Tuesday, April 19, 2011
3The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone 4and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. 5Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" 6They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. 7They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." John 8:3-7 The Message
Preparing like thousands of other pastors this week for Holy Week coming Sunday, I've been reading the account of the ministry of Jesus in John's gospel. Today I stopped here. Or I guess I should say "it stopped me."
It probably was easy for the religion scholars to get all worked up over the woman in this story's sin. She was guilty of breaking God's law - no doubt. It's true there had to be a man involved, and it's also true he's not in this scene. Maybe this was all a setup. Still, she was guilty. They could point and yell and grab and drag her to justice. It's always easier to see someone else's sin, and we've got an incredibly powerful ability to get angry when we can do that while keeping our moral distance from those we catch. We're not "those people."
If we think about it, our lives are full of those instances. Growing up in the South, I heard about "those blacks. On a trip to Texas, someone wanted to talk about "those Mexicans." Even in church, we have a tendency to try to take the same moral high ground when we talk about sinners in different "tribes" that we don't belong to.
Feels good too - this high and mighty moral indignation.
Until God shows up. Until His presence means the mirrors come out, and we see ourselves for who WE are. Sinners. All who fall pitifully short of God's standards.
This day, the men in their ignorance had made the mistake of bringing their feigned outrage to the only one Who had a right to be angry. They turned their attention from her to Him as they kept hounding the Son of God to agree that they were better than the woman they had caught.
Instead, He turned toward them and hurled their words back with brute force.
"The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone."
He only made one condition, but it was one neither they, nor you and I can ever hope to meet.
Sinless? Uh, no.
I wonder what it sounded like as the stones dropped into the dust that day?
How I wish I could have seen Jesus reach down and help the woman rise.
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. 10 Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" 11 "No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."