Have you ever really messed up? Has there ever been a moment in your life when you needed a second chance? Is there anyone who could answer “no” to either of those questions? It is certainly part of the human condition.
Continuing our Lenten series, Darkest Before Dawn, Sunday’s scripture reading is from the Gospel of John. It is the story of the darkness of sin, judgment, and hypocrisy giving way to the dawn of new life and forgiveness and the light of truth shining on the darkness of hypocrisy.
Self-righteous religious authorities dragged a poor woman to Jesus whom they caught in the act of adultery. They cared nothing for the woman. They cared nothing about the injustice of only bringing the woman and not the man who certainly was also “caught,” as well. According to the text, they were just using her to test Jesus and trap him.
They were trying to catch Jesus in a no-win situation. After all, Roman law prohibited them from carrying out the death penalty. Only the Roman authorities could do that. So, if Jesus agreed with the religious law that called for the death penalty for adultery, then he would be in trouble with the Roman authorities. On the other hand, if Jesus said that she should not be put to death, then he would be seen as going against scripture and the truth of his teaching would be called into question.
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy. He knew what they were up to. He bent down and started writing something in the dust with his finger as they continued to question him. Then, he stood up and said, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” Bending down again, he wrote something else on the ground.
One by one all those self-righteous accusers slinked away. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”
She said, “No one, sir.”
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”
Notice that he didn’t say that what she did didn’t matter. He didn’t trivialize her sin. Rather, what Jesus did was to give her a second chance — an opportunity to make things right, to repent, to turn around, to start over. Jesus called her out of the darkness of her situation into the light of New Life.
The Good News is that like this woman, the amazing grace of God that shines through in this story allows everyone to begin again.
When you look at this story in relation to Jesus’ life and teachings, you can see acted out a few truths:
Judgment belongs to God, not to us. Jesus said, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) He compared a person judging another to someone with a log in his own eye trying to take a speck of dust out of another’s eye. (Matthew 7:3 — 5).
The first response to a person who has made a mistake and/or sinned is concern for that person and the opportunity for forgiveness and a new start. Revenge or retaliation is not the way. The way of Jesus breaks the destructive cycle of evil.
The answer to sin and the pervasive power of evil is radical love and forgiveness. Whether we respond as the mob or as Jesus determines whether we will give energy to the cycle of evil or break that destructive cycle.
We are called to join Jesus — who takes away the sins of the world—in breaking that cycle of resentment, retaliation, violence, and hostility.
That’s what Jesus did when he forgave the woman taken in adultery. That’s what Jesus can do for you and me and through you and me.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
7: 53 They each went to their own homes,
8: 1 And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he returned to the temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. Placing her in the center of the group, 4 they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.
7 They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”
11 She said, “No one, sir.”
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”make a reservation