Summary: Jesus gives us a second chance, but this forgiveness that is free of cost is not free of responsibility.
by Maynard Pittendreigh
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group
4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"
6 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.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 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.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
There was a time when a person could start over in life.
In the history of the Old West, that was often the motivation of putting a few belongings into a covered wagon and risking your life to move hundreds of miles to a new frontier.
The movie Insomnia tells the story about a crime that takes place in Alaska. At one point in the story there is a moment when a woman tells a police officer “There are two kinds of people who live in Alaska. Those who were born here. And those who are running away from something.”
It’s hard to do that now. Everyone who applies for a job today has to submit to background checks that thoroughly review your history. The Internet makes it easy for people to check your past, and harder for you to get a fresh start in life by simply moving from one place to another.
I think the only people who can really do that in this day and age are those career criminals who turn over evidence to the FBI and enter the Witness Protection Program.
But sometimes you just need to start over.
Some of us need a second chance in life.
And in the Gospel of John, we learn that you don’t have to move West, head to Alaska, or enter the Witness Protection Program.
All you need to do is encounter Christ.
The story is well known and familiar to most of us. Jesus is at the Temple in Jerusalem and a group of Pharisees brought a woman to Christ. She had been caught in the act of adultery and they remind Jesus that the Law of Moses insisted that she be stoned. They ask Jesus “what should we do?”
They did this to set a trap for Jesus. By this time in the Gospel of John, Jesus is losing his popularity and some religious leaders are wanting to put a final end to his ministry. So they are actively trying to find some way to destroy his credibility and a good way to do that would be to trap Jesus into saying that the Law of Moses was meaningless.
And the Law was very clear. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 22:21 says, "’If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
What’s interesting here is that the Old Testament Law doesn’t specify that she must be executed by stoning. It’s almost as if the Pharisees are slightly misquoting the Law in order to provoke Jesus into a nit-picking debate about what the Law says and what it doesn’t say.
But Jesus doesn’t do that. He stays focused on the real issues. He kneels down and begins to write on the ground with his finger.
The Pharisees continue to badger Jesus with their question.
But Jesus ignores the question and asks, “Is there anyone here who has never sinned? Let the person without sin cast the first stone.”
And with that said, Jesus returns to writing on the ground. The way the wording is in the Greek text is that Jesus was writing against someone.
Traditionally, it has been believed that he was writing something against the Pharisees – perhaps listing the sins which they had specifically practiced. (1)
Whatever Jesus was writing, that and the mere question of who is without sin is enough to deflate the antagonistic crowd. One by one they all leave until only Jesus and the woman are left.