Early in the morning, he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again, he bent down and wrote on the ground.
When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
John 8:2–11, NRSV
Imagine for a moment how this woman must have felt being brought forward publicly into the temple. In this exact moment, with all eyes on her, the feeling of shameful exposure must have been overwhelming. Her sin was presented for all to see. How devalued she was made to feel. No doubt, she took on the judgement of others.
When it comes to our own sin, I’m sure we are no different. When it is exposed and others see it, we can’t help but feel as though we ourselves have no value. It is in this moment the shame of darkness overcomes us and we feel as if there is no hope. Until there is.
Jesus, not casting eyes of judgement on this woman, instead bends down to draw on the ground. The symbolism of dirt cannot be missed here. As God created from the dust of the earth in the second creation story, Jesus takes a moment to do the same with the woman caught up in her own sin. Jesus didn’t look at her sin as the end, but rather, through repentance and forgiveness, He saw this as an opportunity for a new beginning–a time to be recreated. What the world saw as dirt and death, Jesus saw as a masterpiece.
This is what repentance and forgiveness is all about. When the world projects onto us the dirt of shame, Jesus reminds us of the substance of new creation. We, in that moment, have been made anew. It is in that courageous breath of confession, when we exhale, God is quick to breathe into us new life as we inhale. This is what it means to be a people of the resurrection.
So from where does our ultimate value come? Our value resides in Jesus, our Creator and King. He sees not the dirt of sin and separation, but rather He sees us as His new creation
“I am my Beloved’s and His desire is for me.”
Song of Solomon 7:10
The Rev. Martin J. Bastian