They were now alone. Jesus and her, standing in the center of the court (John 8:9, AMP). We are told nothing about her disposition, whether she was trembling, afraid, or terrified. She would have known the law. If she was guilty as charged she knew death by stoning was her punishment. We are told nothing about whether she knew who Jesus was. What we do know is that for a moment no words were exchanged between them. Then, John tells us, “when Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?’ She said, ‘No man, Lord'” (vv. 10-11a).
It is worth remembering that this woman was on trial for her life. Her guilt was established by the religious leaders and all that was left was for the punishment to be carried out. But the case against her crumbled when Jesus provoked the prosecutors to self-examination and having come face-to-face with their hypocrisy, they all walked away. Interestingly, Jesus asked her two questions and she responded only to the second. She did not know where her accusers were; all she knew was that in that moment, there was no one to condemn her. But there was still one problem. While none of her prosecutors were without sin, He who was standing in front of her was! He was qualified to throw the first stone and here they stood together. What would He do? In that moment, Jesus spoke words that must have sounded like music to her ears: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (v. 11b).
When Jesus spoke those words, the condemned prisoner was set free. Not free to go back to the same lifestyle as Jesus made it clear to her that she shouldn’t. As Matthew Henry observes, “Christ will not condemn those who, though they have sinned, will go and sin no more, Ps. 85:8; Isa. 55:7. He will not take the advantage He has against us for our former rebellions, if we will but lay down our arms and return to our allegiance.” In that moment, the woman received what she did not deserve – a measure of God’s grace, His unmerited favour, His forgiveness. The religious crowd, still caught up in their self-righteousness, missed the opportunity to have received the same.
Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, observes, “Until we see how bad we are we will never see how good God is. Grace will become nothing more than white noise to us unless we recognize just how desperately we need it.” Read the statement again. We can only recognize that need when we look inward and acknowledge that the only difference between us and the persons we seek to condemn is that we may sin differently than they do. At the foot of the cross we are all flawed and constantly in need of grace. When we receive it, given to us freely and unconditionally, we should graciously, unconditionally, and freely extend the same grace to others. In doing so we become like Jesus. Isn’t that your ultimate goal?