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The First Stone

She was brought to Jesus, having just been caught in the act of adultery. She had broken the law, and the punishment for it was death. She would be stoned. Yes, she deserved it. But then they had an idea. Why not take her to this Jesus. Let’s use her sin to trap him. They hated him. He was a painful thorn in their religious flesh. He spent time with bad people. He challenged their authority. He overturned traditions. But this time, there would be no way out. He would have to watch helplessly as one of the bad people received justice. Or else, his words would be the proof that he was a false teacher. Everyone would see it for themselves.

Jesus was sitting in the temple courts when they came. It was early morning. A small crowd had just gathered around him to begin listening to his teaching. And then, they came. With eyes fixed on him, they dragged this woman before them all. Surely He would fail this time. Everybody knew this law and the result of breaking it. There could be no alternative. In front of all of them, she stood, bruised and scraped and terrified. In a few moments, she would die.

“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?”

At first it seems Jesus pretends not to hear. There is no reaction. And then, with everyone watching, he stoops to the ground and begins to write something in the dirt.

The accusers look at each other, confused. But then they keep pressing him. Did he have nothing to say? Should she be let go? If he would let her go, he would not be following the law they had received through Moses, a holy law, a just law, a law given by God.

What made them think that he would seek mercy for her? They all knew something about him that did not fit in their world of acts and consequences. They knew he loved people, and they knew he had authority and they knew the people loved him. So somehow they knew that it would be hard for Jesus to condemn this woman, despite the fact that this was what he had to do.

I can sense the excitement, the tension, in the air. Those who were ready to catch Jesus by his ignoring the law were so pleased that they had finally found a trap for Him and a reason to get rid of him. Those who loved him hoped he would give the right answer. And then there was the woman. Guilty, exposed, condemned. What went through her mind? How much longer would she live? Was it very painful to die like that? Maybe her life passed before her eyes; all those things that she had done or thought, even in secret were now before her. Soon she would stand before the living God, and be condemned to eternal separation from him, to hell, the worst place forever.

And then, suddenly, the tables are turned. Jesus stood up, faced them and said to the accusers, “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He did not glare at them with a convicting look. He did not point out what they were guilty of. He did not name their sin. And yet, there was conviction. Their hearts knew all too well. And then, one by one, they walked away, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Then Jesus rose up again 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.”

He was the only one without sin, the only one who had the right to throw the first stone and he didn’t.

Imagine yourself in that woman’s place. So close to death, sure to receive the punishment that you deserved. And now a new chance at life! In fact, a brand new life! She had faced the living God in the flesh, eye to eye, right in front of her. And she received grace.

Jesus said, I have not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.* He could not just let her go either. He could not ignore the law of God. This law says that there has to be punishment for sin, because God is holy and just. None of us can keep the law of God perfectly, and if we sin even in breaking one command of God, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. God cannot bypass his own law and he does not make any exception.

But Jesus, who was without sin, had come to take that punishment on himself. He was the only one without sin, the only one who could take someone else’s punishment. He died that woman’s death as the law required. He died, he- the righteous one- for the unrighteous.** And he died not only in her place, but also in yours and mine!

I have been moved by this love many times. I have seen myself many times in that woman’s place. Condemned by people, condemned by myself, and yet the God of the universe stooped down, looked at me and loved me. He died my death, he took my punishment, and he did not condemn me like everyone else. How can I not respond by loving him back, by living for him alone? He alone is worth it.

Jesus did not only die, he rose again, because he was God himself and no power of darkness or death could keep him in the grave. He rose victoriously and he wants to be with us. He did not send the woman away helpless with a raised finger, admonishing her that she had better try hard and not fail again. Yes, he asked her to leave her life of sin. He asks us the same. But he also gives us the promise to be with us and to live his life in us.

Jesus came to fulfill the law. He showed us what love is, and now he asks us to love the same way he loved. He does not present us with a list of dos and don’ts. He simply asks us to love him and everyone else around us, to walk in his footsteps, and in his power.

Forgiveness and a new life can be ours just by believing what Jesus has done for us and by receiving this gift of grace by faith. It is a free gift for us, but it cost Him everything. My prayer is that you will honor Him by receiving what he freely offers to you.

There were a lot of people that day around Jesus, but so many walked away. They walked away with their guilt. They would not have had to. They could have received grace, forgiveness and a new life, too. But God does not force any of us. He just simply offers. What you do with the offer is your choice.

* Matthew 5:17
** 1.Peter 3:18
Stefanie Rendall  | August 1 2013
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