You have heard the story told numerous times about the woman caught in the act of adultery. Can you imagine for a second the embarrassment and horror she experienced? We’re told in scripture she was caught in the very act! Little did she know she was being watched. Perhaps, her husband or someone else noticed she was spending a lot of time alone with a guy who wasn’t her husband. Either way she was caught red handed and there was nothing she could do to deny the allegations because her nakedness was exposed.
If I envisioned this for a second I’d think the men came in abruptly and grabbed her from the arms of her lover. She was naked and probably grabbed a sheet to cover herself. She was left all alone to fend for herself as her so called lover didn’t come to her defense, he didn’t plead for mercy, he didn’t cry for her deliverance or even offer to take her place. There’s silence on his end. And at that moment if she didn’t realize it before she now knows he doesn’t love her. Her eyes probably pleaded with him to speak up for her and all he did was put his head down in shame, not wanting to look her in the eye. He freely allowed ravenous wolves to snatch and rip her apart. These men saw her as filth that needed to be exposed but never bothered to interrogate the man who took part in the adulterous act; she didn’t act alone!
Against her will they forcibly brought her out against a crowd of people.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
The intensity of emotion can be heard and felt. Some onlookers are embarrassed and feel sorry for her while others feel her punishment is justified. All the while, I can envision she is bent over with her hands in her face crying and finding it unbelievable that she’s gotten herself in such a irreversible dilemma.
Amongst all the gasps and chaos Jesus maintains His peace. He doesn’t get caught up in the commotion. The men are a bunch of egotistical and contentious religious leaders who’s set agenda was to distort Jesus words and come against His ministry.
Jesus doesn’t fret or choose to retaliate. Instead he simply bends down and writes in the dust with his finger. The more Jesus maintains his composure the more they demand he confront and deal with the issue at hand. Jesus stands up again and says,
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7)
Afterwards Jesus casually stoops to the ground and begins to again write in the dust. All the while, the accusers begin to slip away one by one, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. By this time, the accusers have all left but there are still a crowd of witnesses observing Jesus interaction with the woman.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
This is such a powerful illustration of the Father’s love and His willingness to stand for us when all others turn against us! The woman was looking for a death sentence but she instead was granted grace and mercy. Jesus didn’t side with her and justify the wrong act she committed yet He let her know He didn’t condemn her nor were her accusers justified as they too had fallen short of God’s glory in their own lives.
Often times we fail to realize Jesus message of forgiveness and redemption is just as prevalent today as it was centuries ago. The message of this story has taken on a new meaning for me and will always have a special place in my heart. Prior to meeting my ex husband I’d been abstinent for six years. I faltered and entered into sexual sin. Once I’d spent the night with him and I awakened in the middle of the night with a start; I felt a palpable presence in my room! An angelic being walked through the door. I knew it was angelic because there was no knock or attempt to open the locked door but instead the angelic being walked right through and appeared at the foot of the bed. He gave me a stern look, pointed directly at me and said, “Go and sin no more!” The message was clear and needed no explanation as I knew I was wrong and lying in bed with a man who wasn’t my husband.
As I reflect on her story I wonder how her life was afterwards. Her reputation was damaged. Her husband more than likely put her away. She more than likely didn’t go back to the adulterous affair as she realize he didn’t love her. She was left alone to bear the shame. I’m sure gossip surfaced and she may have been disowned by her family and friends. Sometimes she may have felt she would have been better off dead than face shame and public scrutiny.
When I look at the shame in her life and I think of the past shame in my own I see Jesus ignoring the whispers, the back biters, the gossipers, and those who stood ready to judge. He doesn’t side with them. He refuses to add coals to the fire and throw a stone in her direction. Instead he doesn’t look their way and casually begins to write in the dirt with his finger. The demands of your life, the public scrutiny and shame may be intense but Jesus remains calm and is willing to stand for you although others may be against you. Whenever satan or your accusers try to heap shame on top of shame and tell you there’s no grace; remember Jesus. You have to be as He was and ignore the crowd and don’t respond to the noise. Don’t let people steal your peace and rob you of the gift of salvation that’s freely given to all. You’re free, you’re forgiven. Past sins and mistakes have no place in your present life. Where are your accusers? Where are those who stand ready to judge? You are no longer a prisoner to past guilt and shame. Take a hold of His grace and forgiveness and go and sin no more!
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer