“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” (John 8:7-9).
It should be noted at this time that John 7:53 – 8:11 is not found in the earliest manuscripts we possess of the Gospel of John. Dr. John MacArthur provides a very thoughtful explanation as to this portion of Scripture.
This section dealing with the adulteress most likely was not a part of the original contents of John. It has been incorporated into various manuscripts at different places in the Gospel (e.g., after vv. 36, 44, 52, or 21:25), while one manuscript places it after Luke 21:38. External manuscript evidence representing a great variety of textual traditions is decidedly against its inclusion, for the earliest and best manuscripts exclude it. Many manuscripts mark the passage to indicate doubt as to its inclusion. Significant early versions exclude it. No Greek Church father comments on the passage until the twelfth century. The vocabulary and style of the section also are different from the rest of the Gospel, and the section interrupts the sequence of John 7:52with 8:12ff. Many, however, do think that it has all the earmarks of historical veracity, perhaps being a piece of oral tradition that circulated in parts of the Western church, so that a few comments are in order. In spite of all these considerations of the likely unreliability of this section, it is possible to be wrong on the issue, and thus it is good to consider the meaning of this passage and leave it in the text, just as with Mark 16:9–20.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “We must note that whether John actually recorded this story is up for debate. Most biblical scholars do not believe this is a Johannine text because it is not found in many of the oldest New Testament manuscripts. Moreover, the manuscripts that do have the story do not all agree on where it should be placed. Some manuscripts have it in other places in John, while some even have it in the gospel of Luke. Nevertheless, it is an ancient story referenced in several of the earliest church fathers, and the church has long held that it records an authentic episode from the life of Christ. Thus, we agree with John Calvin that since the passage “contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”
All of that being said, the text records Jesus’ response to the continued badgering by the Sadducees and Pharisees regarding the woman. He finally responds by saying, ““Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
This is a direct reference to Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7. Both texts indicate that when an execution is about to begin, only those who were not guilty of the same crime or sin may participate in the execution.
Jesus once again bends down and writes on the ground. Perhaps this was a delaying tactic which gave the leaders time to think and consider their actions. However, after hearing Jesus’ words, one by one they began to leave the scene with eventually Jesus and the woman together while in the midst of the crowd at the temple.
John Calvin writes that, “Beginning from the eldest, even to the last, that according as each them surpassed the others in honorable rank, they were more quickly moved by His (Jesus’) condemnation. We ought also to observe how widely this conviction of sin, by which the scribes were affected, differs from true repentance. For we ought to be affected by the judgment of God in such a manner, that we shall not seek a place of concealment to avoid the presence of the Judge, but rather shall go direct to Him in order to implore His forgiveness.”
There is nothing better for any sinner to come to Christ in total surrender. If you need to be forgiven, and who doesn’t, flee to the forgiveness Christ provides for sinner and saint alike.
Soli deo Gloria!