Early in the morning He (Jesus) came again to the temple. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery ... (John 8:2-3a)
Shame is a horrible thing. This woman had sinned greatly; yes, but who would not feel sorry for her, dragged out into the light of day to face public shame in front of the religious leaders at the holy temple—alone, possibly half-dressed, with no one to defend her, and even her lover missing from her side? And she would have known there was worse to come. Such women were stoned for their sin. She would lose her life, and if she had children, they would lose their mother. There was no hope for her.
But though she didn't realize it, there actually was hope. Jesus Himself was there, in the middle of her horrible situation. But what was He doing? Writing on the ground? She didn't understand, but she knew one thing—He was not joining the chorus of condemnation all around her. He was silent, busy writing. When they kept bugging Him, He finally stood up long enough to say just one thing: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7b). And then He stooped down and wrote again.
You know the rest of the story—how the leaders slunk away, one by one, till nobody was left but Jesus. The woman was safe—and free. And Jesus' final word to her was "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8: 11b).
Jesus shows an amazing gentleness to sinners caught in the deadly trap of shame. He does nothing to add to it; indeed, He gets rid of the audience that is gloating over her embarrassment. He reminds them of their own sin and shame, and they leave. And then, in private, He sets her free. The sinless Son of God refuses to condemn her. He will bear her shame and ours instead, on the cross.
This is good news! This is comfort for anyone who has memories that make them cringe in shame. Jesus calls us to Himself, not to condemn but to forgive, cleanse, and relieve. He takes our shame from us and puts it on His own back. He takes it away forever, and nails it to His cross. He sets us free—free of sin, free of shame, free to live as God's forgiven people. Even you. Even me.
THE PRAYER: Thank You, dear Lord, for setting me free from sin and shame. Amen.
* If you are willing, tell about something that embarrassed you long ago.
* How do you deal with the pain of shame?
* Jesus covers all our shame and gives us His own honor and dignity. How does that make you feel?
Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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