One of the most interesting stories in the Bible is found in John 7:53-8:11, “The Woman Caught in the Act of Adultery.” [1] The story is filled with simplicity, yet profoundness and mystery. It is a story that is a contrast between the harshness of hypocrisy of the enemies of Christ and the overflowing grace of our Lord. The story vividly pictures for us the heart of Jesus, and reveals to us the marvelous truth that there are no rocks in the Jesus’ hands. That is Good News to all who recognize their sin and seek forgiveness.

As the story dramatically unfolds, one day Jesus was teaching when the Pharisees suddenly interrupted Him and brought before Him a woman they had caught in the very act of adultery (John 8:3-4). The hypocritical Pharisees were not interested in the woman, but their intent was to trap Jesus. They demanded, “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5). It appeared that Jesus was trapped by His enemies. If Jesus said, “Stone her,” He would be going against His own teaching of mercy, grace and love and helping those broken by sin. As well, if Jesus sought to carry out the sentence of stoning, He would be usurping the Roman’s authority which alone had the right to carry out capital punishment. If Jesus said, “I extend grace and mercy to her,” He would be going against the law of Moses which prescribed stoning for such an offense. It seemed how ever Jesus answered, it was going to be the wrong answer. What will the Master Teacher do?

Before Jesus spoke, He “stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground as though he heard them not” (John 8:6). This the eternal Word did twice. What did Jesus write? There has been no shortage of suggestions as to what He wrote; however, there is one this writer believes is  the most plausible explanation. The Pharisees came to Jesus to act as a judge and pronounce what was to be done with such a sinful woman. What Jesus possibly wrote can be explained by the practice in Roman criminal law. [2] The presiding judge would first write down the sentence, read it aloud, and then publish it for all to see. Following this explanation, Jesus, as the presiding judge and following Roman law, wrote down for all to see the prescribed punishment for adultery under the Mosaic Law, but upon “lifting up Himself, said unto them, “He that is without sin among you. Let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). As the punishment was written down, on the ground in this case, for all to read, as Roman law prescribed, Jesus as Judge said, “The one who is without sin can cast the first stone and carry out the punishment.” The response of Jesus to the accusers was one of divine genius, for the Savior upheld the Mosaic Law in regard to punishment for the adulteress, but at the same time His answer to the accusers rendered impossible carrying out of the sentence.

The actions and words of Jesus penetrated the hearts of the Pharisees, and recognizing their own sin, John writes, “And being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last” (John 8:9). There could be heard…thud…thud…thud as one after another dropped their rock, and with heads held down, walked away. As the crowd dispersed, Jesus was left alone with her (John 8:9). Interestingly, the only One who was qualified to hold a rock in His hand, had none. Instead, found in His hands was grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy.

The woman, no doubt filled with shame and trembling in fear at what had transpired, was left in the presence of holy-love. Left in the presence of the One who was without sin and could carry out the sentence, He forgave her and extended to her grace in exchange for her sin. Asking the woman where her accusers were and who it was that now condemned her, “She said, No man, Lord” (John 8:11). Jesus sent her away forgiven and with a promise and a command, “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Many truths flow from this dramatic story, but two stand out: (1) There are no Rocks in Jesus’ Hands and (2) There is Redemption in Jesus’ Words.

First, there are no rocks in Jesus’ hands. Jesus was without sin. He was the only one entitled to have a rock in His hand and cast it, but instead found in Hands was grace, mercy and forgiveness. We all deserve rocks of judgment hurled at us for our sin, but Jesus took those “rocks” for us. Found in those holy hands are nail prints, which should have been ours. The judgment we deserve, He on the cross took our judgment that we might  know His amazing forgiveness and grace. Let us be thankful there are no rocks in Jesus’ hands, but only grace.

Second, there is redemption in Jesus’ words. In verses ten and eleven Jesus says, “Woman, where are those thine accusers?… Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t just not stone her, He redeemed and restored her. Jesus addressed this fallen and broken creature as, “Woman” (v. 10). The Greek word translated “woman” (gune) was used in classical Greek literature to address queens and women of distinction. Queen Cleopatra was so addressed by Caesar Augustus. Think of it, Jesus was addressing this fallen woman as Caesar Augustus addressed Queen Cleopatra!! Wow! Jesus saw this woman not for what she was but for what she could be. You see, when Jesus extends grace to us, He redeems us, He restores us and sends us forth changed individuals. He says, “I don’t condemn thee, go and sin no more. You are no longer what you used to be, but you are a new creation in Christ.” What liberating words!!

Encountering One who extends such love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, who looks beyond our faults and sees our need, who sees us not for what we are, but for what we can be…. how can one not but serve such an amazing Savior!!! If you know not Christ, bring your sin unto to Him today. You will find there are no rocks in Jesus’ hands, but words of redemption and restoration.

O, what a Savior!

Dr. Dan


[1] There are some scholars who contend that John 7:53-8:11 (called the Pericope de Adultera), while an authentic incident in the life of Christ, was not originally part of John’s Gospel, but was a later scribal insertion. It is not this writer’s intention to address the issue here, but will simply remark that after over forty years of studying reasons given for the exclusion of this passage from John, contend that the story is not only a genuine story out of the life of Jesus but belongs in John’s Gospel right where it is. This writer arrived at this position as result of examining: (1) Early Church Fathers,(2) Early Manuscripts, (3) Early Versions, (4) Early Church Councils, (5) Style and Theology, (6) Test of Canonicity, (7) Intrinsic Power, and (8) Providential Preservation.

[2] Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1963), 228.


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