Last week we looked at how Jesus invites us to find rest in Him when we are weary and burdened, and how we can share these burdens with one another so that we don’t walk alone. This is where hope is found: in relationship with Christ and in relationship with one another. The truth is we all find ourselves in need of hope from time to time. Perhaps our need for hope does not stem from a weariness, but instead from a sense of brokenness.
It feels awful when our "sins find us out." Being exposed leaves us feeling broken and ashamed. Oftentimes, this can be rock bottom for us, spiritually. Many of us can relate to the woman in the Bible that was caught in adultery. We may fail or have failed in different ways, but the results are the same.
The woman was going to pay the price for her sin—until she met Jesus. What hope she must have felt as the stones began to fall at the feet of her accusers, and she was given a second chance to, “Go and sin no more.”
Our lives are fragile and the choices we make matter. Our decisions have consequences. We’ve all had times when we’ve chosen poorly. We’ve all made mistakes and fallen into some sort of sin.
When this happens, it feels like something broke… sort of like dropping a glass on a hard surfaced floor. Because of our choices, a relationship falls apart, we lose a job, our finances suffer, or our marriages are strained. It can leave us feeling hopeless as we try to pick up the pieces. We can feel abandoned by God and judged by those around us. It’s in these times that we long for some kind of hope.
Being exposed causes us to feel shame and guilt. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Jesus came to give us hope and a future.
In John 8, Jesus is traveling to the temple to teach. As he sits down with the crowd, his teaching is interrupted by an angry mob of religious leaders who are dragging a woman along with them.
The woman is brought before everyone with the accusation that she had been caught in the act of adultery. She was cheating on her husband with someone else, and these men apprehended her in the middle of the scandal. How embarrassing! How humiliating! She would have been fully aware that the consequence for this sin, according to Mosaic Law, was for her to be stoned to death. This is what brokenness looks like. A broken marriage. A broken woman. A broken reputation. This is rock bottom.
What is most shocking about this story is that the woman seems to have been used as a pawn in the religious leaders’ plan to rid themselves of Jesus. Here, sin was being exploited in front of everyone in order to harm Jesus. This woman was caught in the middle, and her sin had been exposed.
Our sin being laid bare is one of the worst and best feelings possible. On one hand, it’s horrible because everyone knows the truth about you. On the other hand, it’s wonderful because, finally, everyone knows the truth about you. It’s like thawing fingers from cold winter snow; as the pain subsides, there is the warmth of a fresh start.
So here she was, caught in adultery and laying before Jesus. She had lost hope that her fate would avoid a death by stoning. But then Jesus intervenes. John 8:6b-9
Rather than agree to this woman’s death on account of the law, Jesus does something different. The Bible says that he stoops down and begins to write in the sand with his finger. We aren’t told exactly what he’s writing. Perhaps it’s the names of the men who had brought the woman. Perhaps it’s a list of their sins. Or perhaps it’s a list of hers. Regardless, when pushed by the mob for an answer, Jesus stands up and tells them they are free to proceed, but the one among them without sin should be the first to throw a stone.
THE CHURCH IS A PLACE OF HOPE
You see, sin doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It often has collateral damage. It touches other people. It becomes common knowledge. As important as it is for the sinner to respond rightly to a shameful mistake, it’s equally important that the Church responds rightly as well. We receive hope in the midst of our brokenness when we acknowledge that we’ve all fallen short and we’ve all sinned before God.
The beauty of the fellowship of the Church is that we are able to extend forgiveness and grace to one another because we are all broken people learning each day how to live under the grace of God. Jesus is making a point here. He’s teaching the religious group a lesson about grace. If you can’t throw a stone at this woman, it’s because you are guilty of breaking the law yourself.
So, these men, one by one, drop their stones and go home. I love the detail we’re given here. First, the older men leave. Their wisdom causes them to understand the lesson first. Eventually the younger, and perhaps more stubborn, men follow. As the dust settles, it’s only Jesus and the woman left. John 8:10-11
I can imagine Jesus looking at this woman with such compassion and love. For the first time in this woman’s brokenness, she must have felt hope. Jesus is the only one in this story who doesn’t condemn her for her mistakes. He’s the only one who doesn’t want to punish her for her wrongdoing. Rather, Jesus offers her grace.
The first word over us is love. The truest thing about you is that you are loved by God. God doesn’t determine your value based on how well you preform. God doesn’t decide your worth based on your reputation. God calls you valuable because he made you.
Hope is found in a God who loves you just the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you that way. Jesus clearly doesn’t condone the woman’s sin. In fact, the last words he speaks to her are, “Go and sin no more.”
Jesus cares about how we live our lives. He cares about the decisions we make that leave us broken. Jesus wants to expose the sin, but not for the same reasons as the religious leaders.
Pastor Steven Furtick says it this way, “God exposes sin, not to shame us, but to change us.”
You see, these men exposed this woman’s sin to shame her and to trap Jesus. Jesus exposes sin for a different reason. He wants to make us whole. He wants to take the broken pieces and put them back together.
GOD PUTS THE BROKEN PIECES BACK TOGETHER
If you find yourself broken today, if you feel like you’re surrounded by people who only want to throw stones, Jesus meets you here. You have a choice to make, and it will determine the future that you will live into.
You can choose to make no changes and continue on your current trajectory, that seems hopeless. The other option is you have is to confess your sin to God and receive his forgiveness and walk in new life. When we confess our sin and believe in Christ, then we are found in Christ. Paul writes about this when he is writing to the church in Corinth.
We are made new. The old ways of living become things of the past, and God does something new in us. The Church is nothing more than a gathering point for a whole bunch of sinners who are learning every day how to live into this new life.
The Church should be the place where grace is found more readily than any other place on earth. The grace of God, and the grace found from those with whom we fellowship, is the key to our hope.
Story: Watching a trapeze show is breathtaking. We wonder at the dexterity and timing. We gasp at near-misses. In most cases, there is a net underneath. When the trapeze artists fall, they jump up and bounce back to the trapeze. In Christ, we live on the trapeze. The whole world should be able to watch and say, "Look how they live, how they love one another. Look how well the husbands treat their wives. And aren't they the best workers in the factories and offices, the best neighbors, the best students? Look how this church loves its community."
That is to live on the trapeze, being a show to the world. What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for ALL our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are works of God's grace. Of course, we cannot be continually sleeping on the net. If that is the case, I doubt whether that person is a trapeze artist.
I want to invite you, with your broken pieces and all, to believe that God can make something beautiful of your life once again. I want to invite you to trust the community that he has placed you within to offer hope to one another and live out this wonderful, grace-filled life together.
-Adapted from the Back to Church Sunday Campaign,
Edited by Shauna Neville