*This audio is a reading/telling of John 8:1-11.
“Go and sin no more.”
Jesus says this to the woman who has been condemned of adultery, whom he has just rescued from stoning.
It’s always felt like a bit of a strange statement to me.
I can imagine that statement rolling very naturally off the lips of one of the fundamental preachers of my youth.
I can hear it being said with scorn and a stern look.
It feels very… simplistic … glib … easy …
Maybe even judgmental, like if I were to tell a woman at the homeless shelter to “just stop getting high, ok. Just decide not to, and don’t do it anymore. Simple as that.” To say something like that would be to ignore the past and present hurt and trauma, the complicated web of addiction, the very real realities of her life that cause her to seek some times of forgetfulness.
But this is Jesus talking.
Oh, how we need to remember Jesus. How we need to get back to Jesus.
This world stinks. It’s awful. If you are one of the privileged few (I am) who sleeps in a warm bed each night in a peaceful home with your belly well filled, it can be easy to forget that life is truly difficult for so, so many people.
I think this woman was one of those people. I think her life was probably very difficult.
Adultery in her context was not a simple choice to have sex simply because she felt like it. We can only guess at her circumstances or troubles or past traumas.
But this is Jesus talking.
He doesn’t guess. He knows. He knows her life. He knows all the reasons. He knows her.
He’s not being simplistic or glib—or even judgmental, though he’s the only one with the real right to do so!
He has just revealed his heart to her. He’s stood up for her by bending down to the dirt. He’s faced her accusers—every person in that angry, superior crowd—and challenged them to touch her. They were using her to make a point, to set a trap. She was an object to them, not a person—but he put her on their level. He challenged them to throw a stone, a stone that could only be thrown in the belief that the thrower was of greater value than the object, in the belief that the one being stoned was worthy of stoning and that the thrower of the stone was worthy to throw it. Jesus revealed the lie behind that belief. He made them see her. He made them see themselves. He rescued her.
And he tells her there is no condemnation with him.
She’s been seen, known, cared for, stood up for! Rescued!
I would like to think she realized he was God—that this meant that the God of the universe—who seems too far off, too removed from all our muck and mess and trouble—is NOT far removed. He’s a near God, one who longs to walk with us through the mess—who DOES walk with us through the mess. He is a God who sees and is deeply saddened by our sin and ugliness toward each other, our lack of caring, our use of others as objects.
This God would go with her. This God would help her walk back into a life that was hard. He would care for her, so she could grasp at dignity and hold her head high.
Jesus SAID very little verbally in his exchange with this woman, but I imagine his eyes, his face, and his posture conveyed a great deal. I imagine the woman heard something like this: “Go. There is a way ahead of you that doesn’t involve the shame you’ve been living with. There IS. It is only possible because now you know you are seen and cared for, now you know that God is not the God only of the Pharisees and the well-respected. He is the God of all people, of the downtrodden, the unseen, the ‘sinful,’ and the broken. He is YOUR God. He sees you and knows you. What is ahead of you will be hard. It will require grit and determination and struggle, but it will be far, far better than what you have been through. The way ahead may seem dim, but it is possible—it is possible because of who I am—your God. You can go and live a new, different life because you have seen what a different God I am. I am for you in this. I will see you. I will be with you. I am the God who sees you, knows you, loves you, and is always with you.”
I want to meet this woman in the Kingdom. I want to hear her tell her story, not just the awful difficulties and the dramatic, climactic moment of rescue but the AFTER: the walking in newness of life, the finding of community, the discovery of herself as a beloved child of God.
What a story that will be!