When You Are Guilty

EMILY WICKHAM began her writing and speaking journey in 2005. She writes for Lifeway Christian Resources and enjoys serving the Lord as an author, speaker, and podcaster. She teaches via Indestructible Life, a podcast where women discover the life Jesus is and treasure the life God's Word gives. Emily also shares brief messages about the return of Christ on her YouTube channel. Please connect with Emily by subscribing below to her blog, Heart Stirrings.

When You Are Guilty

Dear Readers,

Guilt refuses to be ignored. Though we’d rather not think about the offenses  we commit, they lodge inside like an oppressive weight. How can we gain freedom in such times? God’s Word reveals the path forward in the story of the adulterous woman. Let’s take a look at her interaction with Jesus, the Savior of the world.

This message, “The Adulterous Woman: Guilty, Used, Released,” is available on Indestructible Life with Emily Wickham, Season 2: Episode 6. CLICK HERE or the player above to listen. You also can tune in on your favorite podcast app. If you’d rather read the material, the transcript is included below.

Thanks for stopping by. May the Lord bless you with freedom and joy through the application of His Holy Word.

In Christ’s Love,



The Adulterous Woman: Guilty, Used, Released

Did you know that in Christ you have an indestructible life? That’s fantastic news all the time, but it’s especially encouraging when life gets hard or feels uncertain. Don’t give up! Satan can’t have you, the world can’t overcome you, and the challenges you face can’t stop you! In Christ, you’re indestructible.

Hello, my friends!

Thank you for joining me for another episode of Indestructible Life, a podcast that helps women discover the life JESUS is and the life God’s Word gives. I’m Emily Wickham, a wife and mom plus an author and speaker—but most importantly—I’m a woman loved by God, just like you.

Today we’re going to look at the woman caught in adultery, and I’ve actually taught about her before—not on this podcast but at a couple of retreats.

So, I already had teaching notes about this Scripture passage before I even sat down to prepare for this episode.

But guess what? When I taught on John 8 in the past, I did not realize the controversy that has existed for years and years about this passage.

Evidently, some Bible scholars and Christian leaders question the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11 while others maintain that it’s the inspired Word of God.

So instead of simply updating my notes and coming up with this message more quickly than normal, I ended up spending a significant amount of time researching this controversy.

We’re talking hours of research, which I actually like to do, but it took a lot of time nonetheless.

I won’t go into all the details, but I want to clearly state that I believe John 7:53-8:11 IS the inspired Word of God.

Despite the fact this passage is not found in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John, I believe it is Scripture just like the rest of the Bible.

One article I read revealed that in some of those earliest manuscripts, there’s a space left where this passage would have gone.[1]

I find that detail extremely fascinating.

Also, the same article referenced some early Christian writers who deemed this passage authentic, and one of them was Jerome, who lived in 400 AD.

He was the scholar responsible for translating the Bible into the widely respected version we know as the Latin Vulgate.

Jerome said, “In the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord.”[2]

To me, Jerome’s statement is very compelling.

And with all that being said, let’s focus now on the reading of God’s Holy Word in John 8:1-11…

Please pray with me…

As we begin pondering this woman who was caught in adultery, let’s reflect on a past sin in which we were caught… something we remember with embarrassment, something we’re ashamed of doing or saying, something that makes us cringe as we recall our behavior.

Can you think of an instance when you said or did something contrary to God’s way, and you were caught in the act? I know I can.

I can recall numerous times when I’ve sinned, and one memory in particular still embarrasses me.

Years ago, I was at home and in the midst of yelling at someone in my family.

It might even have been my beloved husband, and right at the time when I was yelling, a dear friend from church walked up to our front door.

I feel certain he heard me yelling, but this friend didn’t say a word.

He didn’t even let on that he’d heard anything, but I was still so ashamed at that moment.

Can you relate? I’m sure your example varies from mine to some degree, but we can all agree that having our sin found out in the moment is mortifying.

So, in this way, I think we can understand a little bit of what the adulterous woman must have felt.

Because she was caught in her sin.

