John 8:1-11 (NASB)
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [a]Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]
All of us, at some time or another, have been in the same position as the woman whom Jesus forgives in this account. Sure, none of us have been dragged before Jesus by a mob of religious legalists, but when the scripture says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” it includes even the most moral and disciplined people the world has ever known. Like the adulterous woman we are All sinners in need of God’s grace. Many of us can also relate to this woman as our sins have become public in a humiliating and excruciating way. Even to the more reserved and fortunate of us who have been spared such an experience can relate to the words of Psalm 32:3 when it says “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.” Sin is truly a very real and present danger. It destroys marriages and families, it ruins churches, it kills our confidence, it blunts our witness, and as this verse says it even can cause our bodies to literally waste away! What does this last euphemism mean? It means that sin can even make us physically sick!
Now, I find a couple of the details in this account interesting and ironic. First of all, we can give the Scribes and Pharisees what very little due they deserve as they at least understand, albeit in a crude and distorted way, one truth that is constantly affirmed in the Holy Scriptures. When someone sins, there must be punishment. Whether in this life or the next. That is why the scripture affirms that “the wages of sin is death” A holy God simply cannot sweep your sins under the rug and ignore them. As much as we would like to think of our sin as not that bad this notion is simply not true. Remember, sin is destructive in our own lives as well as the lives of others. This is why I am so glad that Jesus does not only offer to justify us but to sanctify us! I find it so distressing to see so many Christians who are perfectly fine with a kind of Christianity that stops at belief but has no place for holiness. I don’t know about you, but my sin has caused me plenty of heartache, tears, and anguish and I am so grateful that Jesus has offered us the path to a holy life where sin no longer dominates us. This saying has become trite but it is so true. In this life we will never be sinless but we can sin less.
I also find it rather ironic that while the Scribes and Pharisees were bringing this woman to Jesus so that they might trap him they actually brought her to the only one who had any right to judge her in the first place. All this from a group of people who resolutely denied the Lord’s divinity and his authority to judge the living and the dead! All orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man, very God of very God. We also believe that God is the author of scripture. This belief implies that God is the divine author of the Law of Moses (Moses being the human side of the equation). Therefore, when the Scribes and Pharisees quote the prescription of the Law towards adulterees (not a real word but it works so well here) they are lecturing Jesus on the very writings he inspired. Oh the irony! At this point, Jesus had every right to condemn this woman but what does he do? He diffuses the situation with this quote “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Here, Jesus pulls no punches and affirms, in a novel fashion, the truth that “all have sinned” and indeed we all deserve judgement instead of mercy. Remarkably, the Scribes and Pharisees are shamed and walk away. Their once glorious crusade has ended with a pathetic conclusion (at least from their perspective anyway).
Jesus and the woman are now left alone. Her accusers are gone and she only has Jesus to answer to. And is this not how it always is with our sin? Is it not true that it all comes down to what happens between us and God? Now don’t misunderstand me, our sin can hurt others and when we do hurt others we need to ask them for forgiveness. But, at the end of the day if we have not been forgiven by God then we are out of fellowship with him which is a spiritual state that can lead to disastrous consequences. Fortunately, Jesus tells this woman that he does not condemn her but rather has forgiven her sin! Sin is a reality, and as long as we live we as Christians must battle our sin with all our might but we must remember that when we do fall short Jesus is always ready to forgive us. Did you get that? Always. As Christians, we do not serve a God who is capricious or fickle but one who is unchanging, all loving, eternal, and ever gracious. Dozens of scripture passages affirm the truth that Jesus always stands ready to forgive. 1st John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”. This promise is unconditional and Jesus will always be ready to hear our confession if we come to him in recognition of our faults and sincerely ask him to help us do better. If you feel that you are too evil or too broken for Jesus to help you then snap out of it! If you feel you are beyond his lovingkindness forget this nonsense and seek his love and grace. Stop starving on heresy and feast on orthodoxy! When we are discouraged let us remember the words of Jesus when he says in Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Finally, we must not forget Jesus’ final admonition “Go. From now on sin no more.” Jesus ends with a command to this woman to never go back to her sinful lifestyle. Again, we must not miss that Jesus ends his discourse with a call to holiness. Some have misinterpreted Christ’s command here as a call to perfection. This is not the case. Rather, Jesus is calling us to continue the journey with him. To abide in him. To grow more like him. To turn away from sin and turn to joy. To do our best not to fall into sinful habits but always knowing that when we do he giveth more grace and is ready to forgive. Sin is a very real and present danger but it has been defeated by our awesome and awe inspiring Savior Jesus Christ!