This is probably my favorite story in the Bible.
Jesus is teaching in the temple courts early in the morning, and a huge crowd of people are surrounding him, listening to him teach.
But all of a sudden, there’s a commotion in the temple courts, and people are getting shoved out of the way as the Pharisees and teachers of the law push their way through to Jesus, with a woman in tow.
They thrust her in front of Jesus, and as he looks at her, he probably sees tears running down her face, and fear in her eyes. One of the Pharisees then speaks out and says, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. Now Moses in the law says that women like her should be stoned. What do you say?” (5)
Jesus looked at these men, and one thing was immediately clear from the glint of triumph that was probably in their eyes. They were not bringing this woman to Jesus because they were horrified by her sin. They weren’t bringing this woman to Jesus because they were truly at a loss on what to do with this woman so caught in her sin.
They were bringing this woman to try to trap Jesus. What was the trap?
Well, if he said to stone her, they could probably accuse him before the Romans of breaking the law. According to Roman law, only the Romans were allowed to conduct capital punishment. Not only that, all these people that had seen the love and compassion Jesus had for the worst of sinners, would probably walk away from him. He could no longer be called, “A friend of sinners.”
If on the other hand, he said “Let her go,” they could accuse him of going against the teachings of Moses whom all Israelites held in high regard as a prophet of God. He would therefore lose all credibility as a teacher.
So after a moment of looking at these men, Jesus stooped down to the ground and started writing in the dirt. Put another way: he ignored them.
This of course, infuriated these men, and so they started badgering him, “Hey! Don’t ignore us. Answer our question! What do we do with this woman!”
Finally, Jesus stood up, looked at them again, and said, “Fine. You want to stone this woman. Do it.”
But just as the smiles started to spread across these men’s faces, Jesus added, “The one person among you that’s never sinned, you get to throw the first stone.”
Then he started writing in the dirt again. What did he write? I don’t know. But the word “write,” sometimes had the idea of “writing a record against someone.” So it’s very possible he was writing each of their names, and specific sins they had committed.
What would you do if you saw your name being written and your deepest, darkest sins exposed for all to see? You’d probably do what they did. Get out of there.
And soon, only the woman was standing before Jesus. He said to her,
Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? (10)
When the woman looked up, all the people that had been accusing her were gone. And she realized with wonder, “No one accuses me.”
I can imagine Jesus smiling at her as he said,
Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin. (11)
A lot of times, we look at ourselves in the mirror, and we wonder, “How can God possibly love me? How can he accept me?”
Because we look at our sin and the mess we made of our lives. But Jesus tells us the same thing he told that woman.
“I don’t condemn you.”
More than that, he says, “Now go. Don’t linger in your regret. Don’t keep looking at your past. It’s forgiven. Leave the past behind. And leave behind the sin that made a mess of your life. Go. I’m making all things new. Live the new life I died to give you.”
Are you trapped by your regret? Are you lingering in doubt about whether God could love or accept you? Remember these words. “I don’t condemn you. Now go.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (II Corinthians 5:17)