From John 8:
They “brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery.” (verse 3).
“In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say?” (5).
“Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone….” (7).
It’s a visual image of the feeling of shame: caught in the act of a sin, guilty beyond all doubt, vulnerable in front of an angry, disgusted crowd that was poised to kill as they screamed at Jesus about her guilt.
Consider that feeling of shame and imagine carrying it in your spirit every hour of every day for years. You stuff it away and ignore it while you go about your business, but it’s never far away. How would that affect you?
Would it make you agitated? Would you be defensive over the least little thing and prone to angry, irrational words?
It might be a relief to point out someone else who was guilty too so you wouldn’t have to think about yourself, and for just a moment you’d be safe from others’ scrutiny. You might channel some of that agitation toward another, and perhaps even pick up a rock to throw it.
In the story of the woman caught in adultery, I think the woman was in better shape than the crowd. She may have been humiliated but they were on the verge of murder.
In the past, I’ve always looked at that crowd with loathing, but Jesus was gentle with them. In a fit of holy vengeance he could have ripped them to pieces, but he didn’t. He waited for a quiet moment and reminded them that they were just like the woman in front of them.
And their rage faded for the moment as they walked away. Jesus' words had led them to walk away from a heinous act.
The woman was in a position to receive even more help than the crowd. When Jesus told her to go and sin no more, he was telling her that she was not trapped in condemnation. She could walk away with freedom, dignity, and strength to start again and be better than before.
For her, for the crowd, for you and for me, the New Testament message is very clear:
“Neither do I condemn you…” Jesus said. (John 8:11).
“For there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus….” Paul said. (Romans 8:1)
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17).
Because there is no condemnation, we can drop our stones, our pretenses, and our shame to walk in newness of life.