After His invitation at the end of the Feast, Jesus stays in Jerusalem to teach in the Temple. The conflict with the Pharisees that will result in His death is still growing, and has not yet reached its peak.
Today’s reading is one of my favorite passages of scripture, because God’s loving heart is so clearly revealed by the words and actions of Jesus. At the same time the spite and judgment of religion is exposed for the evil that it is.
The religius leaders bring a woman to Jesus who has been caught in the very act of adultery. The Law actually says that both parties should be brought to trial and executed, but there is clearly a conspiracy here – the appeal to Jesus has nothing to do with seeking justice, and everything to do with creating a trap (see verse 6). If they can get Jesus to agree she should be stoned then they can charge Him with rebellion against the Romans (who had banned the Jewish leaders from sentencing people to capital punishment) and if Jesus disagrees with her stoning they can brand Him a heretic.
I beleive Jesus’ reaction is a reflection of His personal habit of always listening to His Father. When He writes on the ground, He is journaling His thoughts and the words His Father is saying to Him. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” In other words, only one who is not guilty has the right to condemn one who is guilty. Not in general terms of comparing guilt between sins, but in the specific sin – in this case, adultery. Starting with the oldest (and thus wiser), the crowd of accusers melts away. They all know they are guilty of sn, and especially by accusing only the woman and not the man – they are guilty of conspiracy, and they know it!
Then Jesus turns to the woman. Of course we know (and probably she knew too) that He is the only one qualified to condemn her. But when she says that her accusers have left, He says these amazing, powerful words: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
It is important to read those two sentences correctly: Jesus is not saying He is recusing Himself from condemning, in the same way the Pharisees did. He is without sin, and entitled to judge, but He says clearly “I do NOT condemn.” We would do well to recognize that this is just as much a disclosure of Father God’s will as the earlier statement “He who is without sin can cast the first stone.” Jesus says to every one of us “I do not condemn you” – which seems like crazy love (and an invitation to license) until we realize what Jesus did to enable Him to say that with authenticity: He went to the cross and died in our place.
We must also read the second sentence carefully – religion says “go and sin no more, or else I will smite you next time” (or words to that effect). Jesus, by contrast, is saying “you can go free, and in addition, you no longer need to sin as you look for love – you have found love in God’s grace.
So you can see why I love this passage – God’s grace is extended to everyone who will receive it, and we will find freedom from sin in any areas where we have been striving to find love!
So how can Jesus operate in such wisdom and grace? The rest of our reading explains for us how Jesus gets His wisdom from the Father, and how much God’s love is shining light into this dark world. So how does God want to shine through you today?
Have a great day!
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