the first stone

There’s this one story in John that has been rolling around in my mind for a few days. It’s the one where the Pharisees bring an adulterous woman before Jesus. They tell him that under the law, this woman is to be stoned to death, and ask him what he says about it. Jesus responds by saying “he who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the accusers take off and leave the woman standing there alone with Jesus. He says to her “Did no one comdemn you?“, and she replies “No”. And Jesus tells her “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on, sin no more.

Woah. Now that is one great story. Here’s what has caught me about it:

1. Jesus’ reaction
When these religious types bring this poor woman before Jesus and ask him whether or not she is meant to be stoned, he takes his time in responding. John tells us that he bends down and was writing on the ground with his finger, and only responded after they kept asking. When he does respond, it is with this powerfully wise answer that completely reverses the challenge back upon the questioner, and leaves them without any grounds for showering judgement on anyone.

2. We are all on a level playing field before the Lord
Jesus doesn’t deny that this woman has broken the law, nor does he say that, under the law, it would be wrong for her to be stoned to death for her transgressions. What he does is make it clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; that under the law, we are all guilty and deserve a fate equal to the one that they are trying to bring down on this woman. This is a huge blow to those who are a quick to judge, reminding us that we are all the same.

3. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to enforce it
Again, Jesus does not deny that the law is what it is, and points out that we are all guilty of not living up to it. Does he then pick up a handful of rocks and just start throwing them out at everybody? No, although he very well could have. Rather, he would go on take the punishment that we deserved. That is why the woman was able to stand before him without being condemned; Jesus is punsihed for her sin [for all our sin] and instead of death, she is given a new lease on life. She is forgiven and able to start over.

4. Love is not against the law
To steal a line from D.Webb, this story shouts at me to always remember that God’s people are meant to love. So often we come against one another with accusations, condemnations and judgement and quite simply forget to love one another. The accusers saw an adulteress who should, under the law, be punished for her sins; Jesus saw one of his precious children, made in the image of God, a woman who was loved unconditionally, regardless of her transgressions.

5. Question: What part of this story am I playing right now?
At any one point in time, I could have been cast in part of either the accuser or the woman. I have found myself easily heaping judgement upon others, and also wrestling with feeling as though I was without hope due to sin. Of course, we, as members of Christ’s body, the Church, are meant to react in love to all people in all situations. Because of love, this woman was given a fresh reason to live. If only that is what the Church was able to offer to the world on a consistent basis.

I don’t know why this story is standing out to me right now, but it is and I like it. It’s been a long time since I really took the time to meditate and learn from the Word; too often I find myself reading books about Jesus and the Bible and not the good book itself. Hopefully I can carry this story with me as I go about my business.

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