“And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’”John 8:11b
I have often read John 8 about the woman caught in adultery and considered all the unanswered questions. Where was the man with whom the woman was caught? What did Jesus write on the ground? Was it something that condemned the woman’s accusers?
But upon further investigation, I have realized that the very reason I look for these answers is so I can do what her accusers wanted to do—condemn. In holding this narrow focus, you and I miss the real reason for this passage. While the Scribes and Pharisees wanted to condemn, Jesus wanted to catch and release. His great love removed all condemnation not, only for this woman, but for every one of us.
I cannot even imagine the experience for this woman on that day. She had to have been consumed with dread and guilt, accused on a very large stage during a very large religious festival, mortified, and rightfully fearful that her life might end on that day. To have been brought before Jesus as He was teaching in the synagogue this way was beyond humiliating, and her expectation of His judgment on her actions was based on her knowledge of Jewish religious practices, which was death by stoning.
But Jesus! Jesus knew her accusers couldn’t care less about the sin or the fate of the adulterous woman. He knew they sought condemnation for Him. As they tried to trap Jesus between Jewish and Roman law, in John 8:7 we see Jesus use the Old Testament law of stoning and their own sin against them when He challenged: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” What a lesson they were taught in judging sin!
Jesus’ love is such an awesome gift. When Jesus steps in, the condemnation is on Him. His love for us brings mercy and grace and another chance to make our lives count for Him. What a sweet release!
It is no accident that John 8 ends in the same way it began—with a threat of stoning—and this time Jesus was still the target. The accusers were the same as before and their hearts and minds were still after the condemnation of the Son of God. They had not received Jesus’ lesson on catch and release. Jesus says in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” May we read this story and be grateful for Jesus’ great sacrificial love and His gift of “catch and release.” He caught us in our sin and releases us with His grace.