It’s funny how we read very familiar stories and suddenly see them in a new light. That happened to me this morning.
I almost just skimmed over the story of the woman caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus by the snarly scribes and Pharisees for judgment. I’ve heard or read the story hundreds of times by now. I know how the story goes.
The religious dim wits bring Jesus this woman they’ve caught in adultery (how did that happen, I wonder?) and say, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. What do you say?”
The Scripture indicates that they asked this to test Jesus. They had evil intentions, in other words. No pure motives or sympathetic hopes here.
But Jesus just bent down and began writing in the sand. Then He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Then He began writing in the sand again.
One by one the men put down their stones and left. And of course Jesus tells the woman He doesn’t condemn her either and she is to go and sin no more.
But wait. I missed something.
You see we tend to get all bent out of shape with these religious idgets, puff our chests up and stand in judgment of them, just as they were standing in judgment of this woman. We wouldn’t have done such a thing.
Well hopefully we wouldn’t have. But if we manage to do anything right in this world it’s for the same reason they didn’t throw those stones.
John 8:9 says the reason they put down their stones and walked away from the scene was because they were “convicted by their conscience.” They had planned to do evil, but Jesus’ convicting words challenged their conscience. They were bent on bringing this woman down, but Jesus’ simple command caused them to leave her alone.
And they stopped in their tracks.
Well praise God for that!
Sure, they had set out to trap Jesus, to stone a woman, and to justify their snarly behavior. And so we label them the bad guys. But in the end they didn’t do what they had schemed in their wicked hearts to do.
They changed course, put down their weapons of destruction, turned and walked the other way. I believe we call that repentance. Maybe they didn’t repent in the full sense of the word, but they repented in this instance.
And so we ought to rejoice with them, for them.
I thank God for softening my conscience through the inward work of the Holy Spirit. He has made my conscience tender and sensitive so that it is easily pricked by His Word, His Spirit. These men had seared consciences and yet they still managed to be convicted by Jesus’ words. Hallelujah!
Here’s my point. We’re human. That means we have deceptively wicked hearts. We’re prone to jealousy, anger, bitterness, revenge and pride. That causes us to calculate evil actions, to plot ugly schemes.
You know you do it. I do. I plot. I admit it. I think to myself, “I’m going to tell her…” or “If he does such and such I’m going to so and so….” or “They better not even think of blankety blank or I’ll give them what for…”
Out comes all the ugly in our hearts. Or maybe I’m just the most wicked of us all. I don’t know.
But in the end, I’m so glad that on most days God’s Holy Word and His Holy Spirit manage to penetrate my heart and prick my conscience and stop me in my tracks.
And not only does He convict me so that I don’t do the very evil I plotted to do, but He touches me so that my attitude changes, my countenance softens, my words take on a shade of grace, and I manage to give love where I once meant to hand out “what for.”
Today I thank God for a conscience that still works. And I thank Him for His Word that is alive and sharper than a two-edged sword so that it can penetrate my heart and my mind even when I’ve plotted and schemed to do evil.
He has stopped me in my tracks time after time, caused me to put my stones down and walk away. In the end, the scribes and Pharisees did the very same. Praise God for that.