Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.
“Adulteress!” they shouted, spewing hatred at her as they dragged her out of the bedroom. As dawn broke and the sun rose, she was again grabbed from the cell where she had been held, leaving the sheet behind. But no sheet could cover her shame. Not a blanket in town could hide her from the death sentence she deserved.
But where were they taking her? Why her? Why now? Why couldn’t they have just let her go? Where is the man who had invited her over? Why was she the only one being dragged through the streets, adding to her shame?
Feelings of betrayal and anger, humiliation and remorse rose in her throat until she choked on both her guilt and her tears. Oh, what she would give to have back in her grasp the small sheet to cover her and the nakedness of her condemnation. As she walked behind the priests, she recounted the events of the night. It was supposed to be fun. She could taste the salty tears drawn from the well of virtue she had traded for shame. Although the Pharisees may have trapped her, she knew deep inside it was a bed she had made for herself. It was in fact her fault. She had indeed committed adultery, and was by law condemned to die. But like this? Here, in front of the temple? Was it not her husband’s job to bring an accusation, not these people who looked at her as dirt?
Then she heard His voice, the One they called Teacher, the One who both healed diseases and fed the masses. Why would they bring her to Him? A sudden wave of terror raced through her veins and stalled her feet until the Pharisees were dragging her to the front of the crowd. They threw her down at the feet of Jesus.
It was bad enough to be shamed before her friends, and paraded as an adulteress through her community, but now to be thrown before Jesus, the Teacher? She could not look up. She wept and trembled, and felt the eyes of everyone on her. A harlot. An adulteress. A sinner. The law said to stone her. But, then she was a sideshow for the Pharisees. They treated her shame with indifference and focused only on trapping Jesus.
“What should we do with this woman caught in adultery?”
She was still cowering, but Jesus bent down, eye level, and wrote in the dust. Confusing and even angering the Pharisees, they want Him to engage, take a position.
“What should we do with her?” Air is thick with anticipation and judgment, and at fever pitch, accusers silently, and in disbelief looked down to see the guilty secrets of their own private lives spelled out in the dust.
Jesus said decidedly, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
With judgments in hand, but the truth at their feet, no one picked up a stone. No one could. Did He write their individual sins, or a single statement that caused them to do some introspection about their own unrighteousness? The Bible does not tell us, but what we do know is that they all began to leave, one by one, starting with the oldest down to the most pious.
She braced herself and awaited the judgment of her fate, but Jesus calls her attention to His ruling.
“Where are your accusers?” He asked gently. She looked up, maybe expecting to see angry eyes, but instead saw no no one—only compassion. In Jesus’ eyes she found relief, and gentleness unlike anything she had ever experienced. It was a kindness, unattached to physical expectations and lust. It was pure, unmatched mercy.
Death is what we deserve, but in the dust of defeat we find the mercy of Jesus.
Surely, the Pharisees had left, but what about this Teacher? He alone could condemn her, but instead she finds more mercy, more grace, an abundance of forgiveness, and a pardon for her sin’s deserved punishment. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
When tossed before the feet of the Savior, the sinner finds no condemnation. She no longer needed the sheet to cover her sins, because she found comfort and covering in the redemption of Christ.
Within this story is the summation of the gospel: confirmed sinners caught daily in the act of falling short of the righteousness of God; paraded through the communities of heaven as the beloved creation who fell; accused by Satan, and brought before God, condemned to death. Death is what we deserve, but in the dust of defeat we find the mercy of Jesus. Jesus, the Redeemer. Jesus, the Rescuer. But the gospel doesn’t end at forgiveness. He tells the woman to go and sin no more. This is evidence that an encounter with Jesus doesn’t just end with forgiveness, but it leads to life transformation.
She longed for earthy covering from her sin. But God had offered her more than a temporary cover. He offered her freedom. While Jesus does not condone sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save (John 3:16, 17).
The world may have accused you.
Your family and friends may be against you.
The writing in the dust covers that.
Your sins may be haunting you.
You may be struggling right now, consumed with guilt and shame.
Find yourself at the feet of Jesus.
The Blood of the cross covers that.
You may be broken and ashamed, hiding under the sheets where you hope no one can see.
The Mercy of Jesus covers that.
You may feel condemned, because
of a mess you may have gotten yourself into.
The Love of Jesus covers that, too.
And whom the Son sets free is truly free indeed. (John 8:36).
Kimberly Mann is an associate chaplain with the Office of Spiritual Life at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.
By Any Means Necessary
Tenacious. Unstoppable. Perseverant. Usually these are words used to describe many sports heroes. Have you ever in your prayers or testimonies described God with one of these? Are they not accurate? I believe the Bible is full of stories of a tenacious, unstoppable, perseverant God.
Is it our “duty” as Christians to point out sin and pull the veil off wrongdoing? Were the Pharisees and teachers wrong for what they did? Why or why not? Share your views using the #MessageMag tag.
When we encounter people who don’t have our best interest at heart, the temptation is to see ourselves as the victim and ask, why me? What is interesting here is that the text specifies that this had less to do with the woman, and more to do with Jesus. Have you ever been through something you thought was about you, only to find out you were just a bystander, collateral damage? Has God ever taught you that it is not about you? Tell us about that on social media using the #MessageMag tag.
Once in a while God blesses us with a tough moment of clarity. Have you ever been overwhelmed with your own shortcomings? Isn’t it usually followed with an awe-inspiring view of God’s grace? The people here didn’t seem to have that, but we at Message want to know if you have. Let us know on social media using the #MessageMag tag.
This verse is quite curious. Why did the people walk away? Why did they leave in descending age order? Pray and contemplate this, then let us know your thoughts via social media using the tag #MessageMag
Sometimes it’s of value to note what Jesus didn’t say or do. He doesn’t point out that she made a mistake. He doesn’t point out that her situation is her fault. Instead He draws attention to the fact that there’s no one pointing out her faults anymore. Is that a part of our role as Christians? Showing that there’s “no condemnation”? Search, speculate, and share your thoughts with us with tag #MessageMag.
An observation you may have made was that there were many people who were in the presence of Jesus on this day, but only one found forgiveness. Is it possible that this woman would not have ended up at the feet of Jesus if she hadn’t been in the compromising position she was? Is it possible that her shortcoming was the means by which God orchestrated a confrontation? Has there been a time in your life when God took one of your dark yesterday’s and turned it into a bright tomorrow? Share your testimony with us using the #MessageMag.
I believe that God will do whatever He must to get us to the feet of Jesus. There are no means too dark, dank or despondent that God cannot or will not use. He will save us by any means necessary. Those means will always be Jesus.
*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.