In the person of Jesus, God was present among us in human form, face to face with sinners. One of the best known of these sinners was the poor woman taken in adultery. But she wasn’t the only sinner in that story. There were also the pious, but heartless accusers who brought her to Christ in an attempt to trap Him into contradicting the Old Testament (John 8:5-6). This was not the first time they had sought to entrap Him like this. But each time they had done it before, He had met them with His customary skill and grace and the whole occasion had turned against them. This time, to be sure that they could convince the crowds in the temple (8:2), they made sure they had convincing evidence. So when they brought the woman to Jesus they said they had caught her “in the very act” (John 8:4, NRSV).
It is immediately apparent from the story what kind of people these were. According to the Old Testament rules, they should have brought the man as well (Lev 20:10). There is no way they could claim they hadn’t observed the man involved, because they had said “We caught her in the very act,” which would be difficult to do without observing her partner as well. So their dishonesty was immediately apparent. After they put this poor woman in front of a large crowd in the temple (8:2), they said to Jesus, “You know the texts in the Old Testament. You know what the Bible says should be done to this woman. Do you agree? Should she be stoned, or not?” John 8:5. And the whole crowd watched to see what Jesus would say.
Jesus chose to say nothing. Instead He bent over and wrote with His finger in the dust on the ground. A few footprints, a few puffs of air, and the record would be gone. It doesn’t say in the Bible that He wrote their sins, but judging by their reaction, that is what He must have written upon the ground (based on 8:6-7). As they looked over His shoulder and saw their lives delineated in the dust, they left one by one from the oldest to the youngest. Before they left, though, Jesus turned to them as He was writing these things down and said, “I suggest that the one of you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her” (8:7). Then He bent down and went on writing. When they were all gone (8:8-9), He turned to the woman who was left there and said, “Where are your accusers?” She looked up and said, “I don’t know. They are gone.” Then He spoke those incredible words to a woman that had committed a really reprehensible act. He said, “I don’t condemn you either. Just go home and be a better woman from now on” (based on 8:10-11).
How graciously and generously Jesus, the Son of God, sought to recover the woman’s dignity and self-respect. We marvel at His treatment of her. But what about His treatment of those pious, heartless accusers? He evidently knew the facts of their lives by what He wrote in the dust. Why didn’t He gather the crowd a little closer and say, “Let Me tell you something about these pretentiously pious frauds. Do you know what this one has done, and that one?” Didn’t they deserve to be exposed? What does it say about God that He didn’t expose those self-righteous accusers? Is it that God finds no pleasure in embarrassing His children? In the first chapter of this book we noted that all His professing children, good and bad, are members of God’s family. God did not publicly humiliate those men, even though they would have deserved it.