“Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her”. (John 8:7, GNT)
You remember the story. It’s early morning. Jesus has entered the temple area. Scripture records that “all of the people” gathered around him. That’s what the chief priests and the leading Pharisees were worried about; the crowds that had begun to follow Jesus. They were there. He was gaining momentum, adding seekers of the kingdom daily. The temple guards who had been instructed just days before to bring Jesus in for questioning had failed to do so. “Nobody has ever talked the way this man does!” They exclaimed. (John 7:46, GNT) Fear was mounting in the hearts of the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
They knew that Jesus would be there, at the temple that is. It was his habit. So, the trap was set. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees thrust in front of Jesus and the crowd a woman who was “caught in the very act of committing adultery”. (8:4; GNT) They didn’t bring the man with her, just the woman, mind you. “The Law of Moses,” they stated, “requires that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” They shouted; demanded an answer. “Tell us, Jesus! Is Moses right in commanding this”?
Silence. Moments of silence must have felt like hours. It often does when we demand answers and get only silence.
Jesus stooped low to the ground, took some time to scribble or draw something with his finger in the dirt. He was defusing the electricity in the atmosphere around the temple grounds, taking some air out of the balloon. There was so much he could have said. “Where’s the man who committed this act along with her”? “What’s the greater abuse here? Is it the act for which she is accused? Or, is the greater sin the abuse you show by using her to get at me? Is that not the greater shame? Your motives are more impure than the action of which you accuse her”. Jesus could have said any of these things. You and I would have. You and I would have picked up the stone of retaliation. But he didn’t.
“Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her”. Jesus gave them an out. They could, without a sound other than a thudding rock as it hit the ground, leave quietly. Self-convicted. And they did.
Dignity for the indignant. Undeserved but granted.
The acts of shaming, debasing, demoralizing, and embarrassing by those who studied and interpreted the Law of Moses were not reciprocated by the Master of Grace. He gave the grace. They dropped the stones and retreated, silently vowing to get even. Retaliation and revenge are the whispers of Satan.
But Jesus, the man of God, the one of matchless grace, wasn’t finished. There was more grace to be given. “Where are they”, he asked the woman when the crowd had filtered away, stones lying cold in the dirt. “Is there no one left to condemn you”? “No one, sir”, she replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.” (8:10-11, GNT)
I imagine that her head was bowed as she walked away. Perhaps she had trouble looking into the eyes of the great Grace giver. I know that I do. Perhaps she glanced back over her shoulder, just to take a final glimpse of pure grace. She may never see him again. She may have become a true follower. We don’t know. But what we can be sure of is that she would never forget.
Let’s you and I be sure of something. Let’s be sure that in this double scoop of grace given, Jesus was not condoning behaviors, either theirs or hers. What he was doing was offering unimaginable grace to the undeserving and asking for a change in “being”. In them. In her. In me. In you.
It’s all about grace!