An Encounter With Grace
‘... those who receive overflowing grace (unmerited favour) and the free gift of righteousness will reign as Kings in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.’ Romans 5:17
The Gospels record an encounter Jesus had with a group of religious men and a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery (John 8:2-11). In accordance with the Old Testament Jewish Law, as punishment for her sin, the woman was to be stoned. Under the Law accusers were the ones who were responsible for stoning her; if they were not justified in accusing her, they would receive the same punishment.
The accusers were trying to trap Jesus into either applying the Law or showing mercy. Jesus’ answer to them showed much deeper wisdom and understanding of God’s Law. Jesus knew the Law trapped the self-righteous along with everyone else. Jesus knew that if the accusers were to judge in accordance with the Law, by the Law, they would themselves would fall.
Jesus chose another way of dealing with the woman. He asked if any of the men who were accusing the woman had ever sinned. If there were any there who had never sinned, they could be the first to throw a stone. Of course, every one of them, one by one, walked away, graphically illustrating that each of us has fallen in sin. There is no-one who can stand in judgement.
The woman was left without an accuser. The only person who could righteously apply the Law to the woman was Jesus, but he chose not to condemn her. Unlike the self-righteous accusers, the woman did not walk away. It’s unclear why she stayed. Perhaps she was still terrified. Maybe she was still expecting punishment for her sin. Jesus said to the woman, “Where are your accusers?” She replied that they had left, He then said: “neither do I condemn you.”
This was an encounter with God’s grace through mercy. The woman had been caught in adultery. She was deserving of condemnation, she was deserving of judgement, but Jesus decided to do neither.
Then Jesus said something to the woman which may seem quite unreasonable. Jesus asked the woman, “Go and sin no more!”
To many of us this seems an unfair, even cruel expectation. Most people know enough about human nature to realize that people who are trapped in habitual sin cannot just stop sinning. Rehab programs, the divorce courts and dysfunctional families all attest to the ongoing struggle people have with sin. Once sin has become grounded in our self-image, it can haunt us for the rest of our life.
Jesus does not put impossible expectations on people who have been caught in sin; He came to break us from the power and consequences of sin. There must have been something in the encounter between Jesus and the woman that gave her the ability to be free from sin. Jesus must have given the woman something that she did not have before, and it liberated her from sin.
The power of sin that held that woman in bondage all those years had just meet its match! The woman had encountered the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ.