Focus Passage: John 8:1-11
The sun was low in the sky on this day after the Feast of Tabernacles. The pilgrims were ready to start home, but many had crowded around Jesus to hear him one last time before they left. Pushing through the crowd, a group of Pharisees brought a woman half dressed and forced her to stand before the crowd. With anger in their eyes, they practically spit out the charge, ‘we have caught this woman in adultery – Jesus, what do you say should happen to her?” His words disarmed them. “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.’ His response serves as an example of how we are to deal with the flawed people that surround us in life.
It is so easy to focus on another’s flaws. What would it have been like to be part of the crowd that day? The accusation was clear, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.” V.4 The woman never argued that she was innocent. Her clothes and appearance probably made everyone know she was guilty. Have her stoned to death. She is guilty and deserves the right penalty. Why is it that we cheer when someone else if found guilty?
It is so easy to feel self-righteous. The Pharisees know what should be done, “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?" (v.5) They want Jesus to make the pronouncement so that they can feel smug. Yet, what happens when we are the one who is less than perfect. We get caught in a lie. We overextend our credit cards and are deep in debt. We all have deep secrets. Maybe that is why we are glad when the spotlight gets turned onto the problems and sins of others. In the shadows, we can look a little more perfect.
Jesus’ pause makes us feel uneasy. I find myself wondering what Jesus wrote in the dust. Was it the sins of those who were accusing – as God he would have known who was naughty and who was nice better than Santa Claus. When he does speak, he tells them "If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (v.7) As I read the story, I find myself squirming. Just at the time that we think we are safe, our flaws are exposed. Yet, the perfect Jesus reaches out and surprises us all.
Jesus surprises us with grace. It must have been awkward to stand before Jesus as wrote in the sand. His words – “then neither do I condemn you” (v.11) must have been a surprise. Having her sin laid raw before Jesus and having been humiliated before the crowd, Jesus forgives her and gives her back her dignity and her self-worth. She is forgiven under the cross of Jesus. Seek out the forgiveness of the cross. Only the cross has the ability to heal the flaws that we all have.
Before he lets her leave, Jesus gives her a word of encouragement and a direction. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (v.11) He is saying that now that I have begun to unwrap you of your sin, do not go and get tangled again. For Jesus, it was not enough to just forgive her of her sin, he wanted to pull her out of the sin. To give her forgiveness only to have her go back to the same sin doesn’t rescue her. The forgiveness must be given as a chance at a new life. It must be the same for us. Jesus’ command to the woman sums up the mission. Free people by the forgiveness of Jesus from their sin and love them enough to help them sin no more.