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Lives of Grace and Mercy

Lent 2022

Read John 7:53-8:11

53 They went each to his own house, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

In today’s reading, Jesus teaches us that grace and mercy are more important than condemnation when the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman who had been caught in adultery to him. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” With these words, Jesus not only comes to the aid and rescue of this woman but also turns the men’s accusations back onto themselves. Jesus has already said that he came not to condemn, but rather to save (John 3:17). However, that does not mean there is no condemnation. The law still exists, still accuses, still condemns. Therefore, to the men who refused to acknowledge their own sin, Jesus speaks in a manner to effect repentance. But to the woman who could not deny or escape her guilt, he brings grace and forgiveness: “Neither do I condemn you.” Christ inspires us to set aside the question of guilt or innocence (because we all stand in the place of guilt) and through him “enter into a new life in which one’s regard for self and one’s relationship with others are based on grace and mercy.”1 That inspiration, given to each of us, is what leads us, not only to repent of our sin, but also to change our sinful lives.

Prayer: Lord, in your mercy, hide your face from my sins. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen (Psalm 51)

1 Culpepper, The Gospel and Letters of John, p. 170.

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