The unnamed women in the gospels had roles so peripheral that the writers did not deem it necessary to share their names.
But these women were not unknown. Not to Jesus.
Six months before Jesus was to be crucified, He went quietly, alone, to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles. He went straight to the temple, where He could daily be found, teaching.
The scribes and Pharisees were already angry with Jesus, and could not abide His presence in the temple. They set about to trick Him, so as to turn the people against Him and have a reason to accuse Him.
Can you picture it?
An early morning, the sun rising slowly over the city, dust in the air. Jesus’ calm voice teaching truth, people coming in streams to hear Him. Then, in the middle of it all, comes a disruption and a clamor… a woman thrown to the ground and loudly accused.
A woman just caught in the very act of adultery.
There was no question. She was guilty.
The Pharisees demanded Jesus speak judgment over her. Would He abide by Mosaic law and turn His back on His teachings of mercy and forgiveness? Or would He break Mosaic law? They were sure that either way they would win.
He waited, writing on the ground. Perhaps He was waiting for the men to realize the sinfulness of their own goals in confronting Him. But instead of self-awareness, they persisted in asking for a judgement on the woman.
Finally, He stood, and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
And bending back down, He continued to write on the ground.
And they all left. Every one.
Oh the mercy! Jesus showed mercy to those guilty men. He did not stare them down. He did not watch their humiliation as they turned away in admission of their own sin.
When He looked up and saw they were gone, He turned to the woman. How broken she must have been, how terrified. She knew she had sinned. She knew what she deserved.
For when a law has been broken, whether biblical or otherwise, there are two phases to dealing with the transgressor.
First, guilt must be determined. This is the conviction phase. And in this story, everyone is convicted. In my story, in your story… everyone is convicted. We are guilty of sin.
Then, if guilty, the sentence is handed down. Condemnation. Punishment.
The woman waited for the worst.
Jesus did not minimize the woman’s sin. He knew. But He did not lay a sentence on her. Instead He offered her a fresh start, a clean slate. He offered her forgiveness. No condemnation.
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you’…” John 8:10-11a
Embodied in the man who would soon die on a cross for her, for you, for me… was both justice and mercy. In Jesus alone have righteousness and peace kissed (Psalm 85:10).
There is nothing, nothing, that you have done that can’t be forgiven by God in Christ Jesus. He knows everything about you, everything you have done, everything you need.
Are you cowering today, knowing your guilt, waiting for punishment? You have been rightly convicted. But hear this and believe truth: you are not condemned.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
All that punishment you are waiting for has already been dealt, already been taken. Jesus, hanging bloodied and broken on the cross, knowing you and your guilt… He accepted it.
He sees you. He loves you. He forgives you.
Accept the freedom and forgiveness Jesus so lavishly holds out to you.
And choose to hear and walk in His final words to the woman caught in adultery: “Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)