Scripture: John 8:1-11
Observation: The Pharisees bring Jesus a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and ask him how they should deal with her transgression, hoping to trap him in an answer. He demanded that the person who has never sinned throw the first stone. Eventually, the crowd left, and Jesus assures the woman that he does not condemn her for her sin.
Application: For someone who tends to be a perfectionist, I mess up a lot. Can anyone else relate? While I have a decent-sized list of things that I like to think I’m good at, I have a much longer list of things I’m not and things I struggle with. From being impatient to despising all household chores – including, but not limited to, vacuuming, dusting, organizing files, cleaning off counter tops, mopping, and washing dishes – I’m not always the model wife/mom/daughter/sister/friend/leader. (I have never in my life actually mopped a floor. To my credit, I’ve done some half-hearted Swiffering, but that’s about it.)
Needless to say, I often fall far short of the most basic standards. And when I mess up, I crave forgiveness but expect condemnation, crave grace but expect judgement, crave mercy but expect punishment, crave reconciliation but expect resentment. So those moments when someone lets me off the hook, extending forgiveness and grace and mercy and reconciliation that I don’t deserve? It’s intoxicatingly freeing. It feels like heaven meets earth, living in a place that I am not condemned for what I’ve done but accepted for who I am and what I could be.
When the religious leaders find a woman who committed adultery, they could have punished her privately. But, instead, they choose to embarrass her further and attempt to trap Jesus at the same time. They remind him that the law says her sin deserves punishment by stoning.
“They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.” (v. 6-8)
These religious leaders reacted the same way we often react when we’ve been wronged – they decide to embarrass her, to judge her, to try and bring others along with them in their condemnation. (Because isn’t ganging up on people publicly always more satisfying than dealing with them privately?) Jesus responds by doodling in the dirt. (While we don’t know for sure what he was writing, some suggest that he started writing down all of the sins of the people accusing the woman.... or maybe he was just doodling. Who knows?!)
Eventually, they all leave until only Jesus is left with this woman. And, he responds with the grace and mercy we all deeply desire in our most vulnerable moments.
“Then, Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (v. 10-11)
Before Jesus, our lives were measured by how we measured up. We sinned, we were punished, we asked for forgiveness, we sinned again, we were punished, we asked for forgiveness – it was a neverending cycle of trying to get to God, knowing that we could never possibly display his righteousness and holiness on our own.
But, then Jesus came and changed everything. He offered us a way out of the rat race of trying to defeat sin on our own, of trying to get to God. And while we may endure consequences for our sin, we are never condemned through our faith in Christ Jesus.
Jesus says to us, “You’re off the hook.” But so many times, we leave ourselves on the hook, replaying bad decisions, mired in guilt about a wrong choice we made, stuck in a dysfunctional relationship out of shame. We keep ourselves on the hook – long after we’ve been forgiven, restored, and renewed by our Father.
Let yourself off the hook today, confessing every sin and slip-up in your life to God – the one who has already made you holy, righteous, and perfect through the blood of his Son.
Prayer: God, thank you for looking at us and seeing your Son instead of seeing only our sin. I confess my sins to you today; God, I cry out for your forgiveness, your undeserving grace and mercy. Help me let myself off the hook and move forward, confident in my purpose through you. Amen.