“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” So the saying goes. The meaning of this phrase is that people shouldn’t criticize or judge another person for a flaw when they struggle with the same thing. I would take that definition one step further and say that none of us should ever stand in an attitude of prideful judgment over another human being seeing as we have SO many flaws in our own lives. I may not struggle with the issues you do, but I’ve got a lifetime’s worth of my own issues I should be focused on. And so do you, by the way!
Let’s look at a version of this life lesson as told by the disciple John in the Gospel of John chapter 8, verses 3-14.
Jesus is just minding his own business when the Pharisees and teachers of the law drag a woman over to Jesus and throw her at his feet. These men were always trying to trap Jesus and make him do something they could accuse him for. When they threw her at Jesus’ feet, they wanted him to condemn her because she had been caught in the act of adultery. (Does anyone think it’s weird that they all knew where this woman would be and what she would be doing? How did they all appear at the scene of the crime at the same time? The Bible doesn’t go into those details, but I watch too many crime dramas not to be suspicious of a set-up!)
But anyway, these Pharisees say that their Jewish law demands that this woman be stoned and they ask Jesus, “What do you say?”
I can just hear the awkward silence as Jesus takes his time looking up at them with a gaze that reflects his complete knowledge of the evil that was in their hearts.
When Jesus finally does look up at them, He says, “I say that the one who has no sin should cast the first stone.”
And then he starts writing something in the dirt. We don’t know what he was writing. Maybe he was listing out all of the sins that these guys were guilty of, making them aware that He knew what they did in the dark. Or maybe he was writing to the woman, because after all, she was lying right there in the dirt at his feet. Maybe he was writing, ‘Even if your mother and father forsakes you, I will never forsake you.’ (Psalm 27:10) Or maybe he was writing, ‘For your former shame I will give you a double portion.’ (Isa. 61:7) Who knows? We don’t know.
But what we do know is that the accusers drop their stones, one by one and walk away.
Then Jesus looks up at the woman and asks her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” to which she replies, “No one, Sir.”
And he says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
Now how can Jesus tell this woman to ‘Go and sin no more’? She is a sinner. That’s like telling any human being, Go and breathe no more. She was caught in adultery. She is at the very least an adulteress. Right? Wrong — She is not a sinner ANYMORE.
Something happened at the feet of Jesus. Somewhere between the time that the accusers dragged her out and threw her at the feet of Jesus and the time when she looked up to find the accusers gone, an act of regeneration had happened in her heart. A transaction of grace had occurred between her and the Father that Jesus recognized as soon as he looked down at her. I believe that His spirit immediately knew that she had received regeneration and her spirit was made new – and that’s how he could tell her, ‘Go and sin no more’. There was no altar call, no repeat-after-me prayer, no healing line – just a woman sitting broken and humbled at the feet of the Lord. Being in his presence opened the door to deliverance and regeneration and she walked right through it.
But being in Jesus’ presence also caused her accusers to walk away one by one. In the presence of the Lord, our accusers lose their footing and in the presence of the Lord we gain ours.
In the presence of the Lord, our accusers lose their footing and in the presence of the Lord we gain ours.
What I find most interesting about these events is that if it wasn’t for the accusers, this woman might not have ever made it into the presence of Jesus at all. So the Father, in his Sovereign control over all creation both seen and unseen, used the very plan of the enemy to land this woman exactly where He wanted her so that He could bring the deliverance, healing, and newness of life that she needed.
And when the woman looked up into the face of Jesus, the incarnate face of God, she didn’t find a finger of accusation and condemnation pointing at her. She found instead, a gentle hand giving her the ‘Come closer’ motion. She found Jesus pronouncing her freedom, not her sentence.
This is the God we worship – the God who not only loves us and is calling us to him before we ever do anything deserving of redemption, but Who also sovereignly works all things to bring about his plan. I don’t understand completely how He does that, because He does not rule over the kingdom of darkness. That would make him a participant in evil. But He definitely has authority and dominion over and above that kingdom and He uses the devil’s strategies to leverage His own holy plans.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
To see how this works, let’s look quickly at the two plans that were in motion in this scenario:
The plan of the enemy: trap Jesus; force him into a situation where he has to bring accusation making him equal to Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren; and kill a woman at the same time.
The plan of God: humiliate the enemy; display His Lordship through grace over the law that brings death; and save the woman – body, soul and spirit – all at the same time.
Whose plan was accomplished?
This story gives us faith on many levels:
- God’s call to us comes before we are holy or righteous or have done anything lovely to get his attention. We respond by faith through grace when we are still sinners caught in our sinful acts and dragged into his presence by accusers who have a LEGAL RIGHT to demand our judgment. BUT JESUS has trumped that legal right through his death on the cross, paying the debt we owe and purchasing us. Now He has the legal right to do whatever he pleases with us – and it pleases the Him to lavish His love freely on those who respond to His call to repentance and regeneration.
- Our accusers are only pawns in the hands of God if we let the Father’s love do its work of regeneration and healing in our hearts. We can let the accusers beat us up and silence us – or we can run into the presence of Jesus and lay there under his loving and powerful gaze and wait for his words of acceptance and deliverance. When Jesus spoke ‘Go and sin no more’, that was a prophetic declaration over that woman of her future in Him. He showed her who she was in Christ. She was a righteous woman who would not need to rely on that sin for her identity any longer.
- The Father is All Powerful over every power both seen and unseen. We are not. Every opportunity to succeed in our walk with the Lord has been orchestrated by a loving God who gives opportunity after opportunity for us to turn our hearts to him and be healed and delivered from the bondage that keeps us fettered. The Lord has the authority and the compassion to set us free in a moment or in a process as we sit at his feet and let Him be God over us.
- Do you struggle to believe that Jesus is beckoning you to come to Him as you are right now?
- Do you get sucked into the mindset that you have to clean yourself up before you can approach God?
- What does this story teach us about that mindset? Is it based on truth or on a religious doctrine that doesn’t line up with the Gospel message?
- Do you find yourself hearing the voices of your accusers in your head telling you that God is disappointed in you and that you have failed too badly to be loved, let alone LIKED, by God? Here is what God has to say about that:
Psalm 69:13But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.
Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
If you don’t know the Lord, I pray that you will allow the awareness of His tender mercy and compassion to lift your head up. Gaze into His eyes and see acceptance, not judgment. And if you’ve been walking with Jesus for a while but have slipped back into that mindset of perfectionism and accusation, take some time to sit at His feet. Open up His Word and let Him speak to you in a fresh new way about how HE feels about you. Grace and mercy always speak a better word!