John 8 recounts a time when Jesus was interrupted by a group of Pharisees as he taught in the temple. They had a woman who was caught in the act of adultery, and according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned to death. Also, according to this law, they needed two witnesses (v. 17),which they did not have, a point they overlooked, revealing the true intent of this interchange.
The verse I’d like to lean into is found after Jesus responds, not reacts, to the charges.
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” John 8:7, NKJV
There was a crowd gathered that day. People there to learn from Jesus. And those hoping to get some evidence to accuse Him. What would you do with this adulteress? They asked.
According to the law, anyone committing adultery deserves death.
What would you have us do with this woman, Jesus? Please tell us in front of this crowd so they can see Who You really are.
And, all eyes on Him….
Jesus, undaunted, stoops down. If He’s offended at their lack of respect, it doesn’t show. His focus is on her.
Because He knows this is about so much more than her.
And, as He rises, He stares down her accusers.
Did you ever consider that, out of the whole line up of Pharisees and all the people gathered —Jesus was the only one who met His qualifications?
Jesus alone was sinless. Jesus alone was not caught in the adulterous business of breaking the law. He was. Stainless. Spotless. Unblemished.
If He was about interpreting the law the way they had, If he was being religious about it, He could have thrown a stone at her.
And, at everyone else.
But instead, He not only caused her accusers to go away….
He would eventually take the punishment she deserved.
Because, as He would say later on. “I am the Light of the world.” The spiritual light that no darkness overcomes. (v 12) The fullest extent of both grace and truth.(1:14) They don’t exclude each other.
I fulfill this law. And I came to save the world, not condemn it. (3:16-17)
The Kingdom of God is powerful. Life giving. Grace insisting. It realizes that mercy, not religion, is the path to lasting obedience.
She was clearly guilty.
But, says Jesus,
so was everyone else gathered, outside of Him.
Go. He told her. Remember this moment. Remember the love in my eyes as I stooped down on your behalf.
Sin no more. Continue in obedience because you remember My love for you.
The Word of God is alive and active. This story cuts and heals if you let it–we have to allow ourselves in. When we realize we are that woman. When we realize that stone could have been hurled our way. When we realize that Jesus has chosen to apply grace to us after we were caught in adultery with the world….then it becomes our story of redemption.
Oh, to reflexively apply mercy to each situation in my life which causes me pause or offends… Tempts me to be religious or self righteous. To realize I’m no better off. Just grateful Jesus stooped down from Heaven and took my place when I was so clearly guilty. The stone He could have thrown was actually rolled away from His tomb. And He made my accuser flee in utter defeat so I could walk in the Light.
What a privilege to lock eyes with that Jesus and experience such love.
Unlike the woman at the well, we don’t really know what happened to this lady or to anyone else for that matter. I can hope though….
I’d like to think each time someone heard about a stoning, something rose up in them. That every time they clenched their teeth in anger, or saw a stone as they walked from one place to another…they thought differently.
I’d like to think everyone went home after that day and treated their families, their neighbors, their coworkers, people who cut them off in traffic, total strangers in Target and Starbucks differently, having seen such fullness of grace and truth in action….