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Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.

Guilty as Charged

John 8 captures the story of the woman caught in adultery. I have read this portion of scripture dozens of times, and have always been drawn to Jesus’ grace, clarity of thought and balance.

Unfortunately, I think many folks are too quick to jump to the “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” aspect of this story. This has become a mantra of sorts in our permissive culture. While some have used this story as a “get out of jail free card,” I believe a more complete picture of Jesus’ statement “He that is without sin…” could be, “None of you are in a position to stone this woman, for you have disregarded the very law you profess to honor.” You see, the Old Testament code demanded that both the adulteress and the adulterer be subjected to the same penalty (see Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). Where, then, was the man? These sanctimonious prosecutors were themselves in stark violation of the law.

When the Jewish leaders declared that the woman was caught “in the very act,” they also acknowledged an important point: they absolutely knew the identity of the male participant! In other words: it takes two to tango.

If they indeed had caught the woman “in the very act,” then it was a given that the man was in that very act as well. However, they chose to not haul the man in for stoning, and thereby didn’t explicitly follow Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 22.

They too broke the law. Guilty as charged.

But, aren’t we all guilty? We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have all missed the mark. So, how does the Lord Jesus deal with us fellow lawbreakers? Here’s how: the same way he dealt with the woman caught in adultery. With grace and truth.

Jesus’ posture was, is and will always be grace and truth. I believe these spiritual postures are so clearly seen in three of Jesus’ physical postures in John 8.

Jesus sat down.
Jesus bent down.
Jesus stood up.

When Jesus sat down he was displaying his authority. Rabbis of the past would often sit and teach for hours, while their students stood, listening and learning. Jesus, the Great Rabbi, opted to sit down while he taught. It was while he was in this position of authority that the Scribes and Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to him for his “judgement.” He could have pronounced that she be stoned, but instead he took the posture of grace.

Next in the text we discover twice that Jesus bent down to write something in the sand. No one, not even the smartest person, is certain as to what Jesus wrote with his finger. Regardless, I believe this posture was designed to display humility. Throughout the Gospel of John we see various references to Jesus bending low to the ground. The most obvious occurrence is in this John 8 passage. But there is also John 9 where Jesus made mud from spit and dirt to smear on the blind man’s eyes. In John 13 Jesus bent down to wash the disciples feet. Finally, in John 21 we discover the post-Resurrection Christ bent low to make breakfast for his bewildered friends.

Each illustrate the fundamental understanding that God, in the person of Jesus, was, and continues to be willing to bend down and reach us where we are.

The final posture in the vignette of John 8 was a display of certainty. Twice Jesus stood up and made bold declarations. First he said the famed phrase, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” and then secondly pronounced freedom from condemnation: “Go sin and no more.”

These two statements again emphasis the integration of grace and truth.

The TRUTH is that we are all sinners, so let’s remember not to throw stones unless we have an extra one to hit ourselves with!

The GRACE is that we are NOT condemned. We are free to go. But we are also free to and sin no more.

Blessings,

John Fehlen
@johnfehlen