But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came back into the temple [court], and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began teaching them. Now the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the center of the court, and they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women [to death]. So what do You say [to do with her—what is Your sentence]?” They said this to test Him, hoping that they would have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and began writing on the ground with His finger. However, when they persisted in questioning Him, He straightened up and said, “He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He stooped down again and started writing on the ground. They listened [to His reply], and they began to go out one by one, starting with the oldest ones, until He was left alone, with the woman [standing there before Him] in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more”].
John 8:1-11 AMP
Most of us know all too well what it means to be condemned. We relate to the feelings of despair, of hopelessness, of guilt and shame, and of paralysis. Susie Bright, feminist author and critic, writes, “Behind every stimulating condemnation there is a burning hypocrite.”
We know all too well the back-breaking harness of condemnation. We have not just been the victim of condemnation, but with our heads hung in shame, we have sometimes also been the perpetrator. Condemnation is the terror that attacks our own spiritual ambitions.
On that day in the Temple yards, the Sanhedrin was holding court. Tossing a woman about like the papers of courtroom evidence, a woman caught in the act of adultery is made to stand center stage. The members of the religious leadership were less concerned about what she had done or about her personhood, than they were with the real reason motivating their behavior of the morning.
Their real task was to put Jesus to the test. Can they place a circumstance in front of Jesus that will lead Him to either contradict what the Law taught or to support a woman in her sin. They really didn’t care which direction He chose. They believed they had limited His choices to only two.
Instead Jesus tosses the tension of the moment and the message right back to them. Yes, the Law requires condemnation, but throwing the stone carries a shackle that weighs as heavily as the sin. You who is without any sin, cast the first stone. The implications of every word from the mouth of the Master caused the death grip on the stones to be weakened and released. From the oldest to the youngest, the self-appointed judge and jury adjourned for time at home.
“Sister, condemnation drags you here, but the gift of compassion offers to give you a ride home, if you need it. Where are those who want to condemn you?” Like a chord of triumphant music, the woman answers, “None are here.”
Jesus whispers in reply, “If none of your accusers condemn you, then I won’t either. Instead I will gift you with compassion. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned for simply being a participant in the human struggle.”
You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, held hostage to your own weaknesses and your own contradictions. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, when your feet are made of clay and they lead you in the wrong direction. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, when your mind wanders and contemplates things that are both embarrassing and annoying. You don’t have to live as if you have been condemned, when your choices have been more wrong than right, more tainted than true.
You are not who you should be, not who you could be, not who you will be, but you are not condemned.