“Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” the mob of men challenged Jesus after having hurled a woman caught in adultery into the temple’s center court.
“What do you say?” they demanded.
Jesus said nothing. He knew they were malicious and tainted witnesses, so Jesus remained silent. (Exodus 23:1; Deut. 19:16-18)
Her accusers persisted, goading Jesus into a response that would set him in opposition to their law so they could arrest him. After more pestering, Jesus exposed them. He answered their question by uncovering their corrupt motivation for dragging the woman before him in the first place.
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Each man slowly dispersed when he realized Jesus’s discernment of his heart’s condition was accurate.
The woman and Jesus remained in the courtyard.
“Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” Jesus asked.
“No one, Lord.”
I wonder if she could look at Jesus. Did she have the strength to look him in the face, knowing what kind of lifestyle she had been living? Was she able to look Jesus in the eyes grateful he had not pronounced the sentence of death over her that she deserved, or did she hang her head in shame before this gracious, holy man?
Did the adulterous woman believe her sin to be so heinous that she would be banished from God’s presence and ostracized from those around her by their criticism and condemnation?
Jesus moved into her anxiety to answer the questions she did not ask.
“I do not condemn you, either,” Jesus said. “Go. From now on sin no more,” Jesus instructed.
Rocks, boulders, stones – symbols of judicial and spiritual judgment.
“Our law says to stone such a woman,” the men gleefully reported after trapping her “in the very act” of adultery. Jesus turned back their malicious intention and rolled back their condemnation of the woman with his own decree about stones. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus, in his great compassion, rolled away any condemnation against the woman in the presence of all who had gathered in the temple courtyard to judge her that morning – much like God had done years earlier for the entire nation of Israel.
Israel revolted against God in the desert by refusing to take possession of the land God had promised them. (Numbers 14:33-35) Because they were afraid of the size and strength of the people already inhabiting the land, Israel would not obey God’s instruction. She refused. So, God condemned the people to wander in the wilderness for forty years until those born in Egypt died off. Then, those who had been born in the wilderness were released from judgment and cleared to enter the land.
Joshua led them in. What a day of celebration that must have been for the people who had wandered year after aimless year for 40 years!
To commemorate the Lord’s miraculous hand in opening the Jordan River before the people, Joshua commanded that twelve stones be brought out of the middle of the riverbed. Then, just inside the Promised Land, Joshua erected a memorial from the stones that were gathered so that “all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:24 (NASB)
Rocks, boulders, stones – those dreaded symbols of judicial and spiritual judgment now stood as a testimony of God’s faithfulness to his people.
Joshua named the location of the memorial, “Gilgal,” which means “rolling.” God had rolled away the reproach of the nation’s sin by leading them into the Promised Land. The city of Gilgal quickly became the place of spiritual restoration, intersection, dedication, and rededication for the nation. The people would return to Gilgal often when seeking the Lord.
The adulterous woman may have wondered if her sin was too grievous for Christ’s redemption. He said not. Could she raise her head and look Jesus in the face, or would she forever see herself as unworthy? Was his assurance that he did not condemn her enough for her?
We are not told. How could he roll away her reproach? How could God roll away Israel’s reproach? The same way he has rolled away the reproach for us all; by offering his life for ours.
“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 (NASB)
“Where are they? Did no one condemn you?” Jesus asked the adulterous woman after her accusers vanished.
Did no one condemn you?
This is the story of Easter!
Jesus came to roll away our reproach before the Father. He took upon himself the sin of the entire world as he hung on that cross. He was tortured and beaten. Jesus suffered, bled, and died for us. He did this not simply to cover our sin, but to purge it completely from our hearts. We are new creations in Christ because the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, and we have been declared righteous before Him.
How do we know that our reproach has been rolled away and that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for our sin?
Rocks, boulders, and stones. Once those dreaded symbols of judicial and spiritual judgment waited to condemn us for falling short of God’s glory, but not any more – not since the morning of Jesus’ resurrection.
“And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” Matthew 28:2 (NASB)
An angel rolled away the stone from the grave. Really? I always thought that the earthquake moved the stone away from the mouth of the tomb. Not according to Matthew 28:2 it didn’t; it was an angel.
Jesus was alive. After unbinding himself from his grave clothes and winding up the headpiece by itself, Jesus walked out of the tomb in a new resurrected body. By the time the women arrived to finish preparing his old body for burial, Jesus was nowhere to be found. All that was left were some grave clothes and a couple of angels hanging around.
Despite the boulder’s ginormous size, Jesus didn’t need to have the stone removed in order to get out of the tomb. Jesus could have walked right through the rock if he had wanted to, and maybe he did for all we know. Scripture doesn’t say, but Luke 24:36 records an incident when Jesus suddenly appeared to his disciples in the upper room after his resurrection. Apparently, Jesus could show up anywhere he wanted since he was a resurrected being now, and no longer bound by the limitations of his human body. Apparently he simply materialized right in the middle of the room.
Since the stone didn’t prevent Jesus’ departure from the tomb, was it important that an angel moved the stone and not something or someone else? Yes, it was important. Having an angel move the stone was a sign of God’s blessing of the entire incident. God was communicating his acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice and, ultimately, the completion of his plan for our salvation.
Just as Jesus rolled away the reproach against the adulterous woman and God rolled away the reproach against Israel at Gilgal, God rolled away sin’s reproach against all mankind at the garden tomb. That rock matters. It is no longer a symbol of judgment and condemnation but has become, instead, the rock of God’s redeeming love for us all. God rolled the rock away and removed the stain of sin against us.
Whether you’ve lied, cheated, stolen something, had an affair, succumbed to an addiction, embezzled money from an employer, or steeped yourself in your own arrogance; no sin is so heinous that God cannot forgive it.
This is the message of Easter – “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2 (NASB)
“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said to the woman.
“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus says to you.
The stench of death is gone.
Jesus is alive!
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.