In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read John 8: 1-11
“If anyone is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” This was Jesus’ incredible response to the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to him. They paraded her in front of a group of bystanders and tried to trap Jesus with their theology examination. “In the law of Moses, we are commanded to stone such women. What do you say?” One can only imagine how they stood there with their arms folded, a snarky pose of bullying on their part – to both the woman and Jesus.
Instead of replying to their intimidation, Jesus merely bent down and began writing something in the sand with his fingers. We don’t know what he wrote, but he used this response to their continual inquisition. In between two recorded instances of Jesus stooping down to the ground and writing in the dirt he invites whoever is without sin to stone the sinful woman. Slowly the crowd dissipates, one person at a time. The elders left first, followed by the others, leaving only Jesus with the woman.
He asked her, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She replied with a simple, “No one, sir.” “Then neither do I condemn you…go now and leave your life of sin,” Jesus declared. And with that simple word of forgiveness she is released of her sin by the Savior of the world. With his outstretched arms of love, Jesus generously extends forgiveness to one in need.
What is it about Jesus’ repeated offer of forgiveness, without any need for remuneration beyond the acknowledgement of sin? No shame or guilt, no punishment or recourse. Simply the recognition of one’s ways and ascent to the wrongdoing, and Jesus covers the rest. Each time he pardons the sinner he is upsetting the system of justice. The Pharisees were self-declared watchdogs of the Law, and they were committed to bring punitive damage to all who would step outside the Law. So, to make the woman caught in adultery stand before her peers was nothing short of public ridicule…but to them, it was necessary recompense.
Jesus associated with sinners. This was in keeping with his mission and ministry. To those who would repent of their sin, he offered the free gift of forgiveness. To repent is to feel or express regret or remorse for one’s actions, to simply acknowledge the truth about oneself even and especially when one has done something counter to the will of God. It’s turning around to the true heart, no more cover-up.
What is your attitude toward a known sinner? What is your attitude toward your own known sin? Without casting a single stone, receive instead the forgiveness of Jesus and be set free. Behold the One who came to reset the Law and the Prophets with the Gospel of loving forgiveness; believe in the truth that will always set you free; belong to the community of the forgiven; become a forgiving lover too.