The account in John 8, of the woman caught in adultery, is one about which I have written before, not long ago. But I am drawn to this story like a moth to a flame, and I want to write more about it.
I have puzzled over this, wondering why I find the story so compelling. I have looked for things I may have in common with the woman. It's been an interesting search, with some dead ends: I am not a woman, for example, nor am I an adulterer, at least in the sense of a physical act. If we consider the life of my mind, however....
But if I think of her adultery in a more basic sense, it's just a sin. Not a special sin, though a serious one. Though serious, it's a sin not unlike many others. And many of those others are things I have done as willfully as the woman did hers.
So, the bottom line is that I am equally guilty. I have been caught in the act of sinning against God and others. Just like her. And just like her, I deserve a severe punishment: death. I deserve to die.
But then came Jesus. When all was lost, when there was no hope, there was Jesus. We could say Jesus was hope made alive in her life. We could say Jesus set her free from the outcome of her chosen acts. And equally, he sets us free from the death resulting from our chosen acts, and even more, offers us a rich, full life with him.
But how does that explain my attraction to the story of the hapless woman? Just in case some of my readers are slow to get the point.
It's because the woman was a "bad" woman, a blatant sinner with no excuse as she stood before the judge, and I am a "bad" man, a blatant sinner with no excuse as I stand before the judge.
Except, there is Jesus. And Jesus makes all the difference.
First, Jesus challenged the accusers, who had no interest in justice, only entrapment. And after they had left, he demonstrated the deepest grace and most profound love toward the woman: "Is there no one to condemn you?" "No, my lord." "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more."
There is Jesus.
"Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
What glorious news! What an earthshaking pronouncement! What if everyone who heard these words would truly believe them? This place would never be the same. Hallelujah!
But there are sins, I rationalize, which I have not committed. I'm not a murderer, an embezzler, or any one of many dozens of different flavor of sinner. Perhaps I'm not all that bad. But it matters not.
Someone once asked how many people must one kill to be a murderer. And the answer, of course, is, one. Only one. So then, who is most the murderer, King David, or Adolph Hitler?
In that sense, they are equal. Both have taken innocent life.
There is also an equality if we change the question to sinner, rather than murderer. Who is the greater sinner, the woman or the one presently writing about her?
We have both sinned. We have both sinned greatly. And so, as we stand before the judge, both must plead, "Guilty, your Honor." All the rest is details.
And yet, Jesus accepted her, saved her life, forgave her, and, refusing to condemn her, sent her on her way.
And so he accepts me.
And so he accepts you.