Some of us know her story. Caught in the act of adultery, she was brought before Jesus by “the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” (John 8:3, NLT) who, intent on trapping Him “into saying something they could use against Him” (v. 6), asked for His opinion as to what they should do with her. With self-righteousness oozing from their personalities, they posed the question: “‘Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?’” (vv. 4-5, KJV). As Matthew Henry points out, “Here they call Him Master whom but the day before they had called a deceiver, in hopes with their flatteries to have ensnared Him.” Clearly, based on the teachings of Jesus up to that point, they expected Him to say something contrary to the law at which time they could make their case against Him.
They did not ask the question and waited patiently for an answer. As Jesus ignored them, having stooped down to write in the dust with His finger, John tells us “they kept demanding an answer” (v. 7a, NLT) at which point Jesus “lifted up Himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground'” (vv. 7b-8, KJV). The reaction of the religious folks must have been a sight to behold. According to narrative, “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (v. 9).
With His singular statement, Jesus shifted the focus of these men from the woman to themselves. So full of their own self-righteousness, they had no problem pointing out her sin and stood ready to impose the legal sentence. Matthew Henry observes, “The Pharisees, by their vigorous prosecution of this offender, seemed to have a great zeal against the sin, when it appeared afterwards that they themselves were not free from it; nay, they were within full of all uncleanness, Matt. 23:27, 28. Note, It is common for those that are indulgent to their own sin to be severe against the sins of others.”
Read that last sentence again. Slowly. For some of us, pointing out the sins of others is something we are good at while being totally blind to our own. We see the faults and failure of others, yet stand haughtily silent in acknowledging our own. However, as an anonymous writer reminds us, “there is so much good in the worst of us / and so much bad in the best of us / that it hardly behooves any of us / to find fault with the rest of us.” Before we make an issue of the speck in the eye of another, how about we first try removing the plank in ours? (see Matthew 7:1-5). It is no wonder as Jesus spoke to them that day, the religious but hypocritical zealots were “convicted by their own conscience[s].”
Jesus’ statement resonates through the ages to us today: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” If you were standing in the crowd that day, what would you have done with your stone?