By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
When we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our sins were forgiven by God. What a wonderful feeling that was.
The question that we must answer in our own lives is this: Are we willing to forgive others when we feel they have wronged us? Even for Christians, forgiveness can be hard. Though we have been beneficiaries of the grace and mercy of God we are still prone to sin. We often find it very difficult to forgive others. Usually instead of forgiveness we want “blood” or revenge against the person or persons.
People have not changed much over the course of thousands of years. We find the same attitude in this week’s passage.
This is a familiar story. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery to Jesus while he was teaching in the temple complex in Jerusalem.
The Pharisees, of course, did not like Jesus and they were trying to trap Jesus into doing or saying something that would be unpopular with the Jews or would upset Roman leaders.
According to Old Testament law, a woman caught in adultery would be stoned to death.
No doubt Jesus knew what the religious leaders were up to. Instead of answering the question directly, Jesus began writing on the ground (verse 6).
There are different opinions as to why Jesus chose to write. Some scholars have said this is the only time mentioned in Scripture that Jesus wrote anything.
Jesus took his time in answering the Pharisees who were interested in punishment, not forgiveness. In fact, it probably is safe to say that forgiveness was the last thing on their minds.
Verse 7 tells us that the Pharisees continued to ask Jesus if He thought the woman should be stoned. Jesus finally stood and gave them an answer that probably was unexpected. He simply told them, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Look at what Jesus did after he said those words. Instead of looking them in the eye, he knelt down and began writing once again.
Can you imagine what the Pharisees must have thought when they heard that answer. Though they were very pious individuals, even they knew they were not without sin themselves. One commentator suggested that they knew that any discussion of guilt and punishment of sins could bring attention to their own.
Verse 8 notes that one by one, beginning with the oldest, the accusers left until Jesus was alone with the accused adulteress. At that point He looks up and sees that the crowd has withdrawn. He asks the woman if any had accused her and she replied that no one had.
Verse 11 is the epitome of forgiveness. “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
With those simple words, Jesus forgave the woman of her sins. He did not try to make her feel guilty of what she had done. No doubt, she was well aware of her transgressions.
Jesus dealt with this woman the way He has dealt with each of us. She did nothing to deserve forgiveness. She received it because of His grace and mercy, the same as us.
Back to the original question. We need to practice God’s grace with those we feel have hurt us. Instead of holding grudges and ill will toward those who have hurt us, we need to forgive. When we forgive, not only is the person we forgive freed, so are we.