There is a story in the Gospel of John where a woman caught in the act of a horrifying sin is brought to Jesus. There is a crowd of Pharisees ready to give her what the law says she deserves, which is death. Jesus says to them, “He who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.” (John 8:1-11) He was saying that whoever was in the crowd that had never sinned had permission to kill her. He was allowing them to go ahead and kill her, but only if they did not have anything that they should have been killed for themselves. The problem was that Pharisees came judging this woman.
They were not looking to restore her but to kill her.
If they had paid attention to the teachings of Jesus they would have known He would have taken their judgment and put it back on them. Jesus taught, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1) When Jesus said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” (John 8:7) He was simply measuring them with the same measure of judgment that they were using against this woman. It was as if He was saying, “You want her to die? Ok, I’m going to ask you if you should die. If you have never sinned then you can kill her.” He invited them to kill her if they did not deserve to be killed themselves.
The issue was that Jesus knew that they were sinners asking to bring punishment upon another sinner. He was telling them they were standing on unstable ground. If judgment were to be brought that day, He was looking for a perfect judge to do so.
Jesus exposed them. He exposed the weak ground that they were standing on and the God that they were not.
Jesus knew that He was the only one in the crowd that had permission to kill her. He was the perfect judge that did not need mercy for sins the way the Pharisees needed mercy. He was without sin. Judgment could only come from one who could not be judged. He was the only one that had permission to kill, and these men were condemning themselves in their lack of mercy.
As we return to the story we see that once the crowd hears this they realize they cannot stand under the weight of being a perfect judge and they begin to leave. Jesus, being the perfect judge who never sinned, the one who could judge her, punish her, and kill her, LETS HER GO! The one with permission to kill let her go.
He changed things forever in that moment. Jesus was revealing how God handles a person in sin; He gives mercy to those found at His feet.
The truth is that the one with permission to kill let me go, let you go, and let everyone go. Jesus not only made it clear how God handles a person in sin but how we handle a person in sin. Only arrogance will allow me to withhold mercy and not let someone go. Humility understands that what it received at the cross offers mercy. If we come to judge someone it is because we have lost sight of the mercy all of us need. Mercy is our calling and we must never enter into believing we have permission to kill.