This is one of the most oft quoted scriptures I know. Even people who don’t hold a specific or Christian belief can quote this one phrase, “Let he without sin cast the first stone.” Usually, it’s a deflection phrase when you bring up something someone doesn’t want to deal with. The issue there is that there is a difference between casting a stone at someone, and encouraging someone to deal with a ‘sin’ in their lives that is destroying them (literally and/or spiritually). That said, we who call ourselves Christians, don’t often recognize the difference in that either. For the record, we might understand that if we approach it one way (loving, compassion, prayerfully, with real concern) we are helping. If we approach it the other way (condemnation, accusation, bitterness, anger, self-righteousness) we are guilty (sinning ourselves). That is a post for another day though. Today we examine the reading of what was REALLY going on in this passage and how we might apply it to our own understanding.
The Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. This was their attempt at a trick. If Jesus said to them, “Nah, let her go.” Then they could say he was false as he did not uphold the laws of Moses, and could be considered a sinner. If he said, “STONE HER!” then he was one of them, but not a savior. You see there where they probably thought they were pretty clever. Seems kind of like a win-win situation for them. It’s a picture of the hideously limiting way we think of God and His ways, sometimes. They entered into this thinking only A or B was possible. Now, let’s also point out that they were more than willing to sacrifice another human being to prove their point too. That is an oft overlooked, but extremely over-used, human thing to do. We are often “so correct” that we are willing to sacrifice others to prove our own righteousness.
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He bent down and started writing things on the sand floor. I’ve spend loads of time wondering exactly what he was writing and there are a couple of possibilities. One is that he was writing the specific sins (not related to this case) of the men who were standing in judgement. The other possibility, that my limited mind can come up with, is that he was writing down what part each man played in this specific case. Things like “Pharisee Smith got the guy to the woman’s house. Pharisee Thomas dropped the woman off at the house.” Because the law stated that when someone was stoned they had to be blameless of the crime. Now, the reason I speculate it could be either is because if I was full of myself and thinking I was all kinds of righteous (in this matter) and then Jesus busted out some sin I was secretly hiding, I’d walk away too. Talk about letting the air out of my balloon of holy! The other thing (their connection) is a possibility because the whole thing was a set up anyway. It kind of makes sense that Jesus was calling them out for their own part in how her sin came to be anyway. All that said, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was something else He wrote that I might not even be able to fathom. Maybe He was writing times and dates of when each of them slept with her. It’s a mystery.
Whatever He wrote cleared the house. It took the air out of their accusation and left the woman standing alone with Jesus. He didn’t break Moses’ law (there by keeping him sinless) AND He gave the woman compassion in not condemning her even though He was blameless. It was an act of His Messiahship, and a picture of how He might deal with us at some future time. She was guilty, so are we, and there are plenty of people willing to condemn us for our guilt, but in grace He might spare our eternal lives.
There is a lot to learn from this passage, if we meditate on all the facets of what it really means. This is especially true of our goal is to be more like Jesus today than we were yesterday. God, grant us, through your Holy Spirit, the wisdom to be as He who is the light of the world.
Food for thought and prayer.
Here I am, Lord, send me!