Jesus just writes in the sand. When he looks up, he says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bends down and writes in the sand again. Obviously, what he says hits home. They all lay their rocks down and slip away.
Jesus knew that something had gone wrong. The religious leaders, who were supposed to lead the nation to be the light of the world, had failed to see the humanity of this woman. They only saw her as an illustration to make a point in their legal case. They had forgotten the purpose of the law in the first place. Jesus called them back to the original vision of God. Notice that he never said the law didn’t matter. He reminded them of who God is: mercy.
Snapshot Two: Matthew 9: 9-13
A man is sitting at a table, collecting taxes. Though he is rich, he is miserable. He is rich because he is a successful intermediary for the hated Roman overseers; he is miserable because his own people have shunned him for it. No one respectable will give him the time of day, until the rabbi [teacher] arrives from up north. He looks Matthew right in the eyes and holds his gaze. At that moment, Jesus gives Matthew a chance to leave his identity as a tax collector and begin again. Jesus says, “Follow me,” which means, “Join me and my disciples.”
Later that night, Matthew has Jesus and his disciples over for dinner. Around the table sits a motley crew of tax collectors and other sinners. They are listening to Jesus talk about the Kingdom of God. The well-respected religious leaders also talk about the Kingdom of God, but this is so different. The way the religious leaders tell it, Matthew and his friends are on the outside. God hates them for their sin. But when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, there is a place for them in this story. God loves them! God is a God of mercy! They are invited to sit at the table in the Kingdom! Can this be true? They have so many questions…
Outside, the religious leaders have heard what is going on. They are shocked that Jesus would demean himself to eat with this rabble. They ask his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus hears this and responds, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Again, Jesus is calling them back to their OWN tradition.
Leave Room for Mercy
What is really important here? It is these people gathered around this table listening to the Good News and learning that God loves every one of them and wants them to know him. People were coming back to God, but the Pharisees completely missed it because they didn’t have room for mercy.
It is not our job to judge. We don’t know anyone’s full story. We have no idea why people struggle the way they do. Only God knows, and we just know that God loves them. Our ONLY job is to love people and walk beside them. Mercy is at the heart of our Christian lives because God is mercy.