I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.
John 8:12 CSB
The Pharisees seemed to delight in catching people in sin. Most of the time that we see them in Scripture, they are attempting to trick Jesus — including this instance when they caught a woman committing adultery and then used her in their efforts to trap Jesus. Caught in the act of breaking the law, this woman had no defense and no defender. Thrown into a crowd of men, possibly in a state of undress, she was completely defenseless.
Until the moment her path crossed Jesus’s, that is. At that moment she was given an advocate, someone to offer her protection from the lethal consequences of her actions. Though she was saved from the stoning, Jesus didn’t turn a blind eye to her sin. He forgave her, yes, but then commissioned her into a life that looked different, a life free from sin.
This woman had every reason to be stoned to death like the law commanded. But Jesus had come to fulfill the law, not enforce it, so that those under it could rest in His record instead of their own. He granted the woman caught in adultery, along with the rest of humanity, a second chance. With her second chance, Jesus did not say, “You’re forgiven, go do whatever you want.” He did not condemn her, but He did command her to abandon a life of sin.
The woman caught in adultery learned that a relationship with Jesus is not a “get out of hell free” card. Forgiveness is not permission to live however one wants, with an understanding that Jesus will make it all right in the end. Instead, it’s an invitation to live a life full of love and light and righteousness, designed to point others to God. He didn’t rescue her from a physical death only to return her to a spiritual one. No, Jesus redirected her path toward holiness, toward wholeness.
This encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery was actually just one more attempt by the Pharisees to trick Jesus into sinning. They plotted against Him, looking for any opening to prove He was not who He said He was. Surely this woman’s situation would do it!
But, no. Jesus refused to allow the religious officials to use the woman to condemn Him — or to use Him to condemn her. Rather, He raised the questions of sin and innocence, since the Pharisees were acting on their assumptions of both. Turning down their invitation to judge her and therefore sentencing her to death, He bent over and began writing in the dirt.
Nobody knows what He wrote that day. But whatever it was, it caused the Pharisees to re-think their plan. Jesus declined the offer to serve as the woman’s judge and jury and returned that responsibility to the Pharisees. But He attached a condition to their judgment; He said that whoever had not sinned himself should be the one to punish her. Strangely enough, nobody volunteered and the woman was left alone.
Do you feel exposed? Do you worry that someone is plotting your punishment, waiting for you to mess up? Have you already been judged and found guilty? Friend, you are not alone and this is not the end. Though it may seem like you are without an excuse and without defense— your only options being penance or escaping back to the darkness—that’s not the case. Just like He did for the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus will rescue you — from your sin and from the judgment it demands. His death and resurrection has already paid the price for the mistakes you have made and the ones you are making right now. And if you trust in that, He will lift you out of the darkness and point you toward the light. He will rescue you for a reason: a second chance.
When Jesus gave the woman caught in adultery a second chance, He didn’t do it to give her freedom to sin, but instead freedom from it. He did it to show her that her life was worth living well and that she had the power to choose that path instead. That’s exactly what He offers us today, and that is a second chance worth taking.
Written by Mary Carver as published in the (in)courage Devotional Bible.
Today marks the first Sunday in the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Join us here at (in)courage each weekend in December as we learn about the promises of God and count down to Christmas together.
Make the season bright by reflecting on these promises from God. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, make time to quiet your heart and hear from His.Leave a Comment