This is a preview for the sixth sermon in the series “Light Bulb Moments: When God Shows Up.” To watch the recording of any of the sermons in this sermon series, visit our website.
“In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. [Jesus], what do you say?”
-John 8:1-11 (NIV)
Barefoot and curious, little Kendall was obsessed with playing in the dirt. Jumping in mud puddles, making mud pies, and digging in the garden were daily happenings at my great grandmother’s house. Perhaps that’s why this week’s Bible passage has always stuck with me. There’s something earthy and wonderful about imagining Jesus crouched down–literally unafraid to get his hands dirty–while everyone else around him is so concerned about maintaining an image of purity.
As Christians who walk by the light of Christ, we take seriously the writings of Paul that remind us to live lives worthy of the grace and calling that God has given to us. So the question posed by the Scribes and the Pharisees in John 8:5 is one that echoes in our own souls:
What does Jesus say we should do when we witness injustice in the world?
In their prideful and self-righteous interpretation of the Mosaic Covenant made with God in the Old Testament, the Pharisees had stones in hand, ready to bring punishment to the woman who committed adultery.
Surely justice is making her pay for her wrongs! (So they thought.)
Surely justice is her husband getting even! (So they thought.)
You can imagine this story playing out like a scene from your favorite crime drama where you hear the cries of the victim that “justice must be served.”
There is no doubt that Jesus cares deeply about justice in this story. But the plot twist is that God’s justice doesn’t look like what we’d expect. Jesus answers from the dirt: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In other words, Jesus’ answer to the question of injustice in the world is not one of revenge or punishment. Jesus’ justice calls us to leave our mask of self-righteous cleanliness behind. Jesus’ justice calls us to pull up our sleeves, get down with others in the mud pits they’re stuck in, and hold a flashlight that illuminates a path towards the cleansing rivers of baptism. Jesus’ justice is one in which reconciliation with God and others is possible.
Sometimes we’re the woman in this story having played in the dirt too long and needing Jesus to get us out and clean up our mess. Praise God that Jesus is there with us in our messiness!
Sometimes we’re the religious leaders who need to be reminded what Jesus’ call to be the light of the world actually looks like. Praise God that Jesus teaches us and the lightbulb goes off in our heads!
In either case, as our church closes out this 2024 season of Epiphany–the time marked by sharing our “a-ha” light bulb moments with God so that others may come to know Him–it is my hope that we will encourage one another to take seriously the calling of Jesus in John 8:11:
“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Go…into all the world.
Go…share your lightbulb moments with others.
Go…so that all may know the One who is the Light of the world.
Who do you resonate most with from John 8:1-11? Why do you think that is?
What is an unjust situation that you’ve witnessed recently? How might God be calling you to get in the dirt with those stuck in that injustice and bring reconciliation?
What has been your greatest “light bulb moment” this Epiphany? How can you share what you’ve learned about God with others to encourage their faith?