Remember the Woman at the Well story in John 8? The Pharisees bring a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. They tell Jesus that the Law says that she should be stoned to death, and they ask how he would handle it. Jesus says “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then one by one, the Pharisees leave and Jesus says to the adulteress: “Then neither do I condemn you,…Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The adulteress was guilty; she was caught in the act and no one denies that she is guilty. When Jesus tells her not to do it any more, he implies that he knows she’s guilty. According to the Law, she should be stoned to death.
Note that Jesus never says that she should not be stoned because he forgave her of her sin. In fact he never said that she shouldn’t be stoned. Quite the opposite: he tacitly agrees that she should indeed be stone, but he stipulates that the first stone should be thrown by one without sin. The original Law never stipulates that the adulterer should be stoned only by those without sin – that is Jesus’ modification to the Law (or perhaps it is his supreme understanding of the law). But let’s accept that Jesus, being the Son of God and all, has the right to modify the Law (or is better qualified to interpret it than anyone else). Then according to the law as Jesus redefined it or reinterprets it, the adulteress should be stoned, but one without sin could cast the first stone.
Wasn’t Jesus without sin? Then by Jesus’ own words, he should have thrown the first stone. In fact, didn’t Jesus have an obligation to throw the first stone so that his Law would be upheld? By failing to throw the stone, Jesus violates a Law that he agrees should be upheld – which is a sin.
Here is the full dialog (NIV version):
Joh 8:3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group
Joh 8:4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
Joh 8:5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Joh 8:6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
Joh 8:7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Joh 8:8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Joh 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
Joh 8:10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Joh 8:11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”