1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he came sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This is one of my favorite stories of the gospel in the bible. This, and the "Parable of the Prodigal Son", show the extravagant grace of God. In this story the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were about to stone a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand in public, part of the shaming process, and asked Jesus what they should do? There were trying to get him to go against the law of Moses. In such a public act of repudiation of the law of Moses, they thought they could trap him.
But Jesus knows what is in their hearts, so he doesn't react. Instead, he starts to write on the ground with his fingers. Later we might surmise that he is writing down the sins of her accusers. Then, as they continued to badger him, he says, "Whoever is without sin be the first one to cast the first stone." Again he stooped down and continued to write on the ground, just as Moses wrote the Law on the stone tablets that they had broken in their pride and judgmental attitude.
And then something amazing happens. One by one, the men begin to leave, starting with the elders. Why was this so? Presumably it was because if anyone knew they were sinners, it was these older men. Finally, when everyone was gone except Jesus and the woman, Jesus renders his judgment. You can imagine how scared the woman must have felt and so ashamed to have this young Rabbi being the only one left. Jesus addresses her, "Where are your accusers? Where are those who would condemn you?" She utters the words probably barely above a whisper, "No one sir!" And the only one who was left who could condemn her gave his verdict. Jesus utters the words, "Then neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!"
What a moment of grace! These had to be sweetest words the woman had ever heard. Many think she was one of the women at the tomb preparing Jesus for his burial after he died at the cross. Her sins had been forgiven, and at the moment she had been freed from shame to leave her life of sin. She was freed from shame by grace. In her freedom she could now lead a new life if she so chose.
When was the moment you discovered God's grace for you in Christ Jesus? When did all of your accusers leave the scene, so Jesus could say to you, "Who is it that condemns you? Then neither do I." And we need to hear those words more than once. We all sin and fall into shame that binds us and gets us stuck in it. What we need in this moment is to hear the words, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I think the church needs to hear more about this mind-blowing grace. The world needs to see that Jesus came to save the worst of sinners, including you and me. You can see why it is one of my favorite stories.