Christianity 201

October 4, 2012

Grace is Getting More Than We Deserve

John 8 : 2 (NLT) …but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

Today’s reading is from the new book by Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Thomas Nelson). I love the way he is able to paint a descriptive picture of this familiar text, and offer a fresh take on Jesus writing in the dirt.

Stunned students stood on one side of her.  Pious plaintiffs on the other.  They had their questions and convictions; she had her dangling negligee and smeared lipstick.  “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery,” her accusers crowed.  Caught in the very act.  In the moment.  In the arms.  In the passion.  Caught in the very act by the Jerusalem Council on Decency and Conduct.  “The law of Moses says to stone her.  What do you say?”

The woman had no exit.  Deny the accusation?  She had been caught. Plead for mercy?  From whom?  From God?  His spokesmen were squeezing stones and snarling their lips.  No one would speak for her.

But someone would stoop for her.

Jesus “stooped down and wrote in the dust” (v.6 NLT).  We would expect him to stand up, step forward, or even ascend a stair and speak.  But instead he leaned over.  He descended lower than anyone else – beneath the priests, the people, even beneath the woman.  The accusers looked down on her.  To see Jesus, they had to look down even farther.

He’s prone to stoop.  He stooped to wash feet, to embrace children. Stooped to pull Peter out of the sea, to pray in the Garden.  He stooped before the Roman whipping post.  Stooped to carry the cross.  Grace is a God who stoops.  Here he stooped to write in the dust.

Remember the first occasion his fingers touched dirt?  He scooped soil and formed Adam.  As he touched the sun-baked soil beside the woman, Jesus may have been reliving the creation moment, reminding himself from whence we came.  Earthly humans are prone to do earthly things.  Maybe Jesus wrote in the soil for his own benefit.

Or for hers?  To divert gaping eyes from the scantily clad, just caught woman who stood in the center of the circle?

The posse grew impatient with the silent, stooping Jesus.  “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up” (v. 7 NLT).

He lifted himself erect until his shoulders were straight and his head was high.  He stood, not to preach, for his words would be few.  Not for long, for he would soon stoop again.  Not to instruct his followers; he didn’t address them.  He stood on behalf of the woman.  He placed himself between her and the lynch mob and said, “‘All right, stone her.  But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!’  Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust”  (vv.7-8 NLT).

Jesus wasn’t finished.  He stood one final time and asked the woman, “Where are your accusers?” (v. 10 NLT).

My, my, my.  What a question – not just for her but for us.

~Max Lucado

After reading this again, I thought to add this scripture, suggested in Lucado’s text above:

(NLT)Psalm 103 : 13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.