stoneWhen Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” He was actually upholding the exact requirement of the Law, to the letter! In doing so, He was calling the Pharisees bluff.

In order for a death sentence in a case of adultery to be carried out, there had to be at least two witnesses to the act itself, and the man and woman caught in the act both were to be put to death. The Law also required the witnesses to the act to be the ones to throw the first stones at these two people caught in sin!

Deut. 22:22 “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.

Lev. 20:10 ‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.

Since the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, but there was no man also charged, how could the witnesses be legitimate? If they had caught her, where was he? Surely they knew. Surely it was a conspiracy to use against Jesus and the man was either part of the arrangement or he was let go.

So when Jesus called them to adhere strictly to the law, the witnesses would have to identify themselves and throw the first stones. This was the Law.

Deut. 17:6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

However, before they execute her, Jesus requires of the witnesses that they be without sin in the matter. In other words, if they are not involved in the collusion or conspiracy and are actually witnesses, in order to be sinless in the matter they have to name the man!

They do not, and so there is no witness to this sin that is not also participating in the sin. Therefore there is no witness without sin who can cast the first stone.

The elders (oldest) leave first, because they know they have been caught in their own trap and are guilty of sin themselves in the lengths they went to in order to trap Jesus.

Listen to the sermon on this familiar but often misapplied text here:

Two Witnesses and Three Questions – John 8:1-27