Grace and Mercy

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

These were Jesus’ words to the Pharisees and teachers of the law in ancient Israel. They had brought to Him a woman caught in the very act of adultery, indeed, a crime worthy of capital punishment at that time. Electrocution and lethal injection hadn’t caught on yet — they were gathering stones. Rocks. Boulders, if possible.

Rumor has it that they had set up the woman intentionally. It’s all ancient politics, of course, but they were actually trying to trap Jesus Himself into breaking one of their many laws by whichever answer He gave them regarding her execution. In an interesting side note, their law required the execution of both parties of the adultery, not just the woman….but oh well, they weren’t really interested in maintaining the purity of the law anyway….

So they asked Jesus, “Well, she’s broken the Law. We actually caught her in the act. Moses said that we should stone such women. Now what do you say?”

The Bible says that Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. I wonder what He was writing… maybe the names and sins of the men before Him… maybe all the laws that would have to be changed because of God’s love… maybe He was remembering and recording the day when each of these men would themselves pass away into eternity. We just don’t know what Jesus was writing, but His wisdom remains in His words to the accusers.

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

One by one, the men walked away from the scene. The older ones left first. They wouldn’t get their blood satisfaction today. Finally only Jesus was left with the woman still standing there. He stood up from His writing and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

God’s mercy.

His mercy is shocking. It was scandalous two thousand years ago, and it is still scandalous today. He was such a controversial figure in His culture that the religious leaders of His time strangely found Him guilty of blasphemy and had Him executed just to get Him out of the way, to silence Him, to prevent Him from leading a revolution, an insurrection against the Roman government. The religious leaders had no idea that His Kingdom is not of this world, and that His followers would soon be spreading His good news all around the world. He was convicted in a mock trial and sentenced to death via torture on the Roman cross. Capital punishment for a sinless man. Sinless man. He never even had a sinful thought! The death penalty for the son of God who knew no sin EVER.

And yet, here’s what they didn’t have a clue about: He took our sins with Him to the cross. He was executed in our place. We deserved the death penalty for our sins against a holy God, but Love stepped in and saved us from that eternal horror.

God’s grace.

How do I feel about the death penalty? I hate it. It has no place in our country or in our world today.

But I’m eternally thankful for the cross.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dianna
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 20:28:31

    When I was a young girl (Junior Choir age), one of the hymns we sang was “Neither Do I Condemn Thee” (go and sin no more). I hadn’t thought of that song in years. Thanks for your post today – reminding me of it.


  2. Natalie
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 13:07:27

    You are welcome — that’s a really great hymn!


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