Gleanings – For ALL Stuck with a Past

John 7:53-8:11

“What do you say about her? This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.”

How nauseating for religious officials to bring forth this woman and humiliate her not to see justice done but to trap a rival to their authority. Let’s assume for a moment she had been caught, that is observed in the act of adultery which is required. Adultery really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be without someone else involved. Just saying. Where’s the man? The law required him to suffer the same fate which wasn’t stoning but death. This lays bare their lack of sincerity in seeing the law fulfilled. They want to trap Jesus. They make the woman a pawn in a higher stakes game. They demonstrate not a whit of interest in the welfare of her soul. How’s that for religious leaders!

Unfortunately for them Jesus has a better game. He does not get ensnared but allows them to execute their judgment. Whoever among the religious leaders is without sin is free to cast the first stone. It seems to me whatever Jesus was scribbling upon the ground managed to indict them all. One by one, in silence beginning with the eldest, they went away. Then there were none.

Jesus extends mercy to the sinner. Sin is acknowledged. Guilt is a forgone conclusion. But that is where it ends. Guilt goes to the act. Shame goes to the person. Jesus does not shrink back from calling sin what it is. He does not, however, pile on with shame which is death dealing.

Jesus knows about the woman what we would prefer people knew about us. Whatever our worst sin was it does not define all of who we are. Repentance and forgiveness allow us to move on. Shame shackles us yet again. Jesus is offering the former, not the latter.

I am reminded of a story of two brothers caught stealing sheep hundreds of years ago in what is now Great Britain. The penalty was swift and impossible to overlook. Both were branded upon the forehead with the letters ST for sheep thief. One brother could not live with the guilt and shame. He fled to a foreign land and died anonymously apart from his kin. The second brother repented and amended his life.  A decade later a traveler noticed the brand and asked an area storekeeper what the letters stood for. The shopkeeper said, “You know I really cannot remember. I think the letters stand for saint.”

God does not want us wallowing in shame. He has freed us from our sin (“It is finished!”) and he has unbound us in such a way that we can move on with life. Why remember what He’s forgotten? Just go. And sin no more.



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