Scripture tells us she was caught in the act of being intimate with a man who wasn’t her husband, and under Mosaic Law, her offense was punishable by stoning.

Why would she do something so awful and risk her own life? We don’t know.

The Bible doesn’t tell us her backstory.

In fact, we’re introduced to this woman at the most humiliating and vulnerable moment of her life.

Even though it must have been excruciatingly shameful to be discovered in the act of adultery, I think being placed in the middle of a group of people that included the Lord Himself was even worse.

And let’s remember: every time we sin, the Lord sees it all.

Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

So the Lord already knew what this woman had done, but then she had to stand in His very presence.

Can you imagine?

On top of that, she probably wasn’t even clothed properly, and yet she stood under the scrutiny of who knows how many people, listening to the religious leaders proclaim her sin to all.

I cannot help having compassion for her despite the seriousness of her sin.

There’s no question this woman was guilty.

And you know what? So are we.

Maybe we haven’t committed the same sin as this woman, but we have committed many other sins.

Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

It’s terribly unpleasant to find ourselves in this predicament … even beyond being unpleasant … it’s threatening to our lives because the Bible tells us that because of our sin, we are worthy of death.

But recognizing our sinfulness is a tremendous blessing because it shows us our need for a Savior.

It reveals how much we need Jesus—before and after we’re saved by faith.

You know, one of the beautiful aspects about the Lord Jesus Christ is that He doesn’t leave us in the muck and mire of our guilt.

He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.

That’s good news! That’s the Gospel, and it’s for every single one of us.

And by believing in the Lord Jesus, we’re saved… saved from the penalty of death for our sins.

I hope you’ve already placed your faith in Christ, but if not, there is no time like the present to receive the Lord into your heart.

You can just put this podcast on pause and talk to the Lord in prayer.

Take care of this very important thing in your life.

It’s a matter of life or death for all eternity.

Talk to the Lord in prayer because He welcomes all who come to Him in faith.

And for those of us who already know the Lord as our personal Savior, I hope this reminder of everything Jesus did for us renews our appreciation for Him and increases our love for Him.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, thank You for what You’ve done for us. We will have all eternity to worship and adore and praise you.

Alright, now that I have set the stage, now that we sort of have a visual sense of this incident involving the adulterous woman as well as somewhat of a feel for what she felt like, let’s focus on the Lord’s part in her story.

First of all, Jesus often went to the Mount of Olives, which had a panoramic view of Jerusalem.

The mount was situated east of the temple and was about half a mile from the city.

Jesus probably enjoyed the solitude and found that the Mount of Olives was a peaceful place to pray and rest.

In the context of this occurrence in John 8, it appears Jesus spent the night at the Mount of Olives before returning to the temple early the next morning.

When He got there, all the people came, and He sat down to teach them.

I love that.

Just picture that in your mind: Jesus just quietly walking in and all the people realizing that He’s there, and they just kind of flock to Him.

And He sits down to teach them.

Now they were likely in the courtyard outside since verse six describes Jesus writing on the ground.

And before we move forward in the story, I want us to think about an important lesson right here.

Jesus was regularly faced with difficult situations.

He needed time in communion with His Father to help Him handle various things.

And He loved spending time with His Father in prayer and fellowship.

It strengthened and prepared Him for His daily encounters with people.

What about us? Do we love spending time with our heavenly Father?

Do we take time to seek Him in a quiet place?

When we spend time in prayer, our interactions with people will be so much more meaningful and effective for God’s kingdom.

Okay, let’s look now at the religious leaders.

I think they loved to cause a stir and get attention.

In this instance, they certainly made a dramatic entrance, interrupting Jesus’ teaching by bringing the adulterous woman into the midst and declaring her sin.

Also, as an interesting side note, it’s very probable the scribes and Pharisees made her stand rather than allowing her to huddle on the ground.

I say this because the Greek word for “set” in this passage means “to cause or make to stand.”

As I mentioned earlier, I imagine she wasn’t completely clothed, and she must have felt totally humiliated and terrified.

It’s one thing to sin in the darkness, but quite another to be exposed in the Light.

