How she was caught is never revealed. But now that their illicit relationship served to advance the agenda of the religious elite, they were stalked and she was caught. Her accomplice? Mysteriously absent.
Snatched from the arms of her lover, she stands terrified before a leering crowd. Her accusers grab stones. Tension drips like a muggy midwestern summer.
How will the carpenter-turned-rabbi respond to this woman? Will he show compassion and break the religious law? Or will he enforce it and let the her die?
At first he ignores them. When they persist he says, “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.” He returns to scratching the dirt with a stick.
The crowd holds its breath. One by one the religionists drop their weapons and walk away. When he looks up again, he and the woman are alone.
“Where are your accusers?” he asks. “Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, sir,” she answers.
“I don’t condemn you either. Go, and leave your life of sin.”
Religion says, “Change your ways and God will forgive you.”
Jesus says, “I forgive you; go and change your ways.”
Religion says, “You’d better measure up or God will condemn you.”
Jesus says, “You can't measure up. Admit it and I’ll forgive you.”
Religion tells us what we must do to get right with God.
Jesus tells us what God has already done to make us right with him. (“When I am lifted up on the cross, I will draw everyone to myself,” he said.)
The woman thought her sin had become her death sentence.
Instead, face to face with both Jesus and her sin, she received forgiveness and a new life. She came to him trembling and ashamed; she left him forgiven and free.
The religionists thought their beliefs gave them the right to condemn others.
Instead, face to face with both Jesus and their self-righteousness, they learned a powerful lesson in humility. They came to him accusing and confident; they backed away ashamed and humiliated.
The crowd thought they would see a public lynching.
Instead, they witnessed a new life born right before their eyes. They discovered that the safest place for sinners is right in the presence of Jesus.