I’ve made a commitment to read a little in the gospels every day. The other letters explain well how to live out the power of Christ’s death and resurrection power in our normal Christian lives, but nothing can substitute sitting at Jesus’ feet, observing the way he loves people regardless of the way we treat one another. As I write this Hebrews 12:1-3 comes to mind.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
John 8: 1-11 puts Jesus’s compassion and mercy on display and challenges us to love others so deeply that we too are willing to crouch down to the same level as those who are hurting and see through their sin into their God created, God loved soul.
Let me set the scene. Bear with me, I’ve taken a few liberties.
The early morning sun has peaked up over the trees dousing the temple complex in brilliant sun light as Jesus sits down to teach the magnitude of people who have come to hear him.
Perhaps that same sun has just broken through the curtains, waking a woman who lay still warm in the arms of her lover. She hasn’t even had time to dress herself or pin up her hair, when the Pharisees break in, grab her, and drag her into the street to face her consequences.
As they shoved her through the temple gates every head turns to stare and gape at the spectacle. Every eye is on her. There’s no stopping them as they thrust her into the middle of the multitude. Shame fills every piece of her, body and soul as the Pharisees force her to stand face to face with Jesus. Smugly they say, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So, what do you say?”
Maybe the woman’s mind raced in a thousand different directions thinking, “Great! I’m being used as a pawn to bring condemnation to the One, the Messiah, who is healing everyone. Me! If everyone didn’t hate me before, now they certainly will. Who will save Jesus from the Pharisees? Who will save me from death by stoning?”
Slowly Jesus averts his eyes and crouches down. As he waits there he begins to write in the sand. A hush falls over the crowd, but the Pharisees won’t stop. They keep bombarding Jesus with questions.
Jesus stands and says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” With that he squats back down and begins to write again.
People begin to murmur and jostle one another. Then one by one they all left, starting with the oldest.
There, alone, she stands in the quiet. She’s left to face Jesus alone. As he stands up, he says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
She said, “No one, Lord.” Perhaps her heart raced and every part of her shook with fear as she waited for her Lord’s response.
Neither do I condemn you, go, and from now on sin no more.
A few years back, I attended a Sunday School class that was as diverse a group of women one can find. The teacher was born in Nigeria. The class was filled with women from Kenya, China, southerners, un-educated, doctors, and one in a wheel chair. The Bible came alive as we shared different experiences. This story came alive for me through my friend Ashley, who was in a wheel chair. She described how she connected with Jesus’s compassion in this story. She went on to describe how people in the world of wheel chairs, know to avert their eyes as someone who is disabled gets into a vehicle. There just isn’t a pretty way to make legs that don’t work slide into a vehicle without a bit of a fight. It just isn’t pretty. Averting your eyes is a way to hand back dignity to the one in the struggle with their broken parts.
Here in this story, Jesus hands back a bit of dignity to the woman caught in adultery.
In this story, I have been every character.
I have been the woman caught in sin. Weighed down by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse crying out, “What will bring me comfort?” I’ve tried to sooth the hurts of this world my own way. I have never ministered to an alcoholic, addict, or prostitute…etc.. who wasn’t physically, emotionally, or sexually abused as a child. There are many of us walking around struggling with our broken parts that are harder to see than broken legs in wheel chairs, but we are in a fight with those broken places just the same.
I’ve been the woman standing in the middle of a church meeting as deacons pointed fingers, condemned my husband and myself, demanding the congregation to throw the first stone.
I’ve been the Pharisee condemning others sin as greater than my own. How easily do we look down on the poor and broken, thinking that they just don’t work as hard as us? The best illustration for this is by Tony Evans. Imagine, we are all trying to swim from California to Hawaii. Physically, none of us can do it, but we are all born to try. There will be some who make it a little farther than others before we die, but we will all fail to make it to Hawaii. What does it profit us to look back and condemn those who can’t swim as far as we have? But we do it!
But, the one I most want to be like is Jesus. The One, who is God, crouched down. He made himself low becoming like sinful man to save us. He’s handing us back dignity, while we are standing there with stones. He doesn’t tower over us, intimidating us into obedience. Instead, he gave his life for us, with his blood he washes us clean, with his resurrection he gives us power to live a new life, and now, he prepares a place for us to live with him forever.
Who are you?
As we face the brokenness of this world, it is easy to become weary. But, today, be encouraged that the Holy Spirit will empower us to be like Jesus. We can crouch down on the same level as those who are lost and perishing. We can hand them back dignity; the same way Christ has done for us. Let us not give up!