So, where was the man? The Pharisees only bringing the woman showed that they didn't really care about fulfilling the requirements of the law they just wanted to trap Jesus. They thought they had him right where they wanted him. If Jesus said, “don’t stone her” then they could accuse him of going against the law which would have turned the Jews against him. If Jesus said, “stone her” then they could report him to the Roman officials since the Romans did not allow the Jews to carry out any capital punishment. Either way he would be labeled a lawbreaker. They thought there was no way out for Jesus, he would be doomed no matter what he said. They were in for a rude awakening.
Paul highlighted the same principle Jesus was trying to get across to these religious leaders. As one writer put it, “Jesus held up one mirror for each stone and suddenly sin had a different face. As the blood flow came back to the knuckles, the fingers extended and released the rocks. Every stone fell to the ground.” This encounter illustrated the wisdom of Jesus. He didn't go against the law; he wasn't saying she didn't deserve to be put to death. But he used the opportunity to highlight their hypocrisy. And so, realizing their trap had backfired, they dropped their stones and left. The older ones first, probably because they were wiser, until there was just the woman and Jesus.