We like to throw stones. Yes, myself included.
If you’re familiar with the story in John 8: 3-11, “Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman,” then you know my title refers to this story.
Let’s take a look at this Scripture passage about stone throwers and see what Jesus teaches us about grace and judgment.
As the story opens, Scripture tells us the scribes and the Pharisees bring “a woman caught in the act of adultery” to Jesus.
There’s a lot to look at just in that statement. Let’s use our imaginations.
Who were these scribes and Pharisees? They were religious leaders and teachers known for interpreting and enforcing the strictest letter of the Old Testament law and were often criticized by Jesus for their harshness and hypocrisy. (see Matthew 23). In turn, they were not fans of Jesus, feeling threatened by his growing popularity and influence.
Scripture says they place the woman in the center of the courtyard. I imagine her face, downcast and frightened, knowing the punishment could be death by stoning. I imagine what the woman is wearing, or more likely, not wearing. Complete humiliation, cowering with shame.
I wonder how the Pharisees actually caught the woman in adultery? And where’s the man caught in adultery?
I can see the people stopping, staring, whispering, jeering, already picking up stones. Ready to hurl judgment, shame, condemnation.
I wonder if I would have picked up stones, too. What about you?
Let’s continue with the story:
The Pharisees say to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” Now they were saying this to test Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. (4-6)
I imagine the Pharisees feeling smugly certain they’d put Jesus in a no-win situation. What else could Jesus possibly do other than agree with the law?
Turns out, He’s got the perfect response.
But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. When they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. (6-8).
But Jesus. He wrote on the ground.
I love those two words—But Jesus.
I imagine all the things He could have done, but Jesus didn’t.
He didn’t agree with the Pharisees. He didn’t disagree with them. He didn’t argue. He didn’t incite the crowd. He didn’t shame the woman.
What did He do? Something unexpected.
He wrote on the ground.
Oh, how I want to know what Jesus wrote in the dirt! What was He thinking? Was it a prayer? Was it an echo of His heart toward her, toward every person in that crowd? Toward us?
This response. This is why I love Jesus so much.
Because His response to the woman shows how He loves not just the woman, but us.
He responds to each of us with grace, with love.
And then He says, Go ahead and throw that stone you’ve been gripping so tightly.
But only if you can say you’re sinless. Only if you’re perfectly righteous.
Now when they heard this, they began leaving, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman where she was, in the center of the courtyard.
And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on do not sin any longer.” (9-11)
And just like that, the crowd began dropping the stones from their hands.
I imagine the astonishment of this woman as she becomes victim not of stones, but of love.
If Jesus Himself didn’t throw stones, what makes us think we can or should?
When we look at Jesus’ response, we’re reminded…
We’re all this woman in need of forgiveness.
And we’re all potentially stone throwers, aren’t we?
So how does this change us?
For me, it’s a reminder that this is how I want to live my life, with grace.
And it makes me wonder,
How can we be stone throwers when we are witness to our own need of a Savior?
When we’ve walked in the deep waters of Christ’s grace, we’re more likely to drop our stones of self-righteousness, judgment, and shaming.
And this washing in Christ’s grace changes us forever.
If we’re purposeful about living lives of grace, of living lives where we never pick up the stones.
In my first post in this two -part series, I wrote about how I’ve been hurt by the judgment of some people in my life as I face an unexpected situation.
And after crafting this post I see that’s a place where self-righteousness and judgment can creep into my life. That place where I’m hurt.
So today I prayed, asking Jesus to forgive me for being judgmental of those being judgmental of me!
It’s a constant choosing to be aware of and guarding against judgmental living that will keep us walking in grace.
Thank you for being here, Friends. I welcome your input.
Be sure to read the first in this series of posts, “Do You Speak the Language of Love or Judgment? (Why I Love Jesus but Sometimes Don’t Like Other Christians Part 1)”