Daily Archives: July 2, 2021
Psalm 139:1-3 (NRSV)
The Inescapable God
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
John 8:7-11 (NRSV)
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
There are two types of people in this world: Those who like to judge and those who understand the concept of mercy and grace (something that is deeply rooted in Jesus’ love and is deeply rooted in the Christian faith).
This is clearly seen in John 8. There is a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. Interestingly, the fact that she is guilty is never questioned and the woman herself never denies the accusation. In other words, there is no doubt about her guilt. And according to the customs and laws of the Israelites, what was being demanded was not out of line – the punishment fit the crime, as they say.
Here was the problem that Jesus, with very few words, brings to the fore. The “righteous” people who brought the woman to him for judgment did not have the most honorable of intentions. They no more cared about the woman or the adherence of the law than they did about Jesus. They had one focus: to catch Jesus in an inconsistency in order that they could discount his credibility.
Jesus, however, is not oblivious to their intentions. Thus, as the discussion goes on – Jesus stands and makes a very small comment, but one that was extremely powerful given the situation. Jesus looks at the accusers and states, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Understand the dynamic that is at play. The “moral” police of the day who had an obvious blood lust and was willing to use another human being to accomplish their devious act to entrap Jesus – had a finger pointed back at them.
Jesus reminds the accusers of this one reality: Everybody is a sinner. If one “deserves” death – everyone deserves the same fate. Why? Because humanity is sinful to the core. Period. If the criteria for passing a death sentence is an act of sinfulness – than that same death sentence is deserved by all because no one is righteous and sin is sin in the eyes of God. What Jesus does is he reminds the accusers that if they want to be judge, jury, and executioner – they better be prepared to accept the same judgement and consequences for themselves.
It appears that the message was received because when Jesus stands once again, there is no one around to cast a stone at the woman.
Now, lest we downplay the act of the woman, it needs to be understood that her sin was indeed grievous – Jesus never disputes that fact. But in a way Jesus says, what is worse: adultery or using a human being as a means to an end? Both were reprehensible in the eyes of God. But God is the only one who can make the judgment call of the person and determine their fate.
Thus, seeing no one around, Jesus turns to the woman and asks where her accusers are. She obviously replies, no, Jesus, no one condemned me.
And then, in perhaps the greatest illustration of mercy, love, and grace you can find, Jesus looks upon the woman and tells her, “I do not condemn you either.” The weight of her sin is taken away. Jesus, in an act of mercy, showers this sinner with such grace that she stands a pardoned, released sinner from the wages of her sin.
Only Jesus has that power and when Jesus releases someone from the penalty of sin, he means business. He takes it – even to a cross.
But Jesus also reminds us in this story that grace doesn’t come cheaply. Jesus indeed forgives the woman of her sin, but in order for her to stay redeemed – Jesus reminds her there is a responsibility on her part. Is grace free? Yes. Is mercy free? Yes. Is God’s love free? Of course. But we have to choose to live within the confines of God’s love, mercy, and grace. In short, if we want salvation, we need to go and sin no more. Jesus wasn’t just taking a casual approach to this woman’s sin, he was reminding her that actions have consequences and he had pardoned her – but it was her choice to stay free or enter back under the heavy weight of sin with death at its consequence.
Some things for us to keep in mind. First, we need to be very careful when we pass judgment. Only One has been given the authority to judge the living and the dead, and that name is Jesus. I have often found it interesting that those who pass judgment the hardest are generally the ones who have more sin in their lives than the one they accuse! The ones who generally pass judgment the hardest have no concept of what mercy, love and grace is all about.
Second, we need to remember that Jesus is willing to forgive any sin that we have. However: if we are not willing to change and eradicate sin from our lives – we will receive condemnation. God will give us grace, mercy, and love all day long – but our salvation is dependent on our choice. We can choose to live under condemnation or to live as free people. Jesus does not play with sin. It is real and it is an offense to God. He is willing to take it. But we need to not live cheap grace. We need to embrace what God has set us free from and we need to move further and further from sin. If we continue to do the same thing over and over again with no intention of changing – we determine our fate.