Short Meditations in John 8: 7. Challenge
Jn 8:7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
So, we have said, the trap has been laid by these religious antagonists of Jesus, to get him to either let this woman off and thus deny the Law and appear a law-breakers, or condemn her along with them and incur the displeasure of the crowd who thought so much of him. Those appear the only two options open to him – and the authorities know that and so that it is why it is a trap.
He apparently sits there quietly not saying anything for “they keep on questioning him.” John doesn’t record any more (if this is John writing) but they press him further for an answer. He appears to have been looking down, not facing them confrontationally, for “he straightened up.” Little details but significant. His time has come, the time to give them an answer. Perhaps there is a silence as everyone waits with bated breath to see which one of the two options he is going to take, but he takes neither. He simply addresses these accusers with a simple statement: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
There it is, an answer has been given, not the one they expected, but it is an answer. Instead of putting himself in a difficult position Jesus places the onus for a decision upon them. It is like he says, “OK yes she clearly does deserve to die because she is a sinner, but let’s just check this out: whoever of you can say they are not a sinner, it’s OK you can be the first to cast a stone.” Wow!
Now here’s another reason why I would want to include this ‘questionable passage’ in our studies: it feel like Jesus, the way he so often came up with a word of wisdom that floored his opponents. But there is another reason as well. This story, I believe, almost more than any other story in the Gospels goes to the heart of the Christian faith and should undermine any Pharisaical attitudes that may be found in modern-day Christianity.
The truth is that we have been redeemed and hopefully we are living lives that are more righteous and godlier than our neighbors, but therein is a danger: we can feel superior! And in some senses we are – but it is not of our doing! As the apostle Paul said, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8,9) Our salvation is a gift from God and not because of anything good we have done. Our calling is to reach out with compassion and humility to others around us, to redeem not to condemn.