The Pharisees were daily attempting to put Jesus in his place. Motivated by their religious self-righteous attitude, they hated Jesus because of the grace he showed to people who they, the Pharisees, thought needed to be put in their place. Rather than put people in their place, Jesus put people into God's grace.
One day the Pharisees huddled together as they often did to plot against Jesus. They came up with an idea to catch a woman in the act of adultery, present her to Jesus, and watch his response. The Law of Moses required anyone participating in adultery to be stoned to death. Their goal was to put Jesus in his place by trapping him between the requirements of the Law of Moses and his personal heart of grace toward people. By doing this, they were going to force him to uphold the Law of Moses, rather than hold out grace to hurting people.
Immediately, they put their self-righteous plan into action. They waited for the woman they had identified to begin her adulterous act. They barged right into the room where the adultery was taking place, grabbed her up, and paraded her before the community as they took her to Jesus for his verdict...law or grace...punishment or forgiveness.
They intentionally brought her before Jesus at the time when a group would be gathered around to hear him teach. As Jesus began teaching, in came the Pharisees with the woman. The Bible says they made her stand before Jesus and demand he give a ruling...death by stoning according to the law of Moses, or grace. Which would it be? They were hoping for grace so they would have a reason to accuse and ultimately arrest him for violating the punishments prescribed by the Mosaic Law.
As the crowd looked on to see how Jesus would respond, Jesus began to write in the sand. As he did, one by one, from the oldest to the youngest of the Pharisees, they left until none stood to condemn her. What did Jesus write in the sand? The Bible doesn't say. But whatever he wrote, it caused each Pharisee to leave one at a time. It is possible, starting with the oldest Pharisee, that one by one he wrote the sins of each Pharisee in the sand publicly exposing them for the very sin, shame, and sentence to which they were attempting to expose this woman. As each man's sin was exposed, he dropped his stone and left until only Jesus and the crowd remained.
Jesus then said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Now go and leave your life of sin." (John 8:10-11)
What an amazing twist from the original intent of the Pharisees. They came to put Jesus in his place by having him put the woman in her place. Instead, Jesus put her into God's grace and put them into their place. Jesus' goal for the day was not to put the Pharisees in their place. But because of their self-righteous attitude and actions, they were put into their place as Jesus put this woman into God's grace.
What does it mean to be put into God's grace? It means that rather than responding to people with self-righteous attitudes and actions, we respond to them with kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. It means rather than condemning people for what they have done, we show compassion. It is with a heart of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion that we can truly begin to help people who are caught in a lifestyle of sin.
Jesus did not ignore her sin. However, before he could help her escape sin's grip on her life, he needed to show her grace. After receiving grace, he then could address her sin. When we respond to people in grace, then we can help them be released from sin.
John 1:16-17 says that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus. It goes on to say that Jesus was full of grace and truth and we have been blessed by this grace. As followers of Jesus, we have opportunities to respond to people by putting them in their place or blessing them with grace through compassion, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. As we bless people with grace, then we can help them break free from their bondage of sin.
This week, look for opportunities to bless people with grace rather than put them in their place. It may be your child, spouse, friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker, stranger, etc... By responding in grace, we can help take them to a better place.