“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. (John 8:11 NIV)
A woman was caught in the act of adultery.
If she had any pretence to respectability in that 1st century Judaean town, all that was forever gone. Were she to be spared death by stoning, she would still have to face the sneering looks and the unrelenting contempt. There would be no escape from the snare that she had laid for herself.
She had never been treated with any kindness or respect by her neighbours. Her waywardness was obvious to her neighbours who had long observed her roving eyes and her immodest style of dress. Her lifestyle was possibly the subject of local gossip and few pitied her this day. Like hunted prey to be devoured by wolves, she was led to the middle of a crowd that had gathered around the Street Preacher.
‘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?’ John 8:3-5 NIV
Her captors quoted the law to the Street Preacher who sat there silent, head bowed in deep thought. Time stood still, but he seemed to be in no hurry at all. “Surely you know the law. Such women deserve death.” He seemed unwilling to get involved. “Rabbi. Do you care at all for the laws of Moses? Do justice and tradition mean nothing to you?”
Jesus, still silent, began to write on the ground. Perhaps He wrote down some names. Perhaps He was listing out the other sinful acts, that this woman had committed in her past which were not generally known, but recognisable to the men involved, some of whom were in the crowd. Or perhaps he wrote only the words, “You shall not commit adultery”. Then straightening up, He suddenly looked them in the face and spoke:
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 NIV
His gaze moved among the gathering, exposing to every man’s heart, his own hidden sin in vivid, shocking detail. Suddenly the Street Preacher had become the Judge and the accusers were the lawbreakers.
The woman, who had been dragged screaming and struggling, stood in a state of senseless shock as she awaited her sentence of doom. Her head was bowed; fear and shame overtaken by listlessness. She took in very little of the exchange between her accusers and the Judge. If she had ever in her past acknowledged God or been a religious person, prayers now failed her. She was among the condemned, her guilt uncovered and there would be no mercy. Meaningless, now, to say that she was sorry.
Yet suddenly she became aware that somehow the dynamics of the situation had changed. The terrible suspense had dissipated and her jailors had loosened their hold. She lifted her head to see the men leave one by one, each in a different direction, heads bowed, shame-faced. Unable to comprehend, she turned to look at her Judge and instantly, everything became clear.
The Judge had become her advocate, her defense lawyer. Though she had been guilty, He had defended her, His righteousness covering her sins and cleansing her shame. She was forgiven and freed to the uttermost, and declared innocent.
The exchange that followed was brief.
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.” (John 8:10-11 NIV)
Too overwhelmed to speak, the woman walked away, changed and free.
Father, we thank You for sending us Jesus to set us free from all our sins and from all condemnation. Through His blood, we can stand before You with a clean conscience, rejoicing in the forgiveness of sins. Help us always remember the price You paid to set us free and how much you long for us to experience total deliverance from our enemies. Thank You.