Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
It was an ambush in a way, a provocative situation to bring this woman before Jesus, wanting her to be stoned. They want Jesus to do something they can use against Him. Maybe they think He’ll contradict the law of Moses and they can discredit Him that way. Or maybe they think He’ll agree that the woman should be stoned and they can accuse Him of being merciless. But as God, Jesus can be both just and merciful.
The Pharisees were always at a disadvantage because Jesus already knew what was in their hearts when they came to Him. He knew their intentions. So He just kind of ignores them. And isn’t that the worst thing that someone can do when we are trying to get a reaction from them? Jesus just stoops down in the midst as though they hadn’t said a word. They had interrupted His teaching, but He would still give the people a valuable lesson.
“What sayest thou?” is the question. The Pharisees are asking for Jesus’ judgment on the matter. And Jesus would not cast a stone at the woman, not even a word of condemnation. His words to the Pharisees prove that self-condemnation is enough. When He says someone without sin can throw the first stone, they all have no choice but to walk away. We all know deep down that we are guilty. We know we are not without sin. And Jesus doesn’t want to destroy us, but to forgive us, to offer us healing and a second chance.
Jesus demonstrates His mercy in a profound way not just to the woman, but to the Pharisees, as well. This is one of the few times that they seem humble in Scripture, as they silently file out one by one. But Jesus hadn’t attacked them; He just stated the obvious. And maybe if they hadn’t gone out when they were convicted, they would have received forgiveness instead of carrying their guilt and sin home with them. Jesus doesn’t reveal our sin to us in order to condemn us, but so we might repent and be changed from the inside out. So when the spotlight of accusation is shined upon us, when we are convicted of sin in our lives, may we simply be willing to receive that precious gift of forgiveness.