Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
She was dirty, half-naked and ashamed. Taken from her home in the middle of the day, several angry men shouted horrible things at her as they dragged her through the streets. With hatred in their eyes, hearts and voices, they threw her at the teacher’s feet.
Of course, they technically did have a point. The woman had broken the law – numerous times, in fact, and practically every day for as long as she could remember. In fact, some of the men who were now shouting at her were actually customers, and good ones at that. But today, they seemed to have a point to make, and they were willing to use her to make it.
These men had burst into her home and caught her in the act with one of their own. Even while they violently grabbed her and tossed her barely clothed into the street, they told their friend to just walk away. Apparently, the crime only pertained to a woman today.
And so, “dangerous criminal” in hand, they made their way to the famed teacher who was now in town and cast her at him like one might discard a piece of garbage. And then they challenged him – “Teacher, do we uphold the law of Moses and kill this woman, or do we let her live?”
They had hoped to catch Jesus in a no-win situation – either he agrees to kill the woman, and so disappoint his “love, joy and peace” followers, or he agrees to let her live, and thereby is just as guilty as she is by association.
Most of us know the rest of the story – that Jesus challenged them to go ahead with the stoning, but that only the ones who hadn’t sinned were allowed to do the stoning. And that the men were so convicted in their hearts that they simply dropped their rocks and walked away.
But what happened next is the most wonderful part of the story. Jesus and the woman are left standing together, and Jesus looks her in the eyes and says, “Who is left to accuse you?” She looks around and says, “No one, Lord.” To which Jesus replies, “Well, I don’t accuse you either. Go and sin no more.”
That’s our challenge this New Year’s Day. To begin again. To take stock of where we’ve faltered in our lives and make the determination to never go there again. People get caught up in New Year’s Resolutions, as though mustering some special will on this day will have a lasting effect. Instead, we need to see that each of us is left standing alone with the Lord, and that He’s challenging us to, “Go and sin no more.”
He’s not condemning us, and in spite of what the world may say, His is the only opinion that truly matters. In 2016, take the Lord’s hand and accept His forgiveness. Don’t simply resolve to do things differently. Follow the Lord’s lead and let his love lead you into new and better ways today, and throughout the New Year.
Reflection copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.