Daily Devotional: John 7:53–8:11
53 Then they all went home, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 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. 7 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.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 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. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jn 7:53–8:11.
I get why scholars want to leave this out of the Bible. I also get why no normal believer ever would want to.
For scholars, there are concerns about earliest manuscripts and textual varients, looking at the source criticism of everything. I mean, even topically, it sort of sticks out, as it seems like this is a story that should have been told much earlier by John, as we’re now solidly into the phase of Jesus-ruffling-everybody’s-feathers part of His ministry.
But at the same time, every regular believer sees this passage and immediately sees the Jesus that they know and love. Here is, simultaneously pouring out great mercy and shaming the religious voice of condemnation all in one fell swoop. He swiftly points out that the only one who has any authority to cast the first stone is Himself, and He politely declines, preferring instead to invite the woman into a life of discipleship instead.
So, while it may not have the authority of Scripture, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used to bring the breath of the Spirit to us, and let it cut us deeply in a couple of directions.
Firstly, how quick are we to pick up stones at the first opportunity? We all have our pet condemnations we like to keep holstered up — they’re different for us all. For some people it’s divorce or martial issues, for some it’s homosexuality, for some it’s money matters, for some it’s leadership principles. We all have items for which we will fire a stone, quicker than David to Goliath’s big ol’ melon, and yet, the only one with solid right to continually chooses not to.
In a lot of ways, whatever we feel may disqualify someone else from the mercy of God is most likely a statement on ourselves. It’s probably what we ourselves feel most disconnected from God regarding, or what we ourselves feel the most shame about.
Secondly, though, see that for whatever you feel shame or disconnect about, the Jesus you know does not condemn you, but instead is extending an invitation to climb out of your hole and walk with Him in the light.
Will it take incredible courage? Yes.
Will it take seeing our dependence and need? Yup.
Will it take painful conversations? Most likely.
But, the one who has every right to condemn is withholding himself from the very act that we ourselves might take up so swiftly if given the chance.