Neither I Condemn You

on Sunday, November 23, 2008


This Sunday, I would like to share with you, one of my favorite passages from the Bible. It so happened that I was reminded of it during the church service today.

John 8:1-11
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them.
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group
4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"
6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 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.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?"
11 "No-one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
(NIV)

A woman is caught in adultery. The religious leaders made her stand in shame before the crowd. In the narrative, it is clear that nobody cares or has any sympathy for the woman. They obviously thought that she was deserving of any humiliation she was facing and in fact they thought that she should be stoned to death. But before they condemn her, they figure that they could have some sport with her and even use her to lay a trap for Jesus. They were fed up with this upstart that was making the general people question their authority and position as interpreters of the scripture. If Jesus had always talked about love and compassion, this was an opportunity to expose his empty rhetoric.

As they paraded the woman before Jesus, if Jesus spoke out to release the woman that would clearly show everyone that he had no regard for their religious laws. If instead, he agreed to stone the woman to death, then he was no different than the religious leaders that he was decrying as lacking love and compassion. What would Jesus do? How would he get out of this situation?

I like the way that Jesus made them wait for his answer and when it did come, what a wise answer it was. In one sentence, he protected the woman and convicted the religious leaders of their own guilt. "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

In this, Jesus recognises the law but reminds us that all mankind are sinful and guilty and therefore have no right to judge others lest we also are judged. At the same time, his words must have been both comforting and liberating for the woman. Even more so when he says"Neither I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."

In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus is holy; that is he is sinless - the only man to ever achieve this. Therefore, if anyone there could have righteously condemned the woman, it was Jesus. Yet, this is the comforting message that Jesus has for all of us. Though we are sinful and are enemies in the sight of God, God sent Jesus to earth, not to condemn us but to provide a way for reconciliation. We are not condemned but if we turn from our sinful (Godless) way, then we will be reconciled with Him.

This is also an example for all of us to be more generous and less judgmental to those around us. On a personal note, I am so grateful that Jesus came not to condemn but to save. His message to me and to all of us is the same; "Neither I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."

This is one of my favorite passages as it reminds me of God's love, compassion, fairness and wisdom in dealing with us.

17 comments:

daysgoby said...

I would not have picked that particular passage as my favorite (because it wouldn't have struck me) but the way you explain it - it illuminates what I believe - that God is a wondrous, forgiving, loving spirit.

Molly said...

If we would all look to ourselves before we rush to judge or to criticize......

Janice Thomson said...

I was delighted to read this today LGS. I am in need of being less critical of a situation. Thank you for sharing this reminder.

citizen of the world said...

"This is also an example for all of us to be more generous and less judgmental to those around us."

For this very reason it is one of my favorite pasages, too.

Dr.John said...

Wow! What a great blog entry. Now if only everyone who reads it would apply it to their own lives the world would be a little nicer place.

mago said...

Well spoken.

It's one of the few (or even the only ?) passage where he writes. He writes in the sand.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

daysgoby,
I am awestruck by a God of infinite, awesome and frightening power dealing so gently with the poor in spirit while having little patience for self-righteous hypocrites who seek to judge others instead of examining themselves.

Molly,
Another verse comes to mind where Jesus warns "not to look for a speck in a brother's eye when you cannot see the log in your own eye." Also shows that Jesus had a sense of comedic visual humor.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

janice,
It was God who prompted me to write this post. i had several others in mind but He kept bringing me back to this one. Glad it was relevant and helpful for you.

cz,
I am glad. :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
Thank you but as you know it is God that prompts and God that changes the heart.

Mago,
A very good point. I wonder what the significance is of Jesus writing in the sand. It was a very deliberate act and clearly meant something to the Gospel writer who records it with such great detail.

Marja said...

Yes it is a beautiful passage. If only we would not only listen to this but live like it.

cabcree said...

I've noticed what Mago said as well. I'm not sure all the significance, but one thing I continue to find fascinating is that He could read (Mark 4:16-20) and write. It's my understanding that the poor in that day and age were not educated. Maybe I've missed it in my readings, but did He learn to read and write just because He is God? Or did His family know how and teach Him? Or did He actually go to school? I'm very curious.

I also love this passage. The more I read the Bible the more I see God's love and grace. It's hard to see sometimes, but its definitely there.

Thanks for the reminder as well! I'm always needing this.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

marja,
so simple and yet so difficult.

cabcree,
Interesting point. I am just guessing here but the account in Luke chapter 2 and verse 41 onwards reads;
'41 Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Festival, according to the custom. 43 After the Festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."

49 "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" [e] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And as Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people."

it would seem to suggest that his wisdom was of a supernatural nature. So his reading and writing may also be supernatural. On the other hand, he may have been taught to read the scriptures at the synagogue which I think was the custom then.

On a totally different tack, I was wondering if the name "cabcree" had a meaning.

cabcree said...

"cabcree" is just Rebecca. Nothing special. :) Thanks for the insight.

mago said...

I think he learned to read and to write. He knows the holy scriptures and has the ability to explain them. Regularily a boy at his bar-mitzwa has to read form the scriptures in front of the community to proof that he can read, so he can attend the rite as full member of the community. I'll look for some literature.

mago said...

As I learned from a church-lexicon which is online (the old Bautz, reliable, but sorrily German only) the common understanding is that he was born into a rural family as the oldest son and so followed his father's profession doing construction. As a reaction of the Roman conquer of the country the Jews seemingly turned to religion and became more stable in believe and strengthened their church by holding to the rules - it was common Roman policies to let the religions of conquered people alone as long as it would not be a danger to the Roman state - later the Christian "no" to a human being celebrated as god, the emperor, lead to the "Verfolgung", the circus etc. - nothing indicates that Joseph and Mary would have followed another path in bringing up their children (somewhere brothers and sisters of Jesus are mentioned, Mk 6?), so they surely followed the tradition and that means the boy has to learn to read and proof it when he comes to age to become a full member of the community.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

cabcree,
Thanks for the explanation. I thought it might have been celtic or something.

Mago,
Thanks for the research and explanation. I agree that that is the most likely thing to have occurred. That is, Jesus was taught to read the scriptures. His wisdom and understanding though was certainly exceptional.

cabcree said...

thanks, Mago!

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