At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?”6 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.7 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 stoneat her.”8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 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.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin. John 8:2-11
This is a beautiful reminder of Grace today. Lately, as I have said, I have been feeling so… glum. And I have been getting very upset with myself over the sin I allow to control me and the opportunities to grow closer to Jesus that I miss in the process of being so selfish and self-absorbed. I realize from this story that Grace in not earned before it is given. Jesus tells her “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more”; not the other way around “sin no more, then I’ll not condemn you”. No. God gave Jesus as a sacrifice so I do not have to keep beating myself up over sin, so that I do not have to be punished for my wrongdoings. Jesus took my beatings, he took my punishment. What an incredible gift that I will never deserve or ever hope to earn.
This story also gets me in how much bigger Jesus is than any law we think we understand here on earth. The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. They brought this woman to him knowing that if he said “stone her”, that they could call him out on his teachings of grace and love. At the same time, if he said “don’t stone her”, then they would call him out on preaching against the God-given law of Moses. But Jesus does something odd both before and after he answers them. He draws on the ground with his finger. I have often wondered while reading this “what is he writing? and why?”.
I recently did some simple research and discovered that the temple where Jesus was preaching in this instance would have had a stone floor, so it wasn’t that he was writing in the sand or the dirt. So Jesus was tracing unseen messages in the stone…. this reminds me of the commandments that Moses brought down from God: the law written in stone. Jesus writes on the stone here as if to say “you fools, I wrote the law you speak of”.
Perhaps this is why he responds so perfectly and cleverly with “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. No one can condemn this woman. No one is without sin except Jesus, and even he does not condemn her. The men who found her committing adultery (and notice that they do not bring the man to this situation) all are ready to condemn her actions, and yet the perfect one who has the right to punish her for her sins shows her grace and forgiveness that no human truly deserves.
So often I feel like I imagine this woman must have felt like: utterly ashamed, hurt, repentant, and frustrated with her actions. And what I oftentimes do not slow down enough to notice is that Jesus is there with me. He was tempted with every sin I have committed, will commit or can think of committing. He looks at me and does not see a sinner in need of punishment, but he sees a beautiful creation of God, created in his own image, utterly perfect in the desire to live for Him.
He lifts up my face and tells me “Claire, receive my Grace. I do not punish you, I will never leave you, I am yours. Leave your life of sin and follow me; I will lead you.”