Lenten Reader -- Day 33
At dawn [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 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. 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.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
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. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11)
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9b-11)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Colossians 1:21-22)
Jesus had seen our accuser face-to-face. For 40 days, hungry and exhausted, he had withstood the devil’s temptation and calumniation.
“If you are the Son of God, then….”
Jesus never bought into the lie that he might not be who God said he was. He persisted, because accusation (false or true) is one of the enemy’s favorite tactics. And having faced the evil of accusation himself, Jesus refused to ever accuse anyone, except those who were adding to the devil’s kingdom (cf. Matthew 23:15).
Even when faced with this woman who was obviously guilty of breaking the law, Jesus calls to mind a higher law, one revealed through the prophet Hosea, one he had already advised these men to contemplate: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Sacrifices were religious offerings to God and were often bloody and required violence. Mercy, on the other hand, was represented by gentleness and kindness and was a sign of the heart, not merely an act of religion.
So Jesus bent down in the dirt long enough to distract the gaze of these men from the woman, long enough for her to regain her composure, wrap herself in something. And then Jesus said something that caused her accusers to walk away, one by one, just as the accuser had left him in the wilderness, thwarted.
Jesus had not come to condemn the immoral; he had come to rescue them. He had come to gather those who were far off and filthy and wash them clean, to show them mercy and present them to the Father, free from all accusation.
Heavenly Father, you are the rescuer and deliverer of my soul. Through your Son, you stooped down in order to lift me up. I was dead in my sins and trespasses. I was held captive in the snare of the devil to do his will, but Jesus came to overthrow this bondage and to liberate me, to call me his beloved. You have now granted me the glorious gift of acceptance and welcome in Christ. Through the powerful work of the Savior, I am rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into your kingdom, without fault, without blemish. And you will not hear an accusation against me again. Just as you have accepted and forgiven me, may I also accept and forgive those who have sinned against me. Rather than despising those who have done wrong, may I reach out to them with your healing love and mercy. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.