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? – John 8:4
Many of us, at some point in our lives, wake up and wonder how we arrived at where we are? Shaking our heads in disbelief, we ask ourselves, how did I get to this point? The addictions, the anger, the poverty, the broken relationships that will not heal. The list can be a long one, and few of us are excepted. What went wrong?
It must have been so for this woman here. Adulterous women were stripped naked to the waist and paraded in front of a jeering crowd, before being executed by stoning. As she faced almost certain death, she must have asked the question, how did it all come to this?
We meet many, many people in our day to day who are asking that question almost every day of their lives as they struggle with the gargantuan problems facing them. The answer is not always easy. For the woman here, without doubt the Pharisees will have laid a trap. They knew who she was, she was little more than bait for the bigger prize, hooking Jesus into saying something he didn’t mean to say. It says exactly that a few verses later. As I read this story, I have often wondered how they knew about her, and always come to the same conclusion that she must have been a mistress to one or some of the religious leaders of the day. How, she must have wondered, did I end up in a loveless relationship, as human fodder?
The story has such depth, it is difficult to know exactly what to write about, but there are a few obvious things, especially if you read this and are asking that question. The first is this, and it is the most important, that God is the God of the second chance. He may not provide a detail analysis of your situation, for to him the answer is simple, and Jesus refers to it time and time again. We sin. Far more importantly though, God does not leave us there.
The man Jesus, who masterfully rescues the woman here from her accusers, offers her a second chance. There is no condemnation, she can start afresh. He, this majestic person both divine and man, offers that to every single one of us. A second chance with God.
Sin is a double edged sword you see, on the one hand we are guilty before God, and there is no escaping the punishment that is due to us, on the other sin makes us so sick that we cannot escape. Jesus tells us that if we sin, we are a slave to sin, it is a slavery far worse than any we can imagine. The very sin we abused, turns and abuses us back mercilessly. An encounter with Jesus though, changes all of that.
So often in the Gospels, whether it be when we are healed or escape with our lives, Jesus tells us to stop sinning. For all of us, this is impossible, but with God we can begin again and he gives us the power to change. You get the distinct impression that whenever Jesus tells us to ‘sin no more’ he doesn’t leave us to our own devices, but provides us with the power to choose. Today, through his Spirit we are first convicted, and then given the power to live a life worthy of his calling.
So, God then, provides all of us with a second chance. For those – most of us, even all of us, who wake up one day and ask, ‘how did it all come to this’ we don’t need to even find an answer. God says to each of us, let’s make a fresh start. The double edged sword of sin, that makes us both guilty and sick, is replaced by the refreshing grace of God.
This week I was reminded that our lives of eternity start the moment we commit to living for him, every single day is a day in eternity with Christ. We may not see him, but he has us forever. This can only happen as God takes away our sin, ‘as far as the East is from the West’. God took it, and put it on his Son.
There is more than that as well, the sin that enslaves us no longer needs to make us sick. The healing process can begin, our enslavement can end. Sometimes that is immediate, other times it can be a lifelong journey. Neither should we be dismayed at the prospect of a lifelong journey, that is where we can go deep with God, to really get to know him and his refreshing grace that alone enables us to start again. In my own experience, my darkest times have been where I know him like no other, and as I look back I would not trade those times for all of the good times in my life, where he is merely a passenger.
There is a subtle warning in here as well though, isn’t there? While God is the God of the second chance he may not be the God of the third. Go, sin no more Jesus tells us, repent while there is still time. When he calls us, let us hear him and respond.
How dreadful it will be if we hear the call, and fail to respond. We must warn others it is what he tells us to do. There is a second chance for all of us, but we must take it while it is on offer.