“ … ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’” John 8:7 (NIV)
I sat across the table from a broken friend. Her life was scattered on the coffee shop floor like spilled grounds from the bean grinder. She had made some bad decisions that had cost her so much. She wondered if God could forgive her and if she could move forward through the sludge.
As I comforted and listened to my friend, my mind went back to the scene in the book of John when the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to where Jesus was teaching a crowd.
After catching her in the act, the Pharisees dragged her half-dressed to where Jesus was in the temple courts.
As they slung her at Jesus’ feet, they posed a question: “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:5, NIV). The Pharisees weren’t just trying to condemn this woman; they were trying to find a reason to condemn Jesus, too.
To those looking on, it might have appeared that Jesus was caught between a rock and a hard place. But they didn’t realize that, since Jesus is the Rock, there is no hard place He can’t handle.
I’m sure it confused them a bit when Jesus stooped to write in the dirt with his finger. Finally, He answered:
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Jesus uncovered their own hearts and left them exposed and spiritually naked before the crowd. Each man standing knew his own life was riddled with sin. The prophet Isaiah, whose writings they knew very well, wrote: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way …” (Isaiah 53:6, NIV). For a man to throw a stone and thus imply that he was without sin would have been the greatest heresy of all.
Isn’t it interesting that the only person qualified to throw a stone at the woman is the One who set her free?
It’s easy to smirk at those self-righteous, pious Pharisees and think, Ha! Take that! But what about you and me? When is the last time we “threw a stone” at someone? Probably not a literal stone but perhaps a stone-hard, judgmental attitude tossed someone’s way? Maybe we didn’t say a word to that person, but when we found out their sin, we gossiped about them or condemned them in our thoughts.
But even the smallest stone is too heavy for us to carry. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” (Romans 3:23, NIV)
The Pharisees brought the woman to be condemned, but Jesus freed her by extending grace. The accusers came to Jesus in self-righteous superiority, but they skulked away in self-defeated shame. The religious leaders threw her down into the dirt. Jesus looked at her with compassion and lifted her up. The accusers became the accused. They came feeling “better-than,” but that’s not how they left.
The woman caught in adultery stood before Jesus in disgrace but was met with divine grace.
Even though there was a crowd watching, Jesus zoomed in on the one hurting soul who needed His attention. One woman who felt incredibly less-than because of her past mistakes and failures … just like you and me.
Whether our sin is adultery or not, we all have pages of our stories that we’d like to rip out, sentences we’d like to block out and chapters we’d like to throw out. But know this, sister: The splinter of your story that you hate the most does not define the entire narrative … no matter how bad it is. Because of grace, you are more than your worst pages.
My friend was heartbroken over her sin, and so was I. But I had to wonder: Am I as heartbroken over my own sins? My sins may be different, but they are no less hurtful to God’s heart. Yet God’s forgiving grace is greater than all of them.
Across the coffee shop table, my friend asked God to forgive her, and He responded with grace. It’s the same with you and me. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).
When it comes to God’s forgiveness, His is the stone not thrown. May that be the kind of grace we extend to others … knowing it’s that same grace we’ve received, too.
Jesus, thank You for Your forgiving grace that takes our place. Help me to extend the same mercy to others that You have extended to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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If you’ve ever felt “less-than” because of your circumstances, your past or your position as a woman, you’ll love Sharon Jaynes’ book Never Less Than: Living Empowered, Esteemed, and Equipped when the World Tells You Otherwise. See how Jesus called women to come out from being mere stagehands and take their places center-stage.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (ESV)
Take some time to read the entire account, John 8:1-11, mentioned in today’s devotion. Compare the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees, Jesus and the woman.
Who is someone you need to extend God’s grace to today? How will you do that? Let us know in the comments!
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