The people are gathered around Jesus as he is teaching in the temple courts, when in march the pious religious leaders with a woman caught in adultery. Looking for a way to accuse Jesus, they demand an answer: "Do we stone her as Moses said? Do we give this woman the justice she deserves?"
Quietly, Jesus begins to write in the sand. Scripture doesn't tell us what he is writing, but we can imagine what he is thinking: that he will be accused--for us. That his body will be broken instead of hers, instead of mine. That he will die even for the self-righteous ones, those religious folk who care more about looking good than loving God. We will cast our stones at him.
Jesus dares them to stone her--but only if they are without sin themselves. With this challenge, he shuts up the hypocrites.
He knows he is the only one worthy to cast a stone; he is the only one without sin. And he will not do it. He will not condemn her.
Tonight, at our area high school WHY Groups, students discussed the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. For one student in particular, the discussion raised some heady questions about the nature of sin. "How much is too much to sin? And why does it matter anyway if they're just little sins? If Jesus was tempted too, does he really blame us for giving into temptation sometimes?" (Man, I just love the ones who ask questions!)
This passage from John can raise some similar concerns for us. "Why does Jesus let her off so easy? And how does he really know she will leave her life of sin as he directs her?" the legalist in each of us might venture to ask.
The point, my friends, is grace. Because of the Incarnation and the Cross, you and I have been "let off" too.
He has silenced our accusers.
He has taken the beating we deserved.
He has wiped the slate clean.
And grace never leaves us where we are, but calls us instead to leave our old lives behind.
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
the iniquity of us all.
yet he opened not his mouth;
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.