Stoning And Sacrificial Love
A man and woman were caught in adultery.
You can read the story in John, chapter eight.
The woman was ripped naked from the bed. She was half chased, half dragged through the streets by angry religious men with rocks. The men meant to throw the rocks at the woman until her bones were broken and her flesh a bloody pulp. They meant to kill her for her sins. We don’t know what happened to the sinful fella who was in the bed with her, it’s possible he slinked off, it’s just as possible he had his own rock.
Then Jesus was thrust into the middle of the story. The woman, weeping and afraid, was flung before Him. Then yanked to her feet, she was forced to stand. She tried to cover her nakedness. She wouldn’t meet His eyes; the fear and condemnation so great, she knew the law, the vicious mob knew too; even the disciples knew.
“The law says she should be stoned” the angry religious men screamed. “What should we do?” they asked Jesus, with stones in hand. They had schemed the horror of this moment to force Jesus to play the game of good and evil. And they thought they had Him neatly trapped.
Jesus took his time, scribbled something in the dirt. Then, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” He said.
His words resounded through the city streets, the nation, the world, and all the way up to heaven. Like always, his words were life.
For all who hear them.
“At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Jesus’ death and resurrection was the conclusion to everything He said and did. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do,” was the paradigm in which He walked the earth.
God reconciling all humanity to himself, not counting our sins against us, was the beginning and end, the foundation of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, the authority from which Jesus lived, moved, and had His being. Every word He spoke and everything He did was done from and toward one end, reconciliation.
It was the lens through which He interacted with all people, the oppressed and the oppressor.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” was a picture of restorative justice. These words stood between oppressed and oppressor and released salvation and restoration.
Salvation From Good & Evil
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone….” There is salvation in that statement; for everyone.
Salvation for the woman who was caught in adultery, and salvation for the men who were holding the stones.
You see, “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.” (see Matt 26:52) That’s what Jesus told Peter after he attempted murder to defend his belief system. Had Peter been holding a rock instead of a sword, Jesus’ words would have barely changed, “Those who use stoning will die by stoning.”
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” Those words still have the power to save us today, regardless of whether we identify with the woman or the men. And, while there’s salvation for the oppressed in Jesus’ words, there is also salvation for the oppressors.
Those men holding stones? They were participating in their death devotion; a vicious spirit of sin-focused retribution which is counter to the gospel of Jesus.
Those men did not understand what spirit they were participating in; through stoning the woman, they condemned themselves to the same retribution because those who stone, die by stoning…
Because, in the paradigm of good versus evil, sin is our ultimate judge and all have sinned.
In the paradigm of good and evil, no one can justify throwing stones, but everyone deserves to be stoned.
There was salvation in Jesus’ words. Salvation for those with stones and those without, because all who heard His words, oppressors and oppressed, were enslaved to the law of stoning, and under this law they were all guilty.
The paradigm of good and evil creates broken oppressive systems. It’s a playground of reward and punishment; the game is behavior-focused, and power is defined by who is in control, and retribution defines justice, and death as the ultimate conclusion.
Jesus’ words exposed the hypocrisy of this paradigm, the system humanity was enslaved to. And yet, today, we, the church, still slave in this death devotion through our political, religious, and often relational verbal or social media stonings. Father forgive us, we know not what we do.
Stoning is never justice, it’s hypocrisy. It’s participation in the spirit of revenge, in the knowledge of good and evil and evil and evil and evil…
But God was in Christ reconciling and this is the gospel of Jesus, that we would be one…
To Be Continued…
Jason Clark is an NYTimes Bestselling storyteller who writes to reveal the transforming kindness of the love of God in a world traumatized by the religious abuses done in the name of the love of God. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.
As my mother used to say, when you point your finger at somebody, you have three pointing back at you…