They dragged her, kicking and screaming, into the courtyard of the temple and tossed her into the dirt. Surely this would be the perfect test for a man who claimed to be the Messiah. If he were truly the God of Moses, Jesus would direct them to hurl their rocks at the vile temptress--just as Moses had once commanded. Eagerly they waited, some already carrying their grapefruit-sized stones, each hoping to be the first to draw blood. Who would be the one lucky enough to cast the fatal blow?
There was no question as to her guilt. She was caught in the act. The verdict had already been passed by the mob. All that was left was to carry out the sentence. But Jesus calmly kneels down and begins to draw a picture with his finger in the earth. I have always wondered what he drew. Was it meaningful? Was it just a mindless doodle while he formulated his response? Here we see the Son of God, He who created us from the earth, running his fingers through the very same dirt as though he’s contemplating the very origin of every person in the crowd.
Jesus doesn’t say, “No.” He doesn’t say, “Yes.” He makes an offer. Paraphrasing here, he challenges the would-be attackers, “If any of you has no sin in your life, you may cast your stone.” And with that one sentence, the crowd dispersed. I wonder how long it took them to consider it. Did they immediately drop their stones and turn or did they ponder for a moment? Was there one person who thought, “I’m a pretty good guy, I think I have earned the right to throw a stone or two?” Nonetheless, they all find fault in their own lives and leave the woman behind.
This is a powerful moment in Jesus’ ministry. He changed the way the crowd considers sin. Think about it, no one said, “Yeah, I have sin, but nothing as bad as adultery.” This was a moment where Jesus made it clear. Sin is sin. They are all abominations in the eyes of God.
The scene changes dramatically now. It’s much more intimate. Just Jesus and the woman. The Savior and the sinner. Her accusers now gone, Jesus looks the woman in the eye and says, “Come…and sin some more.”
Wait…what? No, that’s not what he said at all. But for some reason, that’s the takeaway so many of us have from this story. We’ve convinced ourselves that Jesus somehow approved of her sinful lifestyle since he did not condemn the woman to death. And we use his grace as an excuse to continue the sin in our own lives. After all, Jesus just wants us to “love one another”, right? That’s all that really matters. Not this silly “sin” thing. But if Jesus doesn’t command the woman to stop sinning, the entire story changes. His ministry purpose changes. Jesus' existence on earth wasn’t to protect sin. It was to put an end to it. To erase it. He certainly didn’t die so that we can celebrate our sin.
This past month, I encountered a person who represents an LGBTQ church. Yes, a church that actually celebrates homosexuality and other forms of sexual sin. A church that says to its people, “Come and sin some more.” This Church teaches from the very same Scripture that you and I read. No doubt, there has been or will be a sermon on the very story I just shared. But I wonder if they leave out the last words of Jesus in the story? How does a church that celebrates sin justify the command to “Go and sin no more?”
When we distort the Gospel to meet our own lifestyle choices, we have committed one of the gravest sins of all, I believe. We have taken the very words of God and stolen their meaning.
And you know what? I think we are all to blame. We hide our own sins out of shame. We refuse to even acknowledge them as sins. How many pastors won’t even use that three-letter word anymore? How many even preach about “hell” and the consequences of sin? Instead, pastors stand in front of their congregations or ink their mega book deals to tell us that if we simply love one another, we are doing just fine in God’s eyes.
Tell me, in this story from John chapter 8, who acts more like the church? Those with the stones in their hands? Or the one who forgave, challenged, encouraged and commanded the woman to leave her sinful ways behind? In this story, Jesus paints a powerful picture of what the Church should be. Should homosexuals go to church? Yes. Just as the liars, the thieves, the coveters and the murderers should. Should we be waiting at the door with stones of accusation and contempt in our hearts? No. We should invite them in, protect them, encourage them, teach them God’s heart for their lives and by all means, we should challenge them to leave their sinful ways behind. That’s hard to do when we all have sin in our own lives. Trust me, I know.
The men in the scene drop their stones and leave. Wouldn’t it have been awesome if just one of them stayed? Not to cast a rock but to ask questions? “Jesus, I have sin in my life. What am I to do about it?” “Are you saying there is grace for every sinner? Even the adulterers?”
“Yes,” he would have answered. “There is grace enough for everyone.” But he would have finished his answer the same way he ended the conversation with the woman in this powerful story from Scripture:
“Now go and sin no more.”