This week, our lesson focused on a story about a woman caught in adultery, and Jesus’ response both to her and her accusers. (You can listen to the full lesson here.) It’s a story that teaches us a lot not only about Jesus and his mission, but about our own need for grace and mercy.
The book of John tells the story of how Jesus came down to earth and took on human form, dwelt among us, and spoke with such authority that the religious leaders of the day decided that they needed to silence him any way they could.
They finally decided to try and trap him into making public statements that the teachers could then take to the government and use to portray Jesus as a troublemaker, someone who needed to be silenced before he stirred the people up into a violent revolt. The don’t seem particularly concerned about the woman, whom they caught in the act of sin, as their attention is focused on discrediting Jesus.
When the people demanded that Jesus render a judgment, he refused to take a stand on the question.
He simply told the accusers “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
But what did he mean by that? As with other passages, when the Bible doesn’t give us specific answers, we must look at context, as well as the full picture painted in the word of God. We can see enough of Jesus’ teachings in other areas to explain what he meant more clearly.
Did he mean that what this woman had done wasn’t wrong? No, because Jesus talked a lot about the sin of adultery, just like other violations of the law.
Did he mean that sin was no one’s business but that person and God? No, because Jesus himself said that if a brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
Jesus didn’t expect us to be sinless, but he DID expect that we be honest about whether we’re truly judging what he called “righteous judgment.”
That means examining our own hearts and taking an honest look at what we’re doing before we try to make a case against someone else.
Am I guilty of the same sin? Is my priority to save and to help, or to point out fault?
It’s important for us always to see ourselves in this story to keep from becoming an accuser with impure motives, who doesn’t care at all about following the law, but is more concerned with making ourselves feel holy.
We also should see ourselves in the accused – one who has been brought before our God condemned due to our own sin, worthy of death, with nothing to save us other than the mercy of the judge.
Thanks be to God, our judge is Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us and paid the penalty for our sin. We were bought with a price, and should live our lives in joy and humility, with an eye toward helping people escape just as we escaped, through the blood of Jesus.