He Who Is Without Sin
"...they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.'" John 8:4-7
The Pharisees were a zealous group of Jewish theologians, religious leaders, and "keepers of law," or so they claimed to be. Jesus, on many occasions confronted them for their notorious hypocrisy and legalistic interpretation of the law, demanding strict adherence to every jot and title by the people while they themselves lived above the law, engaging in all kinds of lawlessness.
So, they brought to Him a woman caught in adultery attempting to prove Him to be a false teacher. They thought they would trap Him by forcing Him to condemn the woman to death according to the Law of Moses. If he said she should go free, according to them, He would be in breach of Moses' law. If He condemned her to death He would confirm them in their hypocrisy and condemnation and would effectively deny His on ministry of forgiveness and grace.
Jesus knew their hearts, so He said nothing to their question but "stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear."
There is no record of what He wrote, but whatever it was, when He stood up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first," one by one they all dropped their stones and walked away, leaving Jesus and the woman alone.
It is a reasonable assumption to say that in whatever Jesus wrote on the ground convicted everyone of the men of their guilt, which was as much sin or even more sinful than that of the woman caught in adultery. And therefore, before Him they had no standing to judge this woman, even though she was caught in the very act of sin.
What this means for us is clear. We are not God's agents of justice, condemnation or execution for the sins of others. That is a matter for God and to the extent that He is given authority to those, commissioned by the government, to render judgment. Their decisions will be answerable to God.
"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." 1 Peter 2:13-17
Our work of ministry is to proclaim the mercy, grace and forgiveness of Christ our Savior, because none of us is so pure, so holy or so without sin that we can pass judgment on another for whom Jesus also died.
"Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:36-38
Surely, we must judge sin as sin, both that of ourselves and in others. But we are not called to judge others for their sins, nor even ourselves when we sin, but we are called to confess our sins, acknowledge our guilt, falling on the loving mercy and faithfulness of God to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:8-9
When we see others caught in sin and the throws of death dealing condemnation, we are not to strive with them but be gentle, patient and ready to teach the truth to them if they are willing to hear it.
"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." 2 Timothy 2:24-26
The scribes and Pharisees were right in one thing. They brought the guilty one to Jesus. Though their motive was to have Him condemn her, His heart was to forgive her and set her free to sin no more.
Now, we should also bring the guilty to Jesus through our prayers and our love for them, that in Jesus they would find forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness. This is true for every sinner; no matter how egregious or heinous their transgressions might be. Though that idea is hard for us to fully grasp, it is nonetheless true.
There is One Judge and He alone is Righteous.
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8
Even Jesus did not condemn those who persecuted and reviled Him; He left that judgment to God.
"...who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously..." 1 Peter 2:23
Let it then be said of us, who are called by the name of the Lord, that we judge not, nor condemn any man, but we pray that all will be saved and come to repentance through the mercy and love of God. This is the message of the Gospel. And this is still news, Good News!
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