Here’s the thing — it’s loud out there. And dark. And sadly, sometimes we behave that way. Like we can’t see the light. Our tendencies are sometimes no different than that of the notorious religious leaders in first century Judea. They were infamous for pushing their way through the masses just to shout their own worth, mostly at the expense of someone else’s.
The political and cultural climate we live in today isn’t novel. We constantly hear the messages encouraging us to put our needs above our neighbors’. We’re told to do what feels right to you personally, forsaking the responsibility to look out for another’s potential injury; after all, they’re not our concern.
Type fast on social media but read slowly. Speak out so loudly that the whisper of our neighbor never reaches us at all. None of us are immune. But we do not have to live blinded by this empirical darkness. There is a Light. Enter Jesus.
Allow me to set the scene: Jesus had retreated to the Mount of Olives while His disciples headed home. Early the next morning He headed over to the Temple to do some teaching. No doubt a crowd gathered quickly, which created the perfect setting for a group of religious leaders to try to incriminate Him.
In those days, not unlike our own, people often made a show out of touting their own righteousness while simultaneously attacking the efforts of those they had labeled as both sinners and saints. The Pharisees fit the description and had constructed a plan on this particular morning to slay a woman they saw as detestable and accuse Jesus at the same time. They came to kill two birds with one stone, if you will.
You see, the woman they brought to Jesus was caught in the very act of adultery (of course, we wonder where her partner was since it takes two to do the deed, but we’ll move on). Everyone wants to know how Jesus will respond to the allegations brought to Him in the courtyard surrounding the place He calls His Father’s house. This was a crime punishable by death by stoning. It was the law.
Fortunately for us, Jesus could see straight through the smog these leaders had grown accustomed to inhaling. He formed their hearts in love, but somewhere along the way those same hearts were misled to believe that destroying someone else’s dignity would somehow elevate their own. God breathed His untainted breath into their bodies and said they were “very good,” but their efforts to condemn in this case revealed the tarnish that had gathered on the image they were created to bear.
Right after the Teacher hears the pleas of the self-righteous, instantly recognizing their motivations, He stands in front of the crowd, larger now I’m sure, and makes one small request: Go ahead and murder her; just show Me your perfect record first (my loose paraphrase). Mic drop.
The same men who were so sure of themselves and the law they represented began, one by one, to leave the scene of what they hoped would be a public execution. And after they were all gone — Jesus releases her too, with some of the most beautiful words in the gospels, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go your way, and from now on do not sin again,” (John 8:11).
Jesus undoubtedly knew it was impossible for her or anyone else to never sin again as long as we live, but His next recorded statements give us some insight into what I believe were and are His expectations for us, the ones who choose to follow Him: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12). We get to make the choice — to follow Him into the light or stumble around in the darkness, grasping for what we feel we’ve lost without recognizing all we have to gain.
When we follow Him, we won’t work to condemn others or ourselves because Jesus leads us toward reconciliation.
When we follow Him, we choose life over death because Jesus chose life for this woman and every single one of us who has ever been “caught in the act.”
When we follow Him, we can hear Him even in the midst of the noise because Jesus said His sheep know His voice.
And finally, when we follow Him, we can see ourselves and others more clearly because Jesus shines His light on all of us.
The dark, noisy places aren’t the ones best suited for writing an agenda. It didn’t work out very well for the Pharisees and it won’t for us either. Instead, my suggestion for me and for all of us, is to forfeit our own opinions and plans and work on living out the agenda of Jesus. He is not in the business to condemn. He is for us. And He invites all of us to go follow Him wherever He goes. Into the Light.