And here we see another aspect of this woman’s character.

Not only was she guilty, she also was used.

What I mean is this: the religious leaders pointed out Moses’ command in the Law that adulterous women were to be stoned.

They wanted to know what Jesus’ command was in comparison.

But in essence, what they were trying to do was catch Jesus in a contradiction to the Law so they could accuse Him.

They weren’t really that concerned about the woman and her sin or honoring God by dealing righteously with the whole matter.

In fact, in one article I read, the writer determined this entire situation was a set up.[3]

Think about it: where was the man she had committed adultery with?

Because he was guilty and deserving of death, too.

Perhaps the religious leaders had convinced him to commit adultery with this woman at a certain place and time plus designated someone else to—quote unquote—catch her in the act.

Regardless of the details, it’s clear they were using her in an effort to trap Jesus.

Yet in His wisdom, Jesus did not answer.

He simply stooped down and began to write on the ground.

Don’t you wish we could know what He wrote? But as He shaped words in the dirt and stayed silent, the scribes and Pharisees pestered Him for an answer.

They didn’t like it that He was being quiet.

Well, Jesus stood back up and spoke some very powerful words in vs. 7: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

His answer stunned and silenced the religious leaders.

He had turned the tables on them.

Because the Greek word for sin in this instance is “anamartetos,” and this is the only time it’s used in the Bible.

But get this: this word is not necessarily talking about sin in general.

According to the lexical aids in my Key Word Study Bible, this Greek word for sin refers to the specific sin they were accusing the woman of.

Isn’t that incredible? Jesus’ words went right to the core, and one by one each accuser left.

Every single one of them was guilty.

Then Jesus and the woman were alone.

He hadn’t said anything to her throughout the whole ordeal, and she hadn’t spoken a word at all.

But Jesus asked where her accusers went and whether anyone had condemned her.

She answered with three words: “No one, Lord.”

She knew she was guilty and deserving of death.

After all, she was a Jewish woman who knew God’s Law, so she had no excuse!

But I believe as she observed Jesus during this frightful time of reckoning, she recognized Him for who He is: the Son of God.

She knew He was no ordinary man.

The way He handled her situation convinced her of His deity and authority over her.

You know, it’s ironic that the religious leaders had tried to assume a role of absolute authority over the woman, when in reality, Jesus had absolute authority over them all.

And His closing statement to this woman was one of profound beauty.

The Lord of life, Lord over all, stood in the presence of one who had sinned grievously.

Yet instead of condemning her, He forgave her.

The adulterous woman was released.

Christ did not hold her sin against her.

He released her from the consequence of death and set her free by instructing her to “Go … sin no more.”

Ladies, do you remember the sin you recalled at the outset of this message?

If you’re still carrying the guilt of your sin around with you, Jesus Christ loves you, and Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The evil one loves to torment us.

He loves to remind us of our sin, and he can even create false guilt within us, but that’s really a topic for another episode.

But, when we are reminded of our sin, and like I said, if you’re still carrying the guilt of your sin around with you, the Lord does not want you to go through life weighed down with guilt.

And I include myself in that statement.

He doesn’t want us to go through life weighed down with guilt.

That is not why He died for us!

He released her, and He releases us.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We don’t have to pay the penalty for our sins because Jesus already paid it for us when He died on the cross.

We receive His forgiveness when we place our faith in Him, and we’re saved.

And then throughout our Christian lives when we sin, and we’re guilty, we confess that sin to our Heavenly Father.

And He forgives us.

Let’s bow our heads for a moment of silent prayer.

If there’s a particular sin that comes to mind—something that burdens you with guilt—please take it to the Lord.

Acknowledge it before God it if you haven’t already done so and accept His forgiveness.

After this moment of silent prayer, I will close us with a final prayer…

Father, thank You…


Thanks again for tuning in to Indestructible Life.

Please take a moment to follow this podcast, and until next time, this is Emily Wickham.

Remember, God loves you!

In Christ, you’re indestructible.

Learn what to do when you are guilty by considering the story of the adulterous woman. #podcast #guilty Share on X


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