Neither Do I Condemn You

Neither Do I Condemn You

A reflection on John 8:2-11.

“Shame on you, Whore!”

She was married, but not to the man in whose arms she had been laying. Suddenly the door had burst open. Oh no! Instantly she was in the grasp of angry men who dragged her — and her forbidden secret — out into the street.

“Adulteress!” The name pierced her like an arrow. Scandalized, loathing looks bored into her. Her life was undone in a moment, by her own doing. 

And it was about to be crushed. They were talking about stoning! O my God, they’re going to stone me! God, please have mercy!

But God’s verdict on her case clear:

If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel (Deuteronomy 22:22).

“Both shall die!” She was going to die! But where was he? Why hadn’t they grabbed him?

No time to think. She was being half pushed, half pulled through Jerusalem. She was despised and rejected; as one from whom men hide their faces.

The temple? Why are we entering the temple? Suddenly she was thrust in front of a young man. A man behind her bawled, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.” O God! O God! she begged silently. “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

The Teacher said nothing. He looked at her, then at her accusers. Then he bent down. She stood in frozen exposure. Why was he writing in the dirt? Men on either side of her were clenching brutal stones. Impatient prosecutors demanded a ruling.

The Teacher stood back up. She held her breath, eyes on her feet. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” he said.

The crowd of judgment hushed to whispers. Confused, she risked a quick glance at him. He was writing in the dirt again. She heard murmurs and disgusted grunts around her. Then shuffling. A stone dropped with a dull thud beside her. Its former holder whispered, “Slut!” as he passed behind her. But they were leaving! No one grabbed her.

It took some courage to look around. Her accusers were gone. She looked back at the Teacher. He was standing, looking at her. She dropped her eyes again.

“Woman,” he said, “where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”

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Forget for the moment the self-righteousness of the accusers and the apparent injustice of the adulterous man’s absence. Did you really hear what Jesus said? This woman’s guilt was real. She committed the crime of adultery. God, through Moses, commanded her death.

But God the Son simply said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Now, if God violates his own commandment and lets the guilty go unpunished then God is unjust. So how could he possibly say that to her?

Here’s where the news gets really good. God fully intended for this sin of adultery to be punished to the full extent of his law. But she would not bear her punishment. She would go free. This young teacher would be punished in her place. Might he have written theses words from Isaiah in the dirt?

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).

Every one of us, in a sense, is that woman. Our horrible sins — our shameful lusts, destructive tongues, murderous hatred, corrupting greed, covetous pride — stand exposed before God as starkly as in that temple courtyard. Our condemnation is deserved.

And yet, Christian, Jesus speaks these stunning words to you: “Neither do I condemn you.” Why? Because he has been condemned in your place. ALL your guilt has been removed. No stone of God’s righteous wrath will crush you because Jesus was crushed for your iniquities.

Jesus was the only one in the crowd that day who could, in perfect righteousness, require the woman’s death. And he was the only one who could, in perfect righteousness, pardon her. Mercy triumphed over judgment for her at great cost to Jesus. And the same is true for us.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

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Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.