The story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is packed full of lessons. It’s a story that moves the heart to anger at first but when Jesus steps in, you are moved to tears of relief and joy. This is a story of the power of God’s grace.
Bible verses for Jesus and the woman caught in adultery
This story is recorded in John 7:51-8:11.
There are notes in some study Bibles that the story of the woman caught in adultery is not in early manuscripts.
Here’s what I think. If God has allowed this story to stay among the pages of Scripture, there is something for us to gain from it.
Let’s not get caught up in the debate. Instead, let’s use the story to build our faith in God.
The woman caught in adultery summary
It was around the time of the feast of the tabernacles. Jesus went to the temple to teach because he knew large crowds would be present due to the feast.
The Scribes and Pharisees were naturally drawn to Him, not because they believed him to be God but because they wanted to find any and every opportunity to trap him so they could have a good reason to kill him.
Jesus had been engaged in verbal battle with some Scribes and Pharisees at the temple. In usual Jesus style, he stumped them with his reasoning.
Since the end of the day had come and since they were all in confusion, everyone left the temple.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to sleep. Early the following morning, he went back to the temple.
While he was teaching, the Scribes and the Pharisees dragged a half-dressed woman and threw her down in front of him.
They said she had been caught in the very act of having sex with someone who was not her husband.
Then they said to Jesus, “Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Jesus said nothing. Instead, he got up and started writing in the dust.
As they continued to ply him with questions, he continued to write in the dust. Eventually Jesus got up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Then he returned to writing in the dust.
One by one, those who accused her walked away. Jesus then addressed the woman who no doubt had been on the ground, half-dressed and in mess, shuddering for fear of the fate that was about to fall on her.
Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10)
She looked up and saw that there was nobody standing around with stones.
The rest of the exchange went like this:
No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11
Lessons from the woman caught in adultery
The story of the adulterous woman has many lessons for us to learn.
Let’s get into them.
Lesson #1 – Be careful of people who do not value and protect your worth
For people to treat you badly, they have to see you as less than human first. They have to first tell themselves that you are nothing. That you’re nobody.
This woman was nothing to them. Just a thing to be used. Just a piece on a chess board game. Just a pawn in the game to trap Jesus.
I’m sure somebody knew her name but when they brought her to Jesus they called her “This woman”. They didn’t use her name.
They completely forgot that she was a human being with feelings. A person with hopes and dreams. An individual who belonged to someone.
What kind of crowd was this that she found herself in?
These were people who would use her for sex and then drag her disgracefully in front of a crowd to be stoned to death.
Be careful of people who do not value you. People who think you exist to fulfill their needs or to make them feel good about themselves.
Watch out for people who use you but never have anything to give back to you. Look out for those who will throw you under the bus instead of standing with you when the rubber hits the road.
Instead, align yourself with people who help you make good decisions. People, who will let you know when you are going in the wrong direction and guide you towards the light.
Get into community with people who will know your worth in Christ and honor that.
Lesson # 2 – Religion and spirituality without love does not honor God
These men knew all the laws and could repeat them word for word. They observed all the laws perfectly. They practiced all the rites and rituals with excellence. They were intensely religious.
But they did not have the love of God in their hearts.
This story is a very good example of legalism in action.
They focused so much on the religious laws that they ignored the God who had instituted the laws in the first place.
These men were calculating and cruel. Their charade tells us they had absolutely no love in their hearts for other people.
1 Corinthians 13 is called the love chapter in the Bible. In it, Paul talks about the fact that we could demonstrate all the signs of a solid religious or spiritual person but if there is no love, then it’s all a pointless exercise.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV)
Why do you do all you do?
Is it to feel good about following the instructions in the Bible so you can say you are obedient?
Is it to feel good about yourself?
Is it to show off your relationship with God?
Or, is it because you really love God and people?
Lesson # 3 – Don’t judge others because not one of us is perfect
People will often ignore their own sin to pay attention to yours. That’s what makes it so easy to be judgemental.
These religious men were so evil that they orchestrated the entire situation which led this woman to have sex with the man who was so conveniently left out of the saga.
They didn’t see their sin in doing that.
Based on the spiritual darkness of the times, it is highly likely that some of the men in the crowd were sleeping with her too. How else would they have known that she would make the perfect target for a set-up?
Many people often ask where is the man in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
I argue he was right there in the crowd and was among those with stones in their hands ready to kill her.
But, they didn’t see their sin in that either.
If you regularly attend church services, I promise you know someone like these men.
Someone who is always quick to point out everyone’s sin. Someone who is always talking about what other people are not doing right. Someone who is ready to drop the axe and decide who is worthy of attending church and who isn’t.
This person never talks about themselves though. Their life is top secret. Nobody really knows them. They are far from authentic.
Do you know why?
Because they know they are not as perfect as they would like people to think.
It is to people like that Jesus says “If you are without sin throw the first stone”.
Here is the truth about these people: They are judgemental and legalistic because they are struggling to accept God’s love and forgiveness.
