This is a "re-posting" from about a year ago. Partly to re-boot the blog. Partly to invite additional conversation on this. Currently working through some studies on reconciliation/forgiveness with our collegians. This may be among the most riveting stories of forgiveness in the NT.
"This is the scandal of the gospel: that what in your life is most cursed and hateful, the trash of your soul, can become your greatest instrument for redemption and healing and blessing." Leonard Sweet,
There she stands, guilty, condemned by her own actions and condemned by an altogether too eager crowd. I almost imagine her with clothing a bit dishelveled (after all she was "caught in the act" v. 4) and certainly with eyes firmly fixed on the ground. The evident weight of shame crushing her already wounded spirit.
There they stand, wild-eyed and breathless. Rocks already in hand to exact judgment. Righteous (self-righteous maybe?) rage boiling through their bodies. They have a question to ask, a question sure to expose the heart of the troubling teacher who has appeared yet again at their temple, "The Law commands us to stone such women. So what do you say?" (v. 5).
There He stands, a healer in the presence of desperate wounds. Pressed for an answer He rises from doodling on the ground, "If you're not guilty too, go ahead, stone her." He then returns to His impromptu dirt drawing.
One by one the stones fall from their hands only to be carried away in their own stony hearts. The condemning crowd is now nothing more than a memory leaving the guilty woman and the deliberately doodling doctor of souls alone. I find it fascinating that she stayed and watched Him draw. Her accusers were nowhere to be found. She was a free woman, but not really. Her guilt still bound her and the only remedy was to be found in the man drawing in the dirt.
He stands, looks around, and then looks in her eyes and asks, "Where are they? Has no one accused you?" (Oh, they had certainly accused her; all the way to the temple. Through every street and alley they had accused her. The sinuous tendrils of the grapevine had reported the sensational news. She had been accused and would continue to be accused by whispers and pointed fingers for the rest of her days, "She's the one. I hear they caught her in the act.") Her only answer is, "No one, Lord."
Let us pause and remember, she is without doubt guilty. She beyond question deserves punishment. She, no doubt, expects the worst. After all, it is what she has earned. But it is not what she will get.
To her utter astonishment He says, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." She turns and walks away forgiven.
But what of the man? She was caught in the act which, unavoidably, means there was a man equally guilty if not equally condemned. I wonder about their lives from that day forward. She publicly condemned and permanently branded a "sinner" yet privately and potently forgiven. He, on the other hand, never facing public scrutiny, but living with the festering ulcer of unacknowledged and unforgiven sin.
Which would you choose; the public humiliation of having your sin put on display and the life-changing experience of mercy and forgiveness or the temporary satisfaction of looking good while missing the grace of God extended to you? Far too many of us, like the un-named and unidentified man, choose the latter and great is our loss.
I imagine that guilty woman a few years later walking down those same streets through which she was unceremoniously dragged. I see her walking into that same part of the temple and running her fingers through that dirt where He drew things. She has difficulty remembering just what it was that He drew that day, while a passerby whispers behind her back, "I remember the day they brought her here to be stoned." It brings a smile to her face because she knows that, much like that ephemeral work of art, He no longer calls to mind her sin. Rising and dusting her hands she hums a joyful tune on her way out, for she is forgiven; far and away among His greatest and most enduring works of art.