“If any one of you is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.”
It’s one of the most famous things Jesus ever said.
The religious insiders had brought to Jesus a woman they’d “caught in adultery,” a sin that under Jewish law called for the death penalty. The fact that they had somehow been unable to “catch” the adulterous man was proof enough that they were just using her to trap Jesus.
In one sentence, Jesus confirmed the reality of sin, the judgment sin requires, and the mercy we all need.
This week a Pennsylvania lawmaker filmed himself harassing a woman and her teenage daughters who were praying outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic, then posted the video online. Somehow, in our polarized culture, some people think it’s acceptable to publicly humiliate those they disagree with.
If you divide the world between “us” and “them,” then anyone who isn’t “us” is only getting what they deserve.
But there’s a worldview that doesn’t divide between “us” and “them.” That worldview is captured in Jesus’ words, “If any one of you is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The Christian faith says no one can stand in the presence of a holy God. We all deserve death. But instead, God has chosen to offer us mercy.
After Jesus made his famous pronouncement, he went back to drawing in the dirt with his finger. One by one, the religious insiders dropped their stones and left until only the woman remained. Incredibly, Jesus had allowed the reality of sin to convict everyone, while sparing everyone public humiliation.
Jesus allowed the humiliation to come down on him.
He caught the stones meant for the woman, the religious insiders, and us.