John 8: 2-11
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’
SUMMARY OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE
On Sunday morning we commenced our series ‘Love Came Down’ with Paul’s prayer from Ephesians providing the backdrop:
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 17-19)
Paul wants the church to fully grasp and completely comprehend the immensity and intensity of God’s passionate love for them. He longs that they would be grounded and secure in this love.
We then looked at how this incredible love was demonstrated by Jesus in his interaction with someone whose life had become a mess. In John 8, Jesus is teaching in the temple when the religious leaders drag a woman ‘caught in the act’ of adultery before him.
The question is: where is the man in all of this? If this woman was caught in the act, certainly there was a male partner involved. This wasn’t about administering justice or upholding righteousness. It was about trapping Jesus. This woman was simply an object to be used in their desire to remove Jesus as a threat to their power.
This woman, somewhere along the way, had made wrong choices and now she found herself in a mess. Jesus however saw beyond the mess and the label of ‘adulteress’. He looked through the eyes of grace and saw a beautiful woman made in the image of God.
We read that Jesus knelt down and began to write in the dirt on the ground. The immediate effect of this would have been to take the attention off the woman as everyone strained to see what Jesus was writing. Religion exposes sin whereas Jesus covers sin.
Most of us avoid mess, however, Jesus moved towards the mess. This woman was lying in the dirt. She was physically dirty. But she was also spiritually dirty in the eyes of the crowd, she was covered in the filth of her sin and shame.
Jesus on the other hand, was completely clean. He never sinned in his whole life, not even once. He stooped down into the dirt with the woman. He’s not repulsed or repelled by the dirt. He’s not afraid of being made unclean by the dirt.
He moved towards the mess. Jesus was clean but stepped down into the dirt, that each of us who were in the dirt, might be made clean.
Jesus challenges her accusers: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (v. 7) He holds a mirror up to their self-righteousness and asks them to look at their own sin and shortcomings. One by one the religious vigilantes leave, until there’s just Jesus and the woman left.
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you? No-one, sir, she said. Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (vv. 10-11)
Jesus was the only one who had never sinned, He was the only one who could have legitimately condemned her. Yet He offered mercy in exchange for her mess. He didn’t excuse her sin. He named it for what it was and told her to stop sinning. He managed to express the incredible balance of both grace and truth, because He embodied and personified both (John 1: 14). He had compassion on her, without condoning her behaviour. He communicated grace without compromising His character. He confronted the reality of sin without condemning her.
So, when Jesus says to this woman - “Go and sin no more” – it’s not a threat. It’s a declaration of freedom. Grace is not a license to sin, grace is an empowerment to live a new life.
There is mercy in the mess. As those who have received His grace and mercy, we should be generous with it to others, be liberal with it, give it away freely.