“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst, they said to him, ‘Teacher…in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’…Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one…and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 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.’” John 8:3-11
How often do we find ourselves on either side of this story? Standing either as the accuser or the accused. Yet Jesus quietly shows grace to both in this passage. Not in a way that excuses sin or minimizes the offense, but rather in a way that calls each to examine his or her own life, wanting them to face their sin and turn from it. His response demonstrates the compassionate nature of God, how slow He is to anger and how abounding in steadfast love. Because Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the manifestation of His glory. So we look at the Christ, and we see the Father’s reflection. As He calmly listens to their accusations of her. As they boldly reference the Law. As they seek to test and trap Him with their questions. And He responds with wisdom in such a way that they have nothing more to say. They each turn and leave the accused woman standing alone with Jesus.
Then when they are alone, He stands and affirms grace. He assures her that all condemnation is gone, and He calls her to a life of freedom and victory. Forgiven of her past, she is free to move forward knowing she is no longer walking in the shadow and guilt of her wrong choices.
This is what Jesus does for us. He silences all condemnation against those who believe in Him. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18). So while the Spirit of God will convict us and reveal our sin, we know that there is still hope because we have a Savior. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 7:24-8:3). God has done what the law could not do. The law condemns us. It shows how wretched we are, how far our sinful nature has fallen short of the glory of God. But Jesus came to save us. And as we choose to trust Him, as we believe in who He is and what He has done, we are forgiven, cleansed, and enabled to walk in freedom and grace. This is hope for us, no matter which side of the equation we find ourselves on.