She was an adultress, a cheater, a sinner. She was a disappointment, a law-breaker. She had let so many people down.
Now she was being exposed to the Light of the World.
The scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus as He was teaching in the temple. They'd caught her in "the very act of adultry," they told Him. They were testing Him, who claimed to be the light of life, the One who, "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." (Phil. 2.6)
"Moses, in the law, commanded us that such [a person] should be stoned to death. But what do You say?"
Would Jesus respect and follow the ancient law? Would He condone her sin?
Their purpose, those learned and religious men, was to trip Him up – to find a way to discount His teaching and refute His words.
Jesus says nothing, but stoops down, writing with His finger, ignoring their demand for a verdict.
The religious kept asking, pressing the matter like the playground tattle-talers they were.
His answer was short. "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." Then He leaned over and continued writing on the ground.
And none of them wanted to be the one to start the stoning. From the oldest to the last, one by one, they walked away until only Jesus and the woman were left. He looked at her and asked her, Where did your accusers go? Hasn't anyone condemned you?
"No one, Lord," she answered.
"Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more," the Embodiment of the light-glory of God said to her. Your sin is not unto death. I will not serve you a death-sentence, either. Go. Be well. Be whole. Be at peace. Find true love. Live in honor. Sin no more.
Jesus didn't condone her sin. God hates sin because it interrupts the beauty and wholeness of the life He planned for us. God didn't forbid adultry to mess up our good times, but He forbade it because it will hurt us and some one else and probably more than one other person. It will wreck lives and break trust and hearts and disrupt the peace of homes and rip families apart. It is violence towards the "one flesh."
People often wonder what Jesus wrote on the ground. Did He list the sins of the people standing there that were also punishable by death? I don't know. Did they leave because they were ashamed or did the encounter with Truth fill them with mercy?
I just know that I have always related to the woman. I have always been keenly aware of my sin, my inability to measure up to religious standards imposed upon me. In church life, my imperfections have been publicly touted, I've felt shunned by fellow Christians. I've read this account of the woman and felt what she must have felt. I have ranted and raged against the people who told me what a disppointment I was. I have pointed out the futility of religion and condemned the spirit of religious superiority that hurts people as being no different than the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' time.
Then today, very quietly, Jesus wrote upon the ground of my heart. Suddenly I wasn't the woman, left with her head hanging – thinking I was about to die at the hands of the holier-than-thou religious. I was one of them – I was in the crowd – looking at her: the Church, the Bride of Christ, the one for whom, because of great love, Jesus died.
In my hand I have held stones. The church has sinned. She has been unfaithful and faithless, a disappointment, a cheater. She has hurt people and broken hearts and sinned against God. And I have stood in the crowd, ready to take my stand, taunting God, "Well – can you see this? What are You going to do about this?" I have been one of them.
I opened my hands toward the ground, symbolically dropping the stones I have wanted to hurl with great pain-infused force at churches and pastors and leaders in the Church who have let me down.
I am turning my hands upward with this prayer, "Replace the stones I have wanted to throw – with mercy for Your Church. She has failed. She has let me down, but show me how I can be an agent of Your mercy towards Her, as You have been towards me."
It is humbling to get a new perspective of yourself and see the enemy you have been flailing against is yourself. It is humbling….Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Repent for the stones that have already left my hands.