53 Then they all went home. 8 1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At sunrise he arrived again in the temple courtyard. All the people gathered around him there. He sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman. She had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of the group. 4 They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who was not her husband. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to kill such women by throwing stones at them. Now what do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap Jesus with that question. They wanted to have a reason to bring charges against him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 They kept asking him questions. So he stood up and said to them, “Has any one of you not sinned? Then you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 He bent down again and wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard what he had said began to go away. They left one at a time, the older ones first. Soon only Jesus was left. The woman was still standing there. 10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Hasn’t anyone found you guilty?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then I don’t find you guilty either,” Jesus said. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The teachers and Pharisees weren’t really attacking this woman. It was Jesus they were after. Her death would be no more than a device to trap him. “Collateral damage”. Their goal was to condemn: to condemn Jesus and this woman was to be condemned to achieve that.
I think Jesus was angry. I think that was the response they wanted. Angry condemnation of almost anyone would serve their purpose. But Jesus isn’t playing their game at all. He doesn’t give them the response they want. Instead he gives them the key to grace.
Jesus knows “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.” (Rom 5:20) Its purpose is to bring us to the where we accept the gift of righteousness Jesus bought in place of our futile efforts to earn it. And that’s Jesus purpose too – his life purpose.
It rings true that the oldest saw their sin first, and left. I find that with every year I see more clearly how little ground I have to condemn anyone. With every year I see more clearly how dangerous anger can be. One year now I’ll stop doing both. I hope.
Father, give me the wits to respond with your words not mine. To respond with your love not anger. To respond with grace not condemnation.
Written by David Cornell