sin was just as great as hers. Those subscribing to a conspiracy theory would claim entrapment . . . the guy was part of the “sting” operation . . . he copped a deal with the D.A. in order to avoid prosecution (someone’s watched too many detective shows!) After all, the Pharisees were less interested in the woman’s sin than in testing Jesus and finding something of which to accuse Him (John 8:1-6a).
But regardless of whether it was a set up or not, the fact of the matter is, she did it. She was there . . . with a man . . . a man who was not her husband . . . in violation of her marriage covenant . . . in violation of moral law . . . in violation of Mosaic law. She was busted! When all was said and done, sin had crouched at her door and she had permitted its entrance, Guilty as charged . . . without excuse . . . without a plea. And now her “secret sin” had gone public . . . and oh, so public! Brought to the temple . . . set amidst a crowd gathered to hear Jesus teach . . . on her knees before the One who many were starting to believe was Messiah. How embarrassing . . . how shameful . . . how scary, as she heard the religious leaders remind Jesus that the law commanded she be put to death by stoning for her sin. Oh, so busted!
But she was just a pawn in the Pharisee’s game. The real “sting operation” was targeted at Jesus. These hard-hearted, hypocritical “leaders in righteousness” cared nothing about her. She was just the bait to try and trap Jesus. What would He do? What would He say? They had enough exposure to Him and had heard enough of stories about Him to suspect that He wouldn’t take up a stone against this woman. They knew He ate with tax collectors and sinners . . . they knew He claimed the authority of God Himself as He who could forgive sins . . . they were sure that He would respond in such a way that they could level their accusations against Him . . . that they could accuse Him of not following the law . . . and therefore was a transgressor . . . and couldn’t be engaged in God’s work. Jesus was set up.
His response is masterful . . . what else would you expect from the Master? There’s been much speculation as to what He wrote with His finger on the ground while the Pharisees stood about Him and the woman waited for His response. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t know. What we do know is that when they pressed Jesus for an answer, He stood and addressed them. The Living Word of God spoke the living word of God, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (8:7). And the word was living . . . “and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
That was it. He stopped speaking . . . stooped to the ground again . . . resumed writing in the ground with His finger. And the convicting power of the Spirit of God took over. . . revealing to each their own “secret sin” . . . and now they were busted! One by one they knew they were trapped. He had searched them and known them and revealed to them their wicked way (Ps. 139:23-24). They too had been caught in the act. And so they left . . . one by one . . . from the oldest to the last . . . leaving Jesus alone with the woman in the midst of the crowd (8:9).
And then, one on one, Jesus and the woman had that wonderful conversation, “Woman, has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord.” “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (8:10-11).
The Pharisees were pretty sure that Jesus would not condemn the woman . . . and they were so right! The woman was busted . . . the Pharisees were busted . . . and, praise God, Jesus was busted too!
The Christ would soon pay the price for her sin . . . so that forgiveness might be possible . . . so that grace might prevail . . . so that a woman caught in the act might know the power to go and sin no more.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17 ESV)
O’, what a Savior!