There’s a Tasmanian schoolboy sprinter. His name is Jack Hale. He’s fast. Blimmin’ fast. Last year he ran 10.31 for the 100 metres sprint and, on another occasion in Adelaide, with a bigger breath of wind, he ran 10.13 seconds.
There’s another sprinter from Jamaica. His name is Usain Bolt. He’s also very fast. He holds the world record for running 100 metres in 9.58 seconds. He has another world record for running 200 metres in 19.19 seconds. He has six Olympic Gold medals and eleven world championship gold medals. (When you have that many golds, you don’t bother mentioning the other colours!)
0.73 of a second. In 100 metre language, that’s enormous. Lose a marathon by that much and you’d be wishing that you didn’t shave your chest that morning, but that far back in a 100-metre race and you’re in another neighbourhood.
It’s the difference between elite and world champion. In world rankings, it’s the difference between #1 and #161. Please don’t go checking my homework.
None of this is to take anything away from Jack. He’s brilliant. Usain is just brilliant-er.
Jack wouldn’t pick a sprint-fight with Usain. That would be silly.
He could definitely pick a sprint-fight with my wife, Fiona, though (and she doesn’t mind me saying so). Her 100-metre speed could be fairly measured with a sun-dial. A watch that goes to hundredths of a second would be overkill.
There were some blokes in Jesus’ day called Pharisees. A pesky bunch, no doubt. Well-versed in rock carrying and fight-picking.
Many of their best performers ranked in the Top 161 for righteousness.
These ‘Jack Hales’ targeted the ‘Fionas’ of the squeaky-clean-behaviour world and condemned them for their lack of squeakiness. It made them feel better about themselves to highlight the behaviour of someone failing so miserably (and running so slowly).
On one occasion, they rounded up one of these Fionas that had been caught doing something overtly sinful. Some sins can be glossed over through skillful, well-practised ‘sin-management’, this one couldn’t.
They dragged her into a courtyard right after church one Sunday morning. They’d just finished singing ‘Mighty to Save’ and they were feeling particularly righteous about their righteous righteousness.
They dragged the woman into a place of total exposure and surrounded her while limbering up their stone throwing shoulders.
This was partly about the woman but, to be honest, she was merely collateral damage for the bigger fish they were after.
The woman had done a bad, bad thing. No question. So had the strangely absent bloke. But judgement doesn’t start out bad. To judge something right or wrong is to exercise wisdom and discernment. Nothing wrong there.
Judgement turns toxic when love leaves the room and turns to condemnation.
Anyway, back to the stoning.
A man came along. He’d never sinned at all. His name was Jesus.
There was far more than daylight between #1 and anyone else in the righteousness stakes. An unfathomable, unbridgeable, impossible gulf stretched out between this Jesus and anyone else. Ever.
He took his place in the crowd. Beside the woman.
There was no place for either the woman nor Jesus to hide. To suggest that the woman’s actions were lawful was to go against the Mosaic law that he came not to abolish but to fulfill. To abide by the letter of that law would be to actively ascend to the death of this woman.
So far as the Pharisees were concerned, they had their man (and their woman) trapped.
But there’s a new story being written in Jesus. It’s fueled by mercy and grace. It’s not blind to sin, but it’s bigger than it. Because He is.
With the woman beside him, Jesus turns to the Pharisees and says: ‘Let the elite stone-throwers who are ready to judge, begin their warm-up routines. Before you do, though, there’s just one criterion for rock-throwing for your consideration: righteous perfection. Sinlessness. If you’re without sin, warm up your shoulders, flex your arms, and prepare to throw your stone’.
There’s only one person in this story that satisfies this criterion. He is also the only man in this story not holding a stone. Jesus. In Him, no sin is found.
One by one, they put down their stones. Ticked off they didn’t get to demonstrate and hone their stone-throwing skill, yet also aware of how great the distance is from their level of righteousness to a sinless standard.
Then the one who is qualified to throw the stone turns to the women and says: “Where are these people who condemned you? Has no one condemned you?”.
The woman, realising that she has received mercy rather than a death sentence, turns to Jesus and says “No one, Lord”.
Jesus turns to her and says a line that sums up the gospel He came to declare.
‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more’.
Judgement? Sure. Jesus recognises the sin of the woman. Condemnation? No. He gives her life, forgiveness, and a future.
The Top 160 walk away ticked off. No sprinter likes getting shown up by a dawdler, much less the Champion of the World.
I love Jesus. He makes me want to continually lay down my life to enter into one that has a far, far bigger story. It’s not fuelled by condemnation or rock-throwing, but by love, mercy, and grace.
Shine your light and let the whole world sing, we’re singing for the glory of the risen King.