“Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?””
Read verses 1 through 12 of John chapter 8, online, in your Bible or do both. I want us to get into the habit of making time to study God’s Word together and studying means going a little further and a little deeper. The section of today’s reading will help our key verse, John 8:10, have much more significance when we read it in context.
John chapter 8 opens with Jesus in the temple complex teaching when a woman accused of adultery (by the religious leaders of the time) is forced to stand in the middle of the crowd. These “leaders” announce to Jesus, with the crowd looking on, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”
I get very uncomfortable every time I read this story because I read it imagining myself as this woman, eyes searching the ground, my soul within me quaking. Can you imagine the scene? Can you picture yourself as this woman? Your life is suddenly threatened. You are questioning why you were even attracted to the man you adulterated your marriage with. You question why lust overcame you, why you were so willing to be succumb to desire. You wonder if your husband will shame you, even more than this moment, once he finds out. Or maybe, your husband already knows. Is he one of these men? Is one of them his friend?
This woman, thrown in the middle of a ploy to trap Jesus is a sinful woman, caught in the very act. She is exactly like you and I. We are sinful because we mess up and God sees it every time. We make horrible mistakes again and again. Despite the desire we may have for true righteousness, we fail ourselves, our families and God daily because our desire for the dirty, lust-filled things of this life mean more. Don’t read this story and think of a women you know, read this story and think of the woman you are. You may not be an adulterer but you are, my loved one, a sinner.
And as scary as it may seem, if we don’t accept this ugly truth we can never fully accept the beautiful mercy on the other end of this story. I thank God this woman’s story didn’t end here, with an accusation. Sometimes, our church friends, our coworkers or our family members will tattoo the horrible, detestable things we’ve done to the memories they share of us. We convince ourselves we are beyond forgiveness, we are beyond the good future God created in His hand because we are beyond the hand of God. But we are not. God’s hand is right here.
And it was right there in this story when Jesus, the Son of God, stretched His hand and began to write with His finger in the ground. While we don’t know exactly what He wrote, we know what He said, “…he who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” This statement caused the sinful woman’s accusers take off one by one. Jesus, “…straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Here, God’s work is displayed. I am so glad this story is about a woman, I am glad she was caught in sin, too. I won’t minimize the shame she felt as she was found in sin and forcefully presented to Jesus. I will say, without her lowly shame she wouldn’t know what it is to rise in Him. Maybe you understand. Maybe you have been there or are there now. I know I am. No matter how horrible you’ve lived, how many times you’ve sinned or how many ways you fail Him we see God’s work displayed in mercy.
Mercy is at your disposal if you haven’t yet been told how to contact it. We contact it through the blood of Jesus by being baptized. Scripture says, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” [1 Peter 3:21]. Let’s remove the dirt from our souls and gain mercy upon mercy and grace upon grace for this God’s work displayed: mercy, grace and love.