Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.
The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"
"No one, Master."
"Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."
Jesus meets us where we are at but never leaves us the same.
There is so much that happens in this story. I think it’s one of my favorite stories in all the Scriptures. You wonder what Jesus is going to do and how is he going to respond. You are angry with the religion scholars and Pharisees. All of it is just a fantastic scene.
There is grace and truth.
There is subtle challenging teaching.
There is life change.
Before we go further, let’s acknowledge the reality that the religious scholars and Pharisees don’t bring the man before Jesus, just the woman. Which is hypocritical at best. Adultery takes two to tango.
These guys show up wanting to see Jesus say something incriminating. Their assumption is that he would set aside the law and ignore it. If he did this, then they could bring him up on charges and begin the process of shutting down his ministry. Yet, what happens? He acknowledges the law and simply says, “The sinless among you go first.” We are so quick and happy to judge others. When we do so there is this rush of superiority, we are one up on them and somehow that makes us feel good.
All of us do this. Don’t think you’re not often found in the seat of the religious scholars and Pharisees. You may not make judgements about the people that your “opponent” does, but you surely do. Progressives and Conservatives all play their “gotcha” games and bring folks before Jesus to be stoned.
“The sinless among you go first.”
Friends, notice that everyone leaves beginning with the oldest. This is significant. These religious scholars and Pharisees were changed. They were given truth and instead of picking up stones they left. Jesus didn’t berate them or call them names. He simply acknowledged the law and said, “Throw stones if you’re holy and righteous enough to do so.” The oldest recognized their own sin-sickness first and then it trickled down.
Then only the woman was left.
She was railroaded. She was treated unfairly. She was entrapped and singled out. The way she was treated was wrong on so many levels.
What does Jesus say?
“I don’t condemn you. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” Jesus shows us this reality right here in this moment.
Too many though think that “no condemnation” means that change is no longer necessary. Jesus lovingly meets this woman where she’s at, but he also says, “From now on, don’t sin.”
When we come face to face with Christ we are challenged to be different. We are challenged to become the best possible versions of ourselves. He meets us where we are but doesn’t leave us there.
As we move toward a new year and new beginnings, what areas of your life has Jesus been saying to you, “I don’t condemn you. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”?
For me, it’s physical laziness. I am too comfortable lounging around and sitting at my desk. Therefore, I’m putting some very specific routines in place to help me move and get beyond the sin-sickness of physical laziness.