Considering Jesus Challenge
Day 15, January 15, 2013, Tuesday
“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.’ Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 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. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.’”
I love this story. Of all the stories written about Jesus in the Bible, this one overwhelms me every time I read it. Maybe it’s because Jesus sidesteps a legal snare to protect the woman from her accusers, or because he refuses to publicly humiliate her, or because he demonstrates grace in action by extending honor and freedom to her in the face of religious condemnation.
Maybe it’s for all of these reasons, but I absolutely love how Jesus treats this woman.
The religious leaders of the day were quick to bring a “sinner” into the public arena, accuse her, and then demand punishment for her. Having zero concern for the heart or the welfare of the woman, the leaders tried to bait Jesus into their trap so they could accuse him as well, and bring charges against him.
Jesus would have none of it.
Instead, Jesus intimates that the men are not above reproach in the situation. Jesus knows they are malicious witnesses and basically, lets them know that he is aware they set the woman up from the beginning and are every bit as guilty as she is in this situation.
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus says to the men before him.
By redirecting the issue of the woman’s guilt to one of personal evaluation by her accusers, Jesus offers them one of his brilliant “none of the above” answers to their demand.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus refuses to get pigeonholed by the religious legalists of his day and often poses alternatives not considered to conundrums they thought they’d figured out. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ hypocritical poll-tax question in Mark 12:14, is a classic reversal by Jesus intended to reveal their true motivation. The same is true in this episode with the woman they were trying to trap in adultery. Jesus doesn’t outright condemn the men for setting her up, but he allows them to condemn themselves. As a result, Jesus doesn’t publicly humiliate the men, rather he simply allows them to evaluate themselves against the same standard they were using to assail the woman. When they recognize their own sin, they leave the courtyard one at a time.
It saddens me that Christians are eager to expose the sin of those who don’t walk with Jesus and then publicly humiliate them because they don’t. Jesus never did that. Jesus offered discretion and honor to the sinner. He offered them a safe haven to confess their sin, repent, and make things right. Publicly shaming unbelievers for not believing is one of the things Christians do that absolutely grieves me to the core. Since Jesus never did that, why do we think it’s okay?
It’s not okay.
It’s never okay.
I’m not advocating a cover-up, denial, or cheap grace. I’m encouraging us to look at how Jesus dealt with the woman in John 8 and reevaluate how we interact with those who don’t know him. After all her accusers left, the woman stood alone in the courtyard with Jesus.
“Woman, where are they?” Jesus asked. “Did no one condemn you?”
“No one, Lord,” she answered.
“I do not condemn you, either,” Jesus said and encouraged her to go and sin no more from that moment on.
Jesus didn’t publicly humiliate her or condemn her, but neither did he ignore the sin which brought her there in the first place. With everyone gone, Jesus extended her the grace of his forgiveness in a more private and safe setting.
So, my questions for reflection this morning:
Do I provide people who don’t know Jesus a safe place to come and be authentic?
Do they trust that I will not humiliate or condemn them when they make mistakes?
Are they assured that I will not create a public, political spectacle out of their life choices?
If you want to read more about Jesus’ handling of the woman caught in adultery, here’s another blog entry I wrote on it last year:
Considering Jesus Challenge Passage for Tomorrow January 16, 2013:
“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, ‘Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.’” Mark 14:3-9
© Copyright, 2013 by Donna Tallman.