We are now leaving the Old Testament in our series and entering the New Testament. For the next couple days, we are going to look at four women in the Bible who have several things in common: none of them are named; all their stories take place in the Gospels; all of them lived on the fringes of society for one reason or another; and all of them had a life-altering encounter with Jesus.

The first of these women is the adulterous woman. You can read her story in John 8:2-11.

“Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him. He straightened up and said to them , “He who is without sin among you, let him bet he first to throw a stone at her.” Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones and He was left alone, and the woman where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on, sin no more.”

As I started studying this story, I began wondering what it had been like to be her. It’s so easy to gloss over these stories because the people in them lived a long time ago, and we know the ending of the story.

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This unnamed woman didn’t know the ending because she didn’t yet know Jesus. This is what I imagine it was like that morning.

Jesus was teaching that early morning when there was a commotion. People were turning and a buzz filled the courtyard as the Pharisees roughly dragged in a woman, her clothing hastily donned, her hair hanging down her back. The woman’s face was cast down, tears leaked down her cheeks, and she trembled visibly as they dragged her to the center of the court, a blood stained limestone wall behind her.

She knew she had broken the law. She also knew what her punishment was – death. Already, the crowd of hostile men (women weren’t allowed in this part of the temple courtyards) had gathered in a milling group, picking up stones – some still stained with blood from previous stonings.

The woman hugged herself as she stood alone, ringed by her accusers. “Stupid,” she thought to herself. Stupid to trust a man, a man who had used her and then turned her over to the Pharisees and collected his money for playing his part without a pang of regret. She was going to die because she had thought, well, it didn’t matter now what she thought, did it?

The Pharisees confronted Jesus, who was still seated, his teaching interrupted by  their loud entrance. The head Pharisee, a stout man with cold eyes, flung his arm back to point at the woman still standing alone. “We caught her – in the very act of adultery! You know Moses’ Law says she should be stoned. What do YOU say, Teacher?”

The word teacher was spoken with a sneer. The group behind him, his fellow conspirators, nod and murmur behind him. They press closer to the teacher. The Pharisee is almost panting in his glee at putting Jesus in an impossible position. This Pharisee knew that the Law of Moses said adulterers should be stoned, but he also knew that the Roman edict said that nobody but the Roman Governor could pass a death sentence.

If Jesus said not to stone her, He’d break the Jewish Law, but if He said she should be stoned, He’d break the Roman Law. The head Pharisee could not stop the smile that spread across his face. He finally had Him, this Jesus of Nazareth. This man with his disruptive teachings and his cool indifference to the Pharisees religious facade.

Wait. What was He doing? The Teacher stooped down and began writing with his finger in the dirt. The Pharisees asked again – several of them talking over each other, trying to get Him to answer. Why did He seem so calm? Why didn’t He answer or at least seem flustered. Instead, he continued to write.

The group of Pharisees’ voices got louder as they pressed him to answer. The crowd behind them seemed divided as to whether they should press closer to see what was going on with the Teacher or try to keep their place to be part of the stone throwers.

The head Pharisee closest to Jesus got a glimpse of a word that made him pale. His sins were written in the dirt. His face turned a dull red. Others in the group had started to really look at what Jesus had been writing. Some paled. Some became visibly angry.

Jesus looked into their faces. His eyes seemed to pierce each man’s soul. “Let the person who is without sin – let him throw the first stone.”

Several of the younger men started to heft their rocks, but the head Pharisee was the first to let his fall to the ground. Slowly, one by one, the older men let their rocks go. The younger men were confused at first, but eventually nobody was left in the ring around the young woman.

Nobody except Jesus. She had heard of the Teacher but had never seen Him or heard Him teach. He approached her and she began to tremble again. Who was this man who could cause all those men, the men who had been panting to hurt her, to kill her, to just walk away.

Jesus stopped in front of her. “Where are your accusers? Has nobody condemned you?” he asked. His voice, his eyes, his manner were gentle. There was none of the ugly derision or, worse, leering that had been in the faces of the men that had ringed her earlier.

The woman stared at Him for a long moment. Tears hovered in her eyes. “Nobody, my Lord,” she said, her voice was barely a whisper.

His smile was genuine. “Neither do I condemn you. Go on now and don’t sin anymore.”

The woman’s heart leaped. To not feel condemned. To not feel the guilt or shame anymore. She almost didn’t know what that felt like anymore – to live free. She nodded her head, and clutching her robes, she stumbled away, still in wonder and awe at what had happened and what happened.

She had a second chance. She was a live. She glanced over her shoulder at this man who was somehow more than a man. He was still watching her. It was like He could see into her very soul. She had heard He had called Himself God’s Son, and now she believed it. No other man she had ever met had even tried to set her free. This man had removed her shame. He was the very reason she was alive. As she hurried back to her home, she knew she was different. She knew she would not go back to the old ways. She would live in her freedom.

Jesus gave this woman a great gift that day – the gift of God’s grace. You’ll notice He never said she was innocent or didn’t deserve the punishment, but He still did not condemn her. He had given her freedom from bondage and as she left that day, she had a choice to continue in that freedom that grace had created or to go back to the bondage of sin. We never see this woman again, but I believe she went on to live a transformed life. Having an encounter with Jesus often had that affect.

God’s grace isn’t just for people in the Bible though. His grace is for you and for me. Jesus died for the world, but He also died for you. God says He lavishes His grace on us. There is not a certain amount of grace for each of us and when you use it up, it is gone. His grace never runs out. And that lavish, unending grace is available to you and to me, no matter what we’ve done or how many regrets we have.

Are you living in the freedom of God’s grace? Believe Jesus when He says – I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.

Blessings, Rosanne

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