It’s so wonderful when words, phrases, or stories from the Bible become well-known life lessons shared for countless generations. Words such as “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” from John 8:7 offer invaluable wisdom for all ages. While I was studying the text (John 8:7), I came across the interpretation below and I want to share it with you. (https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-jesus-meant-when-he-said-let-he-who-is-without-sin-cast-the-first-stone.html)
‘Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone’
When Jesus admonishes the Pharisees with this instruction, he is clearly indicating that God sees our sin. Jesus knew their sinful motive was to discredit his authority, not to bring any kind of justice. And yes, the law did state that adultery was a sin punishable by death of the man and the woman. The fact that the man was not also brought to trial along with the woman exposes their sinful hearts. And because they cannot say they are eyewitnesses as the law required, Jesus is not violating the law in letting her go without condemnation. In other words, only Jesus had not committed the sins of lying about the incident, conspiring to discredit God, or calling for execution without a fair number of eyewitnesses (or both the accused). Only the sinless can judge rightly in this instance, and that is exactly what Jesus does.
What Events Led to Jesus Saying “Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone”?
Before we land on Jesus’ famous words about being the first to throw a stone in John 8:7, Jesus has been making rounds in Galilee and his brothers are urging him to leave Galilee and go to Judea “so that your disciples there may see the works you do,” and in fact to “show yourself to the world” (John 7:3). But because even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him, Jesus opts to hang back, telling his brothers to go ahead to the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles because his time had not fully come. After the brothers head into Judea, Jesus follows in secret. He knows the crowds in Judea are whispering about him, and worse, many want to kill him. When Jesus arrives on the scene and begins to teach, asking why people want to kill him, someone hurls a proverbial stone, responding “you are demon-possessed” (John 7:20). To which Jesus, at the close of his explanation, asks them, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
Jesus consistently clarifies that he speaks on the authority of God. The Pharisees get increasingly angry. They hate that “this mob that knows nothing of the law” (John 7:49) is believing Jesus to be the living water he is offering. So the next morning, when Jesus appeared in the temple courts, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees took the opportunity to make a scene. With the “mob” gathered, they bring a woman before Jesus who they claim has been caught in adultery. Never mind that adultery takes two, these were keepers of the Old Testament Law…and they felt justified in laying it down however they sought fit. In an attempt to trap Jesus, they remind him “in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.” But Jesus, having come to fulfill the Law with a new everlasting covenant, gently bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. He is not swayed.
As they badger him, he rises with his instruction: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And he wrote on the ground again. Let’s notice that Jesus was not requiring that anyone be without sin. In fact, the Pharisees are frequently called out by Jesus as hypocrites (Matthew 23:27), murderers (Matthew 23:34-35), unrepentant (Luke 19:10-12), blind guides, and more. Some believe Jesus wrote the sins of the Pharisees on the ground. Others believe he wrote some or all of the Ten Commandments. However, there’s another theory I find interesting. You see, this encounter with the Pharisees is atypically civil. The Pharisees were not in the habit of walking away quietly from Jesus like this. In past rebukes, they remained vehemently undeterred and aggressive, but in this instance, they drop their stones at what Jesus writes.
That’s why one theory suggests that Jesus knows they are bearing false witness, as they never brought the adulterer along with the adulteress. And in Deuteronomy 19:16-21, the Law says to “do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party.” It’s possible Jesus was showing the Pharisees in silence that they deserved to be executed. According to this theory, if Christ had spoken this aloud, the group would have surrounded them. And as the law in Deuteronomy required, they would have shown no mercy. Also, according to Deuteronomy 17:6, two or three eyewitnesses are required to put someone to death. By writing this on the ground, Jesus’ great mercy saves the Pharisees (and the woman) from public execution. Because there were not two or three eyewitnesses, Jesus calms the frightened woman with, “Then neither do I condemn you.” He lovingly bids her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Roundup: Only those who are faultless have the right to pass judgment upon others (implying that no one is faultless and that, therefore, no one has such a right to pass judgment).
Do not judge, or you too will be judged, for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? – Matthew 7:1-3
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