How do you deal with them?
See their behavior as a symptom of their inner struggle to make peace with their own sin.
They probably don’t realize how much God loves them and how much God does not hold their sins against them.
Show them compassion and love anyway.
Lesson #4 – We are all casualties in a cosmic spiritual battle between God and Satan
This woman had her struggles. When the Bible says she was caught in the act, there is a suggestion that she had done this over and over again. She had a problem.
But the only reason she got the attention of these overly religious men was because they wanted to trap Jesus.
They set her up not to punish her but to get Jesus to say something that would give them a good reason to arrest him. Her and her sin were weaponized in order to bring down Jesus.
Sometimes we make decisions that lead to terrible consequences. Other times the things we face are a result of the enemy’s timeless battle to rage against God.
And because God loves us so much, the enemy is trying to destroy us. If he can’t get to God to hurt Him, then we are his next best chance of inflicting pain on God.
Job is another prime example.
As you struggle through this life, know that you only become a target of the enemy when he sees that God is doing or is about to do something in your life.
Know that God has forgiven your past and has empowered you to live a better life. You don’t have to travel with the baggage.
God has already won the war for you. So, go ahead and live in victory.
Lesson # 5 – God knows how to deal with every situation you have
When they asked Jesus what should be done to the woman caught in adultery, he said nothing at first.
Remember, this was a trap. If he had said she should be set free, he could be accused of breaking the law of Moses. This was held high in Jewish religious practice.
If Jesus had said she should be stoned to death, this would cause three problems.
First, up to this point, by now Jesus was seen the healer, as a friend of sinners, full of mercy and grace. If he approved her execution, it would go against who he presented himself to be and this would destroy the confidence that the crowds had built in him.
Second, if he didn’t approve her execution, he would be seen as supporting her sin and condoning adultery.
Second, the Roman law would have been broken. The Jews were now under Roman rule and they had taken the rights of the Jews to execute anyone for religious offenses. Jesus would have been in trouble with the Romans if he said she should be executed.
But Jesus knew exactly what to do.
There is no situation that you face that makes God scratch His head. He’s all-knowing, all-wise and all-powerful.
No human, no matter how powerful they seem can make God confused about a problem. Nobody can be more than God.
Having an issue at work with someone trying to destroy you? Ask God how to handle it.
Professor or classmate trying to make your life hard? Ask God what to do.
Church sister or church brother trying your patience and salvation? God has a strategy for that too.
Husband or wife making you crazy? Believe me, God’s got you covered.
Your children driving round the bed? God can set them straight.
God always always always has a solution.
Lesson #6 – God really wants us to understand who he really is
There are some people who always present God as a big bad grandfather who hovers and watches for you to make a mistake so he can zap you with some cruel punishment.
You will often find this among very legalistic people like the Scribes and the Pharisees. They pay so much attention to keeping the laws of God that they forget the God who created them.
They forget that this God is also loving and merciful, full of compassion, forgiveness and grace.
But know this: it is the plan of the enemy for you to misunderstand the character of God.
Because if He can get you to believe lies about God, then he can keep you from believing the truth.
God’s plans for your life either get delayed or destroyed.
God’s not standing and waiting for you to sin so that he can strike you with punishment.
Instead, God is waiting for you to acknowledge your guilt so that you can receive forgiveness. So that you can let go of guilt and shame. So that you can live in freedom.
Lesson #7 – God gives second chances to the guilty
The woman was guilty. There is no doubt about that. I mean, she was caught in the very act.
There is something very important about what Jesus said to her,
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11
Let’s look at this closer.
Jesus knew she was guilty. He definitely was not ignoring her sin. But, he did not judge her for that particular sin on that particular day.
So what exactly did his words mean?
Jesus forgave her. Then he allowed her an opportunity to go and show that she could do better in her life.
It wasn’t that her sin did not matter to Jesus. It did! But what mattered more to Him was salvation, her redemption, her freedom and her future.
Jesus basically confronted her and then challenged her to go live a better life.
Jesus believed in her. And so He gave her a second chance.
It seems this woman habitually committed adultery. This was perhaps not her first time. The word caught means she had a serious character problem.
Yet, Jesus didn’t hold this against her. Instead, her yet another chance.
FAQs about the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery
Here are answers to some popular questions about this woman.
What is the name of the woman caught in adultery
The adulterous woman was not named in Scripture. Like many other women of poor reputation in the New Testament, her name was not mentioned in the Bible.
Another unnamed woman is the Samaritan woman.
Who was the woman caught in adultery
The adulterous woman was not identified.
Final words about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery
This is a powerful story of God’s love, forgiveness and grace. Although people may seek to use our sins and weaknesses against us, God is in the business of redemption.
God will always be there to defend us when we are guilty. Never mind those who would want to see your life go in a different direction.
His greatest desire is to see us live holy lives. He desperately wants us to live in such a way that we can experience abundance both spiritually and in the other aspects of our lives.