This is Day Fifteen of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Naomi Armstrong.
John 8: 1 – 30:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found over the years that Jesus has a tendency of being unpredictable; of going about things in the way you would least expect. And I’m pretty sure that the woman in verses 1 to 11 of this story knew what I mean.
The Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman who has been caught red-handed in a sin that by Jewish law, is punishable by death; that is death by stoning. She would’ve been thinking ‘game over’. And the Pharisees had no intention of actually listening to Jesus – they just wanted “a basis for accusing Him” (verse 5).
And yet Jesus kneels down and starts writing in the dirt. Just imagine, asking someone a direct question and having them totally ignore you and start doing something else seemingly irrelevant. Not ideal, right? Of course, the Pharisees, wanting a reason to take Jesus prisoner, push Him to speak. Eventually, He says: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. And then, He kneels down again and continues to write in the dirt.
Some theologians have thought it most likely that He was writing the Law of Moses in the dirt. The very law that the Pharisees were holding the sinful woman accountable to. So when Jesus says that they should go ahead and throw the first stone, they are confronted with “thou shalt not covet” and “thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain” etc. Suddenly they are very aware of their sin.
This turn of events leads to the crowd dwindling away until only Jesus and the woman remain. And Jesus forgives her and says “go now and leave your life of sin”.
It feels impossible to imagine the feeling of relief that the woman would have felt when suddenly her life was spared and she was offered a second chance in an intimate encounter with Jesus. And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus does for you and for me. Jesus came so that the law cannot condemn us. So that no one can “throw the first stone”. So that you can “go now and leave your life of sin”.
Jesus was acknowledging that He brought with Him a new covenant, that from now on we are free from the punishment of sin and the burden of death and can walk in the freedom that His death on the cross offers us.
But remember this. Yes, Jesus forgave. But He also told the woman to change. His forgiveness does not minimise what we’ve done or pretend it did not happen. His forgiveness says “let’s move on and do life together”. We have to accept grace and follow Him.
Later in the passage, Jesus is still teaching in the temple courts. He says this:
“You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms. I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives.” (verses 23-24, MSG)
Like the Pharisees, some of us are “missing God” in our lives and, as a result, we are “at a dead end”. We so easily let ourselves be condemned, judged and punished by the world and steal ourselves of the freedom of forgiveness.
Don’t be “missing God in your lives”. Let His forgiveness offer you a second chance. Let the incredible sacrifice He made for you transform your life.
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell