(Vs. 1) The closing verse of the preceding chapter said, "Every man went unto his own house;" but our Lord went unto the Mount of Olives, a mountain less than two miles from Jerusalem. He often went there for privacy and prayer, but "the son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Luke 9:58).
(Vs. 2) Early the next morning our Lord returned to the temple, where a large crowd of people had gathered to hear Him. After the manner of the Jewish teachers, "He sat down and taught them."
(Vs. 3) These Pharisees the day before had failed in their efforts to arrest Christ and put Him to silence; now they sought a new method to discredit Him in the eyes of the people. Having failed to take Him by force, they now tried to trap Him with subtlety and craftiness. They brought to Him a woman who they said was taken in the act of adultery and set her before Him and the assembled people.
(Vs. 4) They called Him "Master" in a respectful way to cover their evil designs. "This woman was taken in adultery, in the very act." They evidently had the necessary witnesses in order to charge her legally.
(Vs. 5) The law commanded that both the man and the woman found in adultery should be put to death (Lev. 20:10: Deut. 22:22).
(Vs. 6) "What sayest Thou?" They sought to trap the Lord Jesus in a dilemma. They figured that if He said, "Let her go," they could accuse Him of ignoring the law or being an enemy of the law. But if He answered, "Stone her," He would lose the support of the people and reveal that He was not really THE FRIEND OF SINNERS. What foolishness to defy infinite wisdom! But no doubt they felt that they had Him cornered. Our Lord acted as though He did not even hear them, stooped down, and began to write on the ground with his finger. It is significant to note that the law given to Moses on two tables of stone was written with the "finger of God" (Exo. 31:18). What He wrote we are not told. Some say that He possibly wrote some names, dates, or events known to these Pharisees; for they left quite meekly from the eldest in order to the youngest.
(Vs. 7-8) So when they continued to ask Him, "What sayest thou?" lie arose and said, "He that is without sin among YOU, let him first cast a stone at her." Our Lord did not justify the woman in her sin, nor did He deny the justice of the law in condemning her; He only reminds them that they also stood condemned before the holy law and should likewise be stoned (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 6:1). By these words, calling for mercy and compassion upon the guilty from accusers equally guilty, He put these men on the spot before that large crowd. How could they cast a stone now and retain their image and leadership with these people? By doing so they would only make Jesus of Nazareth more popular. He stooped again and wrote on the ground.
(Vs. 9) This was a day and age of great corruption, not only in doctrine and worship, but as to men's lives and manners. It is very probable that these men were guilty of the same sin; and being convicted by their own consciences (and probably by what Christ wrote), they all departed, leaving the woman standing there with Christ. Whatever this woman was, they were not fit nor qualified to judge her (Matt. 7:1-5); and they knew it.
(Vs. 10) When our Lord stood and saw none but the woman, He said, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?" The law required at least two witnesses before its sentence could be executed (Deut. 19:15), and the hands of the witnesses must assist in carrying out the sentence (Deut. 17:6-7). But in this case not a single witness was left.
(Vs. 11) She replied, "No man, Lord." And He said, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more." He never said that she was NOT GUILTY; for she was, as are all the sons of Adam. But He said that He did NOT CONDEMN HER. He did not come to destroy the law, but on behalf of believers to fulfill it. He did not come to condemn us, for we were condemned already. He came to save us and deliver us from the curse of the law (John 3:17; Matt. 5:17: Gal. 3:10-14). He then exhorts her to a life of holiness and obedience by telling her to "go and sin no more." Our Lord did NOT say, "Go and sin no more, and I will not condemn thee;" for that would not be good news (there is none that doeth good and sinneth not). But He forgave her and placed her, as we are placed, under the constraint of HIS LOVE (II Cor. 5:14). The Lord was not assigning her an impossible task (that of living absolutely without sin), but rather He is speaking of a bent of the will, a tenor of life, which is "holiness unto the Lord." True believers do not love sin nor do they practice sin as a way of life. They love Christ and long to adorn His gospel and glorify Him.