At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
What is it about human nature that wants to stand over others and cry out for justice? Even children seem to have an internal sense of fairness and tattle loudly when someone breaks the rules. What is glaring in this story is the complete lack of love with which this woman is thrown down before Jesus.
I wonder what Jesus was thinking as he wrote in the sand? Did he kneel down and write as a way of helping the crowd slow down and really see the woman?
Did he want it to sink in that they were not so different than she? I wonder what the woman was thinking. She was caught in the act! She knows how this works. I imagine her looking down in shame unable to meet the eyes of her accusers and bracing for the first stone. Instead, crouched in Jesus’ shadow, she hears him invite the one without sin to throw first but, rather than receiving blows of judgment, she hears rocks fall to the ground and feet shuffle away!
Can you imagine her first taste of grace as she looks up at Jesus and hears him say, “Where are your accusers? Does no one condemn you? Neither do I condemn you.” We are people in need of mercy, and yet, are terribly prone to judge one another with harshness. It’s not that discerning right from wrong is a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a necessary thing if we are to grow in godliness.
We do harm when we stop seeing people and just see their acts, when we forget that we are not so different from those we condemn, and when we mistakenly believe we are in any position to throw stones.
The only One in that position did not pick up a rock. Nor did Jesus set the woman free without exhorting her to leave her life of sin. We tend to do one or the other — we either forgive and condone sin or, judge and condemn it. The truth is, we need mercy AND justice and it is only crouched in the shadow of the cross that — remarkably, undeservedly, and thankfully — we find both! Amazing and beautiful grace!
“Lord, I confess that I, too, judge others harshly. I ask for grace to fill my heart and your help to love people and forgive acts. Thank you for daily graces and your heart that keeps setting me free. Amen.”
What about you?
Are you a grace giver or a stone thrower?
Do you tend to forgive and condone or, judge and condemn?
Have you had an encounter with amazing grace?
Have you received God’s gift of forgiveness and love?
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