John 8: 1 – 11
Go and Sin No More
The sun rising over the temple courts was casting long shadows in amongst the colonnades where the followers of Jesus were gathered. Some church leaders of the Pharisees group dragging a young girl behind them suddenly interrupted the teaching session. They proudly announced before the crowd that they had witnessed her committing adultery.
This was not the first time Jesus had encountered a woman who was accused of adultery - on each occasion He was more concerned with her potential than with her past.
We appreciate that He was the last Person the Pharisees would normally have approached regarding a matter of the law - they certainly did not recognise His authority. So, why did they come to Him now?
Jesus was well aware that, rather than being concerned about the sexual life of this young woman or their responsibilities to uphold the law, the Pharisees were intent on placing Him in a position where they could accuse Him of breaking the law.
It looked impossible. If He judged that they should following the teaching of Moses and have the girl stoned to death, He would be contravening the law of the occupying Roman forces. Yet if He suggested anything other than that, it would be interpreted that He was unwilling to uphold God-given law.
What must the woman have felt like? She had apparently been caught in the very act of adultery - in bed with a man who was not her husband. She must surely have been shaking in fear as she had watched her accusers gathering stones for her execution. She may also have been contemplating the shame she would be bringing upon her family and friends, as well as that which she felt as she was paraded before the crowd.
As they dragged the girl in they mockingly addressed Jesus as ‘Teacher’. Their carefully devised, hopefully foolproof, plan to trick Him had begun. He would be made to look a fool in front of His own supporters. However, soon they sensed that things were not going so well for them. Jesus apparently took little notice of them and rather concerned Himself with writing in the sand with His finger! (v6)
‘What do You say? Answer us!’ they yelled. ‘Shall we stone her?’
Eventually and in His time He gave them a look, which totally demolished them - He looked them in the eye! The law stated that anyone who had witnessed the sin should commence the execution by throwing the first stones; but immediately Jesus challenged them to first consider their own hearts. As His gaze met theirs they felt just as Adam and Eve had felt in Eden, totally naked before Him. It was as if they were feeling just like the girl they had dragged along, in that their sins were now on show for all to see.
How differently we can view the sins of others when we see them through the murky waters of our own past.
Those who come with the headlines ‘this woman was caught in the act’ crept away with their heads bowed trying to inconspicuously dispose of their weapons on the way.
It is often so easy to identify the wrong in others, and condemn their sins as we quote chapter and verse. But as we come under the searching gaze of a Holy God we can maybe begin to loosen our grip on the stones we were about to hurl, and wince as they strike us on the foot. All our arguments melt away; we note how impossible it is to remove the splinter from the eye of our brothers and sisters while our thinking is so unbalanced, due to the log in our own.
As we maybe have cause to creep away we can be so thankful that the Saviour’s gaze has been lowered and He is writing in the ground - but did you notice? When Jesus looked up the only person in the Temple Court was the poor shivering girl? Where were the crowds who had risen early to hear Him? Had His followers also searched their hearts, hung their heads and crept away?
We know the answer to the question ‘Has no-one condemned you?’ There is no record of the girl’s confession so no reason to expect forgiveness from Jesus. When the Son of God says, ‘neither do I condemn you’, we can learn from His compassion, empathy and love. His instruction, ‘Go, and sin no more’ (Authorised Version), is a challenge to us all, for all have sinned and come short of the standard raised before us by God.