At dawn, Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
It is first thing in the morning. Most people are just waking up. And somehow, the religious leaders know when and where a woman is in the midst of an adulterous act. They apprehend her and drag her to the temple, knowing Jesus will be there. Some suggest she was set up to be caught at that very hour. However, in their scheming, the religious leaders overlook the fact that they are using a human being. She is probably half-dressed, crying, disheveled, and drawing much unwanted attention. Embarrassment, shame and humiliation cover her as she is forced through the public square. Can you imagine this scene? The men also carry with them large rocks, intent on killing her with them...just as soon as Jesus gives them the green light.
But the malicious plan goes awry. Instead, Jesus traps them. Many suggest that what Jesus stoops to write in the dust is a list of their own sins. Whatever it was, it was powerful enough to stop the whole operation in its tracks. The eldest leaders drop their rocks first, convicted by their own guilt. The rest follow suit until none are left. In my imagination, the public upheaval melts into silence, except for, perhaps, the woman's sobs. And what she is offered next is revolutionary, not only in those days, but it would be today as well: mercy, and forgiveness, and freedom.
The religious leaders see just a glimpse of what is taking place in this woman's life. They see the small spring of mint poking out of the ground. Jesus doesn't even seem to notice the obvious. He sees beyond the surface. He sees how brokenness has twisted and turned inside her, year after year, growing into a disastrous tangle that she couldn't fix. He sees the "why". He sees her, and loves her with a love that she has never known. His love does not turn a blind eye to her sin, it washes it away. And the recipient of that kind of love, that flavor of mercy can only do one thing in grateful response - walk away from her old life.
Lord, help me to remember this story of your great love and unsearchable perspective on us all. So many things fall under the category of "matters too great for me to grasp." Remind me of my limited understanding. And when I begin to collect rocks, intent on condemning someone else, remind me that it is your kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Thank you for seeing past my exterior and offering me forgiveness and freedom in all my mistakes. And let me recall your example of love and mercy when it comes time to look past the obvious in someone else, and offer them the same.