Monday, November 4, 2013

We are Her

In my mind's eye I can see her.  Her dark hair would have been ruffled; her clothes rumpled or missing, her face the color of sunset or perhaps as white as snow.  I can imagine why she found herself in bed with that man-she needed the attention and physical comfort, she fancied herself in love, or perhaps she was striking out in anger against a husband she had grown to hate.  

Motivation aside, being dragged literally out of bed, through the streets, and up the hill to the temple by those smug Pharisees must have been the most horrifying moment of her life.  And one of the most public.  All sin has an element of secret humiliation.  All sin is a work of darkness, it shies from the harsh light of knowledge (John 3:19-21). We don't even talk to ourselves about the worst of it; we're too ashamed.  

Standing there surrounded by the hundreds of people streaming through the temple, there was no secret to her sin.  In this crowd, she couldn't have been more alone.  Even her partner in this tango had abandoned her.  She might well have stared at the ground rather than meet the eyes of her accusers. 

We are her. 

When we read the story of the adulterous woman in John 8, we like to talk about her sin, her partner, what Jesus might have been writing in the dust as the Pharisees badgered her; we feel a little smug as Jesus zings them by declaring that the one with no sin is welcome to start throwing stones at her; we feel justified as they slip away.  Self-righteous, judgmental people, we decide.

But in the story we're not the judgmental crowd, the self-righteous Pharisees or the sinless Savior; we are her.

We are guilty.  There's no question.  There's no sneaky defense lawyer to step up and shed new light on our actions.  We are sinful from start to finish.  "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isaiah 64:6). 

We stand accused.  Did you know that's what Satan means?  The Accuser.  That's the role he plays in Job. Satan stands before God accusing Job of self-interested obedience instead of love.  Satan stands in the Pharisee's place and he points at us, bedraggled, half-naked and clearly guilty, and accuses us.  And he's right.

What about us?  We just look down at our feet. The Father of Lies is telling the truth. We may not have been caught in bed with a married man but we're caught. Resentment, envy, gossip, a sharp tongue, indifference, neglect...the list goes on and on.  Sin is written all over us, embarrassingly obvious.

Jesus looks up and he says, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." (John 8:7) Hear Jesus carefully.  The Pharisees and the roiling crowd, they are forbidden to punish by the guilt of their own sin.  With Jesus' words they slink away finally beginning to realize the parallels between her and themselves.

Satan is disqualified too.  He is guilty, the ultimate deceiver. Even though he's right, Jesus forbids him to speak!  John declares in Revelations 12 that, "now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night."  The accuser is defeated by the authority of Christ.

Who stands here able to accuse us?  Only the sinless Savior. What will he say?

I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more (John 8:11).

Jesus is as innocent as the Pharisees wish they were.  Sinless, he has every right to penalty, punishment and judgment unlike the vanquished Accuser.  But condemn is exactly what he does not want to do. 

Mercy means to rescind a deserved punishment.  She did it; we did it.  She deserved to die; we do too.  But Jesus is the very heart of God's mercy.  He wasn't sent to condemn us but to save us. (John 3:17) 

One day we will stand at the throne of God; the books will be opened and the Judge of all the Universe will look down on humanity.  We don't want to stand naked.  We want to be dressed in the pure white robes our elder brother gave us, but our own righteousness is like filthy rags (Rev 3:4-5, Isaiah 64:6).  We want mercy; we deserve punishment. We want life; we deserve death (Ephesians 2:1-5). 
Satan can rage.  He can accuse us day and night before the throne of God but nothing he says changes this life-giving truth.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
 (Romans 8:1)

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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