This is a story about a woman whose name is not mentioned in the Bible. We know so very little about her and yet she is instrumental when it comes to learning a deep lesson about God’s amazing grace.
It was after Succoth, the seven-day celebration in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt and all Jews from near and far had left Jerusalem to go to their own homes. Jesus had spent the night on the Mount of Olives alone. Did He need time to talk to His Father? I guess He did because the past days had been very hectic and He knew what was going on behind the scenes.
Behind the scenes
Crowds had gathered around Him in Jerusalem, but among them also some servants of the Pharisees, who were sent specifically to hear Him say something unlawful so the Pharisees could frame Him. But the servants had come back and unfortunately for the Pharisees, they reported about the wonderful things Jesus was teaching. That was not what they were waiting for. They needed something solid to be able to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. No wonder Jesus needed to spend some time with His Father. The darkness was closing in on Him.
An awkward situation
Now the Pharisees had a better plan to lure Jesus into saying unlawful things against God or the Tora, they brought an adulterous woman before Jesus, for everyone to see. They must have been very proud to be able to test Him with such a serious accusation. According to the law the penalty for such an accusation was stoning to death, but under Roman rule, it was forbidden to execute Jewish law. That must have been the reason why this happened in the Temple Court where Romans were not allowed to enter. For sure with all these people around, Jesus was not in a position to dismiss this awkward situation. So, loud and clear the leader of the Pharisees shouted: ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?’ (John 8:5)
What does Jesus do?
Silence fell in the Temple Court. Everybody realized what was at stake here; tensions were rising. This was a test and not only a certain death sentence according to the Law… what would Jesus do? And in front of the crowd stood this woman. Did she hold her head up high? Probably not, imagine being put in such a situation? What was going on in her mind? Did she feel guilty… ashamed? Another question comes to mind: she was caught in the act, but where was her partner in crime? Was the mere accusation of the Pharisees enough to have her stoned to death by the people around her?
Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her
The Bible says that Jesus knew they were looking for a basis to accuse Him, but He doesn’t comment at all. Instead, Jesus bends to the ground and with His finger He writes in the sand. But the Pharisees press on questioning Him. Then Jesus straightens up and says a truly mind-boggling and amazing thing: ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ (vs.7). He doesn’t start a discussion, neither does He defend the woman. He stoops down and writes in the sand again.
Does Jesus bend the law?
One by one the people sneak out in silence, the older ones first until only Jesus and the woman were left in the courtyard. Jesus asked: ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ (vs.10-11) Imagine being in her place… she was caught in the act, and a horrible death was awaiting her, but instead, amazing grace was extended. Jesus knew she was a sinner, but He did not condemn her. Did Jesus bend the Law of God? No! I don’t think He did because we know from the Bible that Jesus said: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.’
He paid the price
In a little while, He would be the One fulfilling the Law for her; He was even willing to pay the price for all those who sneaked out of the Temple one by one. He also paid the price for you and me, what an amazing grace! We are set free, not to continue our life of sin, but to be free and live for God, extending grace to others, following the example of our Lord. Instead of judging people, let’s be in the business of love and forgiveness. Who are we to judge others anyway. This week I was reminded of a quote we put on our fridge some years ago. It says: ‘Don’t judge others because they sin differently than you do.’ It is a good reminder to know by heart and to live by it.
We are set free, not to continue our life of sin, but to be free and live for God.
I’ll be honest… I am still learning. But we all need God’s amazing grace. Are you in need? Are you broken? Have you sinned? Come to our Lord, He will never turn you down. That’s what grace is all about.
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