1 Chronicles 19-21 John 8:1-27
“Jesus raised up again and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?’ She answered, ‘No one, sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.’” (John 8:10-11 NCV)
The story of the woman caught in adultery is one of the most famous stories about Jesus. Ancient manuscripts have been known to place it in other parts of the gospel narrative. Some would say that this shows the story to be false. I believe this story because it’s so scandalous that you’d think the early church would rather hide this story than let it come to light. Imagine – letting a woman caught in adultery go, rather than stoning her. Some would say that Jesus didn’t follow the Law. Yet Jesus wasn’t the one that committed adultery, the woman was. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t follow the Law, He chose not to enforce the Law. He gave others the opportunity, but then He added a qualification: “You can only enforce the Law if you yourself have not broken the Law. Needless to say, no one had the qualifications. When they left, Jesus showed her grace and mercy. He didn’t tell her that everything was fine, though. He, the Righteous Judge chose not to find her guilty, but, He also let her know that she should stop her sinning.
Some people retell this story but forget the last four words. When Jesus told her to stop her sinning, He wasn’t condemning her, He’d already decided not to do that. He was encouraging her to walk with God. Think about how she must have felt. She’d thought there was no hope, and yet Jesus gave her hope that she could leave the lifestyle that caused her to commit adultery and stop sinning. Have you ever had a habit you can’t break? an addiction that kept you hooked? a lifestyle that you knew God disapproved of? You’ve been told what’s wrong with you so many times, especially by Christians, so you believe that there’s no way God could love you – and yet Jesus offers you grace, forgiveness, and the strength to overcome your sin. The more I read this story, the more quickly I drop my stones. I know of some Christians who rebel against this idea. They’ll angrily tell you that Jesus attacked the Pharisees on their sins again and again. The Pharisees were the religious leaders. They, instead of showing God’s grace, sought to bring judgment. Jesus had harsh criticism for these religious leaders, true. At the same time, though, He showed compassion and grace towards the common people; the people left behind by their leaders. When I put myself in this story, I’d probably be on the side of the religious leaders with the stone in my hand. When I realized what I was doing, I’d drop the stone in shame. As I grow closer to God, the stone drops more quickly. I pray for the day that I don’t even want to pick up the stone.
Lord, so often I greet the people who need Your love and grace with a stone. While I drop it when I recognize Your presence, let me be so overwhelmed by Your grace that I learn not to pick up the stone in the first place.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.