Thud! Thud! Thud! The sound of stones dropping on the ground as the self-righteous accusers, convicted by their own consciences, went out one by one from the presence of Jesus and the accused woman. That they were convicted is not to be overlooked. After all, they were right in their black-and-white thinking that the adulteress should be dealt with according to the Mosaic law. There was no middle ground in the law. She was either innocent or guilty and in this instance she was allegedly caught in the act (John 8:3). However, what the religious crowd failed to realize was that Jesus was not about religion; His passion was people. He mission was not to bring condemnation to those who broke the laws and the commandments (John 3:16-17), but rather to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
As the religious crowd demanded an answer from Jesus, what they overlooked was their own sinful state. It is easy to become blind to our own faults and failures when we are busy looking for and pointing out the faults and failures in others. Truth be told, being able to point out the sins of others makes some of us feel good about ourselves. At least we are not as bad as they are; we feel we are better than they are. However, we fail to remember what Paul stated to be true – that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All sins – so called big and little ones – belonged into the same bucket. And just in case we had not given it much thought, that “all have sinned” include you and me. It included the religious folks as much as it included the accused woman.
It is no wonder then that when Jesus affirmed their right under the law to stone her, that He included one condition. Let the person, religious leaders included, who was free of sin, faults, and failures throw the first stone. In that instant, their own lives flashed before their eyes. Maybe it played out like a movie in slow motion. Whichever way, something happened. As Matthew Henry observes, “They came with design to accuse Him, but they were forced to accuse themselves. Christ owns it was fit the prisoner should be prosecuted, but appeals to their consciences whether they were fit to be the prosecutors.” Having been forced to look inward, none among them met the condition. They were convicted by their own consciences.
Henry follows up with two very important lessons we should learn and keep in mind: “1) Whenever we find fault with others, we ought to reflect upon ourselves, and to be more severe against sin in ourselves than in others. 2) We ought to be favourable, though not to the sins, yet to the persons, of those that offend, and to restore them with a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves and our own corrupt nature.”
How do you deal with people? Are you overlooking or excusing your own faults and failures while being quick to point out and condemn the faults and failures of others?