In the Gospel According to John Chapter 8, verses 1-12 we read:
“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him. And He sat down and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. And standing her in the midst, they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say? They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear. But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” And again bending down, He wrote on the ground.
And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgement against you?” And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I give judgement. Go, and sin no more.”
Then Jesus spoke again to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” ”
I have heard this passage preached from the pulpit and read about it in books many times. However, I do not want to reiterate these teachings which concentrate on the hypocrisy of the accusers etc. etc. Instead I want to expand on a recently received teaching.*
As Jesus bent down to write in the sand, He offered the accusers standing around and watching Him very intently, three choices:
- You can throw your rocks at this sinful woman and kill her. After all, she was caught in flagrante delicto, in the very act and is making no attempt to deny the fact she is guilty.
- You can reflect on your own lives, your own innocence and your own guilt. And, if, after reflection, you find yourself without sin, then you may throw the first stone.
- You can see that Lord Jesus stands on the other side, with a sinner, an adulteress who needs Him. You can cross over and stand with them. You can “cross the line” which Jesus has effectively “drawn in the sand.”
As you can see from the text, the accusers did not throw their stones. Instead, they let them drop from their hands, one by one, as “they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone.”
Not one of the accusers recognised or accepted the third option which Jesus has laid openly before them. The option was to cross the line Jesus had drawn in the sand with his finger, and receive forgiveness for his sins, just as the woman was to receive. By their leaving, while they were in a sense publicly acknowledging that they “were not without sin,” they were not prepared to acknowledge “I am a sinner” and I need forgiveness. They chose not to stand with the woman and acknowledge their sin, their fallen state, as she silently acknowledged hers.
To their credit, the accusers chose not to judge a fellow sinner, by dropping their stones and quietly leaving. However, in doing so, they also chose not accept Jesus’ unique offer: to step into Kingdom forgiveness and to receive its abundant life.
In similar circumstances, how will we act?
For us the line is still clearly and indelibly drawn in Biblical words for us to cross. In this life we need to make choices daily as we face both the opportunities and tests before us. But we have a guide as to how to live; we just need to read Matthew 25:34-46 which quotes the words of Jesus himself:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’
Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Amen and Amen.
“The Holy Spirit and the End Times” by Pastor James A Wilson pages 331/332