This semester one particular passage has become very dear to me. In my constant struggle with myself, I have found myself wielding this passage in my hands as a weapon against the enemy and against my flesh many a day. This passage has driven me to be an agent of grace and mercy, just as Jesus was. It is a truth hard to grasp, but a truth so freeing that you feel you could throw yourself into anything for the Kingdom of God. Here it is, John 8:1-11. Read carefully and slowly.
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” John 8:1-11 NASB
This semester I’m in a class called The Four Gospels, which is basically a survey of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The very first day of class, Pastor Holmes informed us that we would all be writing an exegetical paper on a passage in John. I was extremely intimidated, because I had never written a paper like that before, and because I was terrified on drawing a wrong conclusion from the text. I have been studying the Bible inductively for almost five years, and I even studied John my Senior year of high school, but turning in a paper on it still scared me. But I am so thankful that Pastor Holmes did not set out to grill us on facts and doctrine. Instead he said he had one goal: “When you leave this class, I want to know that you know Jesus better.”
So I set out to meditate on and read and reread the passage I had chosen: John 8:1-11. As I read this passage carefully, my mind began to zoom in on verse 7: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And I began to realize, no one has the authority to condemn me. In the midst of all my feelings and my knowledge of my own inadequacy, no one has the authority to condemn me, and I don’t even have the authority to condemn myself.
As many of my friends and family know, I am a legalist to the core. When I’m unable to follow my self-made rules for righteousness and favor with God, I revel in condemnation and despair. How can God ever be pleased with me? How can I ever be used to serve the Lord? And it doesn’t matter what sin you condemn yourself over, we all struggle with seeing our sins as too much for the blood of Christ to cleanse. And even THIS is sin. It is disbelief. When you have come to Jesus, when you have received the free gift of salvation, and when you have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you, to declare yourself condemned is not only over-stepping your authority, it is making a false statement.
But then as that truth rocked me and I thought I had my application done for my exegetical paper, the Holy Spirit led me to keep looking, and then He focused me on verse 11: “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” And then it hit me. Jesus was the only sinless one present. He did have the authority to condemn, and He chose not to. What?! Not only that woman, but everyone present in that temple court, and everyone who has ever lived, deserves to receive condemnation. He could have thrown that stone and been completely right, completely just in doing so. But Jesus knew His mission. He knew that very soon He would pay the very costly price that this woman’s adultery deserves. He gave Himself instead.
When we believe the gospel, we are sealed in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a pledge of the future inheritance that we will receive. We are a son or daughter of God, and nothing can change that. No matter what you do, no matter how far you roam, nothing will change that relationship. Every sin, past, present, and future has been covered and cleansed by Jesus’ death on the cross. Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God has justified us through the death of His Son! His righteousness rests on us! Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Because of His death there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We must throw ourselves at His feet once again, and receive the gospel everyday we live in this body of flesh. We must meditate on, cling to, and preach the gospel if we are to live in the freedom of Christ. To keep from living in the cycle of dangerous self-condemnation, or from living from the accusations given by others, we must mediate on the great promises of the gospel. Daily, Jesus comes to us with new mercies, offering us His eternal presence. We must wake up longing for Him, seeking Him in His Word if we are to live in the freedom of truth. This passage in John 8 calls us to breathe in and breathe out grace, to live in the freedom of the Spirit, and no longer be held under the yoke of our self-made slavery.
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. – Rom 7:24-25 NASB