After spending the night on the Mount of Olives, Jesus enters the Temple area and begins to teach. The scribes and Pharisees drag before Him a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery. She is clearly guilty. These religious leaders cite Mosaic law, which calls for the woman to be stoned to death, and the men solicit the expert opinion of Jesus.
We know from John 8 that this “question” is anything but sincere. It is yet another setup. The hypocritical band of spiritual power brokers is attempting, as it happened often, to trap Jesus in a moral or legal catch-22.
Though we can’t know what Jesus wrote with His finger in the dirt, we do know that He cleared the crowd. And we do know at least one of the statements Jesus made to the angry crowd with their rocks in tow: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, the woman’s accusers departed. And Jesus is there on the ground with the adulteress. Christ is kneeling with a guilty criminal and a societal reprobate.
I am so moved by that particular posture. The Lord of heaven and earth lowered Himself to extend grace to a sinful woman, to restore her from her brokenness and shame, to rise to her defense, and to rescue her from condemnation. That is real power.
We live in a world where power is understood quite differently. Power is control. Power is manipulation. Power is prevailing over others at all costs, and exploiting their every weakness in order to prevail. Power is domination. Power is winning. Power is walking over others to elevate oneself, and to make it successfully to the top.
Not so with Jesus.
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has not made me a woman.” Jewish rabbis prayed that prayer every morning, and Jesus had no doubt heard it many times. Women were so devalued by men that they were regarded as property. But, much to the surprise of those who watched Him closely, Jesus elevated women everywhere He went. He showed us what it means to respect women as God’s image bearers and heirs of divine grace. He appointed women to first announce His resurrection!
Jesus taught us how to live, how to love, and how to lead. Each involves giving ourselves away, choosing to serve instead of to be served, and dying daily to the idol of self. Surely you and I must breathe in the strength of the Holy Spirit if ever we are to experience such life in Christ. That is real power.
As I drove away from the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this afternoon, I was grateful to God that the world’s largest deliberative body took a decisive stand to protect the vulnerable among us, and to hold accountable those who might be tempted to exploit the weak or ignore the cries of the abused.
Those are gospel issues. And actions which embody Biblical justice and mercy remind me of none other than the Jesus who stooped to save. I believe that the SBC chose love over comfort or status quo today, and that is real power.