AN UNEXPECTED ANSWER
Gospel of John
In reading the gospel of John, we find such love, compassion, and a glimpse into the person called Jesus. It is full of stories of mercy, repentance, and redemption not necessarily seen in the other gospels. Just one of these stories is found in John 8:1-11.
In early morning Jesus came into the temple and quickly has drawn a crowd. His lesson begins quite innocently; likely just another day to feed the spiritual hunger of many who followed Him. This peaceful gathering is soon interrupted by the approach of the scribes and Pharisees, not to learn, but to trap the Master in some way and discredit Him. Their intent was to destroy Him and return the people to their control.
They drag in a woman, reportedly caught in the very act of adultery. There is never expressed any doubt of her guilt, but her partner in sin escaped the scene. “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do you say?” (vs.3, 4). The scribes and Pharisees demand an answer— the blind, heartless representatives of the reigning religion of the day. They have evidenced their emptiness of heart as redeemers, with no concern about this woman’s sin, her life, her soul. Their only concern is trapping Jesus, and so in holy outrage they test the Master to give them righteous indignation to discredit Him. They seem highly confident that Jesus can give no answer that will not entrap Him, either by violating the Law, or show Jesus to be as heartless and uncaring as they
Jesus simply stoops, and writes in the dirt as the mob waits impatiently for His response. One can only guess at what He is thinking about. Maybe it was about this woman, how her life had gone wrong, or out of control. Maybe He knows her circumstances – He knows her heart. It is like the heart of every human, aware of failure, despairing of lost opportunity, wondering where things went wrong, fear of what was about to happen. (We too have likely quite often been there.)
The “righteous” leaders insist on an answer. Jesus decides it is time to stop this nonsense: ‘I suppose if you’ve never made a mistake, then you have the right to stone her,’ (paraphrasing vs 7). Jesus again stoops to write in the dirt. His response is met with silence. We probably would call it thunderous silence. In moments a few feet begin to shuffle, apparently not to pick up stones, but to move from the front of the crowd, maybe a few nervously cleared their throats, but didn’t speak. (We may also find ourselves in this uncomfortable situation on occasion today.) More silence. Finally some of the leadership group retreats, having been convicted in their conscience. Then a few more depart. This left Jesus and the woman alone. None are left to accuse her. Jesus looks up and asks the woman “Is there no one to condemn you?” (vs. 10). She responds “No one, Lord”. I wonder what she was expecting from Jesus. I dare say she was not expecting His answer: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” What a huge relief this must have been to her. What an impact it should have on us today. No matter the sin, Jesus will forgive and exhort us “to go and sin no more”. How can anyone not love such a Master? Jesus, who sees the heart, forgave her with the exhortation to sin no more.
To my knowledge, we hear no more of this woman in scripture. We know nothing specific about her, just a human being caught at an embarrassing point and appearing beside God on earth. She did, however, show us an important attribute of our Savior. Maybe she was present at the cross and heard Him say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) She may have realized in a very short period of time what is sometimes takes us years to realize: we may sin and be in the presence of the Savior, but can be forgiven by grace, mercy, and instruction. Remember His instruction to her: “Go, and sin no more..”
That same Jesus who forgave this sinful woman and the mob who crucified Him is the Jesus who judges and forgives us today. This simple story shows us so much about our Savior, His unlimited love for us, and our relationship with Him. We all sin (Rom.3:23). We all hesitate to lay our sin before our Savior, even though He knows it already. He knows everything about us, so it cannot be hidden. You wait for an answer from Him. Will you get what you deserve? Or will you choose grace and instruction? He has made it our choice. He is always unwaveringly faithful. Let us rejoice and be glad that this is our Savior today. No matter how bad we think we are, He can and will forgive, just as He did this woman. This same Jesus said “I will never leave you or forsake you…” Are you willing to “go and sin no more”?