At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “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?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up 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.” (John 8).
I just got off the phone with a brother in Christ who shared a personal encounter he'd just experienced that was similar to this story with the woman and some rock chuckers. He told me that he'd reached out to meet a fellow Christian brother who was involved in a church planting work. My friend had gone through some very dark valleys in his life over ten years ago and through the ordeal lost his marriage, ministry, and health. He made some poor decisions and was almost on the verge of suicide, but he'd since rebuilt his life, was in a profitable career, and married a beautiful Christian woman and together they'd been praying about being involved in ministry again.
He told me, "When the conversation ended I felt the stones crushing the bones in my skull and my heart was once again pierced with condemnation for something that happened over ten years ago. "I know about you!" he said, and began to elaborate with judgment about my character and accusing me of some ulterior motive. I apparently bled in the shark tank and he was a Great White! Shocked, and unable to even respond, all I heard from a man who'd never talked to me before was judgment and accusation about my character and accusations about my motives. But he'd heard the other side of the story, that was not all that accurate, and it was over a decade ago." Needless to say, my friend had met one of the guys with a stone and he threw it!
The women in this story had apparently been caught in the very act of adultery. It's interesting how her condemners focused on her sin, but not that of her adulterous partner and didn't even bring him into the drama that unfolded. Those who point fingers often do that sort of thing and show favoritism or take sides in an issue. They were quick to point to the law she'd violated, and sure enough, she was caught naked with another man and was guilty! No denying it! The religious teachers wanted to make sure that she was punished and used her indiscretion really as a trap to discredit Jesus.
"She should be stoned! That's what the law demands. Jesus, what are you going to do about it?" And they taunted him with questions to solicit a response, but his response was not quite what they expected. Instead of joining their rightful condemnation of her undeniable sin, he quietly bent down and began writing in the dirt.
I've read a lot of speculation about what he was writing and no one knows for certain, but the guys with the stones in their hands looked over his shoulder and saw what he wrote. He stood up, then made this statement, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Then he stooped over and kept writing. Did you catch their reaction? Slowly, and one by one, you could hear the rocks hit the dirt without throwing a single one at the woman. They began to leave one by one, and I suspect they had their heads down, and most likely feeling angry and convicted, but they never threw a rock. What happened? What did Jesus write? What did they read?
"Thou shalt not lie," and one remembered the lies he'd been telling his wife. "Do not covet your neighbor's wife," and another remembers that he wanted to commit adultery himself, but didn't actually DO it! "Do not steal," and the third remembered the taxes he didn't pay. "Do not bear false witness," which might have been the very thing they were doing with this woman. "Judgment shall be without mercy to those who show no mercy." And the rocks drop from their hands in shame. Slowly. One by one. And they walk away.
I used to be one of the rock chuckers in the crowd, especially as a young preacher. Repent! Turn or burn! Change or leave! And many people who sinned, left feeling the bruises of my stones as I condemned and judged them. Jesus has an amazing way of showing us our own sin and rubbing our noses in our own ungodliness. To these guys, he did it with his finger and a few words in the dirt. They felt the very condemnation they were attempting to levy against this woman.
David, the man after God's own heart, did the same thing. He coveted another man's wife, committed adultery, murdered her husband, and lied in covering it up. The Lord's hand was heavy upon him and crushed him with guilt, shame, remorse, regret, even to the point he couldn't sleep as his anguish ripped his soul apart. He knew the law and that he should be stoned! Anyone who has ever sinned and done that which they arrogantly said they'd never do knows how David felt. Perhaps you've been there yourself? The lie that caused a scandal? The business deal you were less than honest in? The woman you became too familiar with? The blinking lights in your rear view mirror when you had that drink you knew you shouldn't?
Paul in his arrogance killed innocent people, destroyed families, destroyed lives. When confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus God didn't immediately save him. Lucado said in his book, "God put scales so thick on Saul's eyes that the only place he could look was inside himself." What you see about yourself in those times of blind darkness is terrifying!
The sinful woman saw Jesus sitting with a Pharisee and knelt down to wash his feet with her hair. Appalling! The Pharisee thought to himself, "If He knew the kind of woman SHE was he wouldn't have anything to do with her." Then Jesus again turns the tables of judgment and says to him "He who has been forgiven much, loves much." I've learned that you really don't love those caught in the horrors of sin until you've been there yourself - then love, mercy and grace take on a whole new meaning.
The Samaritan woman at the well had been divorced 5 times and was shacked up with a guy she'd left in her bed that morning before her encounter with Jesus. Oh, she knew the ten commandments and knew her Bible, but also felt the condemnation of her neighbors. She was thirsty, not for religion, but for forgiveness and compassion and Jesus gave her living water, but it was not from the well!
I thought about writing a ministry resume with this information, "I was entrusted by God as a leader of his people, but I coveted another man's wife, seduced her, got her pregnant, then had her husband murdered to cover up the scandal. The child I fathered died, and in guilt I married the woman and later mistrusted God in an even more horrible way and knew that God wanted me dead. Instead of killing me, he took the lives of over 100,000 innocent people as a judgment for my personal sin. I've also murdered people in the church and destroyed families because they didn't adhere to the soundness of the doctrines I upheld with a good conscience. But I can deliver a great sermon!
David and Paul wouldn't make the cut at most churches that were looking for a preacher! Their past would not be forgotten and they would never be trusted.
I no longer throw rocks. I've dropped mine in the dirt because I see what Jesus's finger wrote about me in the sand. I've been harshly reminded that I have no business judging someone else and condemning their sins, especially those from a decade ago. David the murderer, liar, adulterer was a man after Gods own heart. Paul, the murderer and legalist was the most effective evangelist in Christian history who wrote about himself, "I am the worst of sinners!" But he also wrote, "Forgetting what lies behind, I press on toward the goal of the prize which calls me upward in Christ Jesus." The Bible also says that "God does not judge us as our sin deserves!" Thank God for that or we'd all be dead.
The rocks of condemnation and judgment can leave you feeling bruised after what happened more than a decade ago in your life. "Wretched man that I am, who will set me free?" You'll still feel pains of regret and shame, but then when you read the next few verses in Romans 8, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord!" The Lord welcomed his prodigal son home smelling like a pig and he threw a robe around my shoulders, put a ring on my finger, and killed the fatted calf and threw a celebration! "This son of mine is home again!" Funny, you'll still have the older self righteous brothers who reminds your father that you squandered your inheritance with wild living for a while, and the rocks of condemnation are still thrown - and yes, they still hurt. But His Amazing Grace is still greater than ALL your sin and there is nothing you can ever do to earn or repay it! Praise God that Jesus blood covers all my sin, including the ones I haven't even thought about doing yet. Yours too if you'll trust him to do so.
If you have a stone in your hand to chuck at someone you know is guilty, you may want to think twice before you throw it. God has a not-so-amusing way of making sure its thrown back in your face!