Do you feel defined by sin? Do you feel powerless under its weight? Is there an awareness in your life that sin has repeatedly gotten the better of you? Do you feel trapped by a pattern that always ends with failure, guilt, shame, and condemnation?
If so, the account of the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 8 is one to consider. In it you see a woman who starts off literally defined by the sin that she is caught in the act of doing – she is the Adulterous Woman. You see a woman who is deserving of justified punishment. She is caught red-handed by the authorities and has no way out. She is facing the rest of her life branded by her sin…until Jesus comes into the picture.
Jesus is not even focused on this woman at the beginning of the passage. He is leading a Bible study for His people when the Pharisees interrupt. It is an unbelievable sort of self-righteousness and anger that leads them to interrupt the Son of God teaching the Bible in name of religion. They do so in order to put before Jesus the woman caught in the very act of adultery. This seems to make sense until you realize what they are asking. In their blindness, they go to the perfect righteous Judge, Jesus and ask Him to execute judgment immediately on the sins of His creation. Each one of the men who is dragging the poor woman before Jesus is just as much a sinner as she is and they are asking for summary punishment of sin. They don’t understand the trouble they are asking for.
The Bible never states the woman’s name. You never learn where she is from or really anything about her. The only thing that is revealed is she is the adulterer. She is literally defined by her sin. The Bible even headlines this passage as Jesus and the Adulterous Woman. She is further branded as the woman defined by her sin.
Do you ever feel this way? Do you feel that there is nothing about you that is important to God other than guilt and shame? Does your life seem so deep in the mire of sin that this is all that God can see? Does the weight of our great sin feel so heavy that it takes everything to keep from collapsing under the burden?
This seems to be where the woman is at the moment she is thrown in front of Jesus. What’s more, her enemies would like nothing more than to have this be the end of her story. The Pharisees would love for her sin to have victory over her permanently. They want it to destroy her. Those opposed to Jesus want to keep the woman as just The Adulterous Woman. She is useful to the enemy when she remains defined just by her sin. Guilt, shame, and public humiliation are used to try to keep her in the prison. Satan came to steal, kill and destroy and that is what he continues to try to do to us every day. Jesus proclaims that He came to set the captives free. His enemies want to keep the captives just where they are — in prison, dying under the weight of their sinful humanity.
The religious leaders make a huge mistake though. They intend to use the woman as a tool to trap Jesus. Their hope is that putting her before Jesus ends with the destruction of Jesus or of the woman. They don’t care which because either outcome would be ok with them. To sin you are just a tool, disposable, worthless, to be chewed up and spit out when convenient. This is truly what Satan thinks of you and he would be happy to destroy this woman through her sin. The mistake is that they drag this poor woman before Jesus, the perfect Savior. He came to seek and save the lost. This woman certainly met the description.
Evil’s fatal weakness in this world is that it forces you to your knees in pain. This is where millions have first understood the unbelievable love of Jesus.
Jesus looks at the woman and He sees her with His eyes. His viewpoint on the situation is very different from the Pharisees of the world. He looks at her with love and not hate. He sees a woman who has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. A woman in great need of someone to save her from herself and the world that would destroy her. He sees someone who needs a Savior.
His awesome plan results in her being forced to stand in front of the Savior! While the crowd is reviling her, using her and thinking she is the lowest of the low, Jesus directs all things to lead her to that location on that day. He does so in order to forgive her, welcome her and love her.
How do you know this?
Jesus explains over and over again in the Gospels that He loves even the worst of sinners. He depicts Himself as actively in pursuit of sinners. He is waiting eagerly for the lost sheep to return to Him so heaven can rejoice. From the Prodigal Son to the Lost Sheep, Jesus sets out that He is always looking to redeem sinners. No matter what they are doing, He is eagerly awaiting their turning back to Him so He can do what He came to do, save them. He wishes that none will perish and offers mercy and grace in their time of need. It is why He came.
Jesus never defines you by your sin — that is Satan. Jesus always looks at you and simply sees a lost sheep who needs to turn away from sin and come to Him. This is particularly true when you are weary and burdened and in need of rest.
Did you ever notice it is His words that make the accusers leave? John 8:
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 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.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
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 like a shepherd drives her attackers away. He protects her and shields her. He is her fortress and salvation, her strong tower in her time of need. She looks to Him and stands with Him while the accusers are compelled to slip away to their homes and their sin one by one. He is the Good Shepherd.
The woman stays before Jesus when everyone else has gone. She then looks to Jesus, only Jesus as her judge, her final authority, and her Lord. Because of this, she walks away free:
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Do you feel powerless? Do you feel defined by your sin? Are you the sinful man or woman?
If so, get before Jesus and trust in the love and mercy that He promises you. Look to Him as your authority, call Him Lord and mean it and you will walk away free to leave your life of sin behind.
Even if it is tremendously painful to get to Jesus face to face, get there and be loved by Him.