The First Stone

John 8:7 (NAS): “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I love this passage for what it teaches about the amazing grace made known in the gospel. For indeed, the law did say that one caught in adultery should be stoned to death. By the way, the law actually said both the man and the woman, but they only brought the woman. Curious isn’t it?

Wanting to accuse the Lord Jesus of violating the law, the Pharisees bought this woman who had been, “caught in the very act,” of adultery. They said she should be stoned to death. But somehow sensing that Jesus would object, they sat her down in the center of the court where He was teaching. They rehearse the law in the hearing of the others, and asked Jesus what He thought. Having sensed His compassion for sinners, they pit him against the stark contrast of the requirement of the law. Would He continue to show grace, or would He follow the law? Would He condone sin and let her go, or would He stand for righteousness?

Initially, Jesus ignored them completely and stooped to write on the ground. Only after they persist did He engage them. His words, dripping with both grace and truth, acknowledged the law, but required the first stone be thrown by one without sin. The others, anxious to join in the stoning, would get their chance, they just needed a righteous leader to throw the first stone.

John tells us Jesus stooped down again and continues to write on the ground. Unable to throw the first stone in clear conscience, they all, one by one, began to walk away, until only Jesus and the adulteress were left. And in a wonderfully thoughtful question, Jesus asked the woman, “where are they?” Was there not one left to condemn? There was no one who condemned, but there was one who could have thrown the first stone. Jesus could have started the stoning. He was without sin. Yet He chose not to condemn. He simply sent her on her way with the gift of a second chance to sin no more.

Our values would say there is much we are against, as we should be, but Christian values apart from the mission and heart of the Christ, is a distortion of the Christian faith. We cannot be eager to throw stones, when the only one able to throw the first stone chooses instead to write in the sand.

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