In the whole of chapters 7 and 8, the disciples, although once mentioned, are not present. The people are mentioned in 8:2; then it is presumably they again to whom Jesus speaks in 8:12, but in 8:13 the Pharisees are back, having left the vicinity in 8:9.
In the general concourse of the temple, therefore - with its bustle and its various groups going about different functions within its precincts - the incident with the woman takes place as a separate activity and John reports it as such.
Whatever the actual conditions at the time; whoever was present in the immediate vicinity and whoever watched from afar, John reports the matter in such a way that it is isolated from anything else.
In 8:9 he reports that whoever was present - from the eldest to the last - has vacated the area. None is left. The Pharisees appear again in 8:13, and there are people present : ‘them’.
The point of view narrated by John is that Jesus has been left alone. And the woman is in the midst.
John is telling us something, by narrating the incident in the way in which he does. There is something to be seen here - unless we miss it.
They which heard, went out ; is absolute. No-one was left who was within hearing distance.
Yet the woman is left in ‘the midst’. There is only one possibility : in the midst of what Jesus had written on the ground.
He had written all round her. She was encompassed with what he had written. Had anyone wished to lay hands on her in order to lead or drag her out of the temple, to be stoned outside - it would never have happened in the temple - then they must trample on what Jesus had written.
There is no doubt in my own mind as to what had been written by the finger of Jesus. Only one thing was ever written by the finger of God on this earth and we well know what it was. And only once is it ever recorded of Jesus that he wrote with his finger.
And she was surrounded by it. And he stood - alone - outside of it.
There, in this incident is depicted the true state of every one of us - surrounded by the letter of writing and condemned by every word of it. For he that offends in just one point has broken the whole of it and is condemned to death by all of it.
And what shall he do - who stands alone outside of it ?
Hath no man condemned thee ?
No man - Lord.
Go, and sin no more; and in so doing, he accepts the responsibility of all her law-breaking, every deed and every word and every thought. He shall bear the curse of that which is written and she shall go free - free of sin and free of curse, to live anew.
Those who have never felt what Saul of Tarsus felt - I had not known sin except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet - will not understand why John narrates the incident in the way in which he does. But those who have stood where this woman stood - trapped by the writing; condemned by its words - they will know.
They will understand.