Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
Most of us — Christian or otherwise — know this story, especially that last line. And many people treat that line as if it was the last line.
I have found that people often level this line at Christians, along with “judge not lest ye be judged.” And as Christians, we seem to backpedal saying things like “Well, I guess they’re right. I have sinned before” and “Yeah, who am I to judge?”
Take a Few Steps Forward Next Time
We all need to be judged by our words, our actions, and our character. If we weren’t judged by what we said, did or who we were, then it would be constant chaos in the streets, and all that chaos would be accepted, and life would be more than miserable. It would be downright unlivable.
If you think about it, who in their right mind thinks they shouldn’t be judged? It really doesn’t make sense. When people say, “Only God can judge me.” Then what are all those courts for?
Better yet, you better pray that someone judges your words/actions/character and tells you about it. I would hate to know that I was never told that I was straying down a wicked path headed for destruction all because people thought that only God was allowed to judge me.
Do you really want to wait to stand before God before someone tells you that you are wrong? And who do you think that someone would be? That someone would be God. It would be the final stop. Jesus said to not fear those who can kill the body, but not the soul; but to fear the One who can “destroy both body and soul in Hell.” So I would prefer to get corrected on earth, and then head to God having already jumped back on the right path, instead of trying to make alterations at your final judgment.
So What Does Jesus Mean About "Judge"?
Jesus is telling us that we are not to stand in God’s place. We don’t get to condemn people. We don’t have the wisdom or authority to cast people into Hell — even verbally. But we can help pull people off the path of destruction by talking to them about where they are headed. Keep in mind that these types of discussions are often more readily accepted if the person knows you, trusts you, and understands that you’re coming from a place of good intentions, and not a place of judgment (the condemnation kind).
But Back to the Potential Stoning
The people surrounding this woman had already condemned her and had the stones in hand. So why did Jesus not let them, especially since the law said that type of person should be stoned?
It wasn’t that He didn’t let them. He simply made a caveat for her (something we call mercy), and a caveat for them (something we call reflection). Jesus knew the hearts of everyone of those people in that given situation — from the woman before Him to the men standing around her. And He knew why the nation of Israel was in the mess it was in with the Romans. Since “He was with God in the beginning”, He had been watching for quite a while.
He knew it was sin that had brought the nation of Israel to this place. And interestingly enough, the nation was guilty of adultery against God. The sin that the prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others) had warned them about.
The irony must have been almost unbearable when they brought this woman before Him, demanding that she be destroyed. Israel had been caught in adultery for so very long, yet God had preserved them.
Jesus preserved this woman, much like God had preserved the nation of Israel, despite their adultery. Preservation, however, doesn’t equate vindication. This is why when the scribes and Pharisees surrounding her dropped their stones and walked away, Jesus didn’t look at her and say, “Disaster averted!” No. Let’s look at what He did say.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Condemnation isn’t conducted on earth. That’s for God to decide in the Great Beyond.
Judgment, however, is not the same. Jesus did levy a judgment. He told her to “go and sin no more.” In other words, “it is time to take a different path.” But not just any path. Jesus immediately iterated that in the next verse.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
People often don’t want to hear about turning away from what they’re saying, what they’re doing, or especially who they have become. And people may rather choose their own path than the one laid out before them by Jesus.
If you are one of those people, I’m not sure what else I can say. But if you are so inclined to use the scriptures and the words of Jesus as your defense, then you must also use them as your judge. “Go and sin no more.”