By a night of prayer he had prepared himself for a day of labour and opposition. It is wise, whenever we expect double work or conflict, to gird up our loins by special devotion. He who has overcome heaven by prayer has no cause to dread the face of his enemies. Calmly did our Lord begin his teaching, though he knew that his enemies were planning his destruction.
See the cunning of these foxes. If the Lord condemned the woman to die, they would then tax him with going beyond his province, and setting up for a ruler; and if he let her go, they would charge him with being the friend of vice.
These last words are added by the translators, and are not needed. He wrote on the ground to show his unwillingness to meddle with the matter, and to give time for their consciences to work. He did not at once unmask them, but gave them time to retreat if they were wise, or to invite a crushing defeat by their persevering folly.
He stooped this second time to allow the accusers time to slink away unobserved by him, and they quietly availed themselves of the opportunity.
beginning at the eldest, or at the elders, or chief elders
The trap had failed to secure the victim, but it caught those who had prepared it. Stunned by the blow which Jesus laid home upon them, the vile hypocrites took to their heels, feeling themselves to have been grossly foolish to have provoked such a disclosure.
Dr. Brown well observes: “What inimitable tenderness and grace! Conscious of her own guilt, and till now in the hands of men who had talked of stoning her, wondering at the skill with which her accusers had been dispersed, and the grace of the few words addressed to herself, she would be disposed to listen, with a reverence and teachableness before unknown, to our Lord’s admonition.
He pronounces no pardon upon the woman, like ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee; Go in peace.’ Much less does he say that she had done nothing condemnable: he simply leaves the matter where it was. He meddles not with the magistrate’s office, nor acts the judge in any sense: but in saying, ‘Go, and sin no more,’ which had been before said to one who undoubtedly believed (ch. 5:14), more is probably implied than expressed. If brought suddenly to conviction of sin, to admiration of her Deliverer, and to a willingness to be admonished and guided by him, this call to begin a new life may have carried with it what would ensure and naturally bring about a permanent change.”)
Thine advocate in Jesus see!
‘Tis he that speaks the word; ’tis he
That takes the prisoner’s part:
Not to condemn the world he came;
Believing now in Jesus’ name,
E’en now absolved thou art.
Who shall accuse th’ elect of God,
Protected by th’ atoning blood?
‘Tis God that justifies,
That bids thee go and sin no more—
Go in thy Saviour’s peace and power,
And trace him to the skies.