In John 4, we are introduced to a Samaritan woman who has been married five times and is now with another man. We also meet a “certain nobleman whose son is sick”, which is why he begs Jesus to come with him. Move into chapter five and we learn about the pool, by the Sheep Gate, where a “great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water” came (vs.3). One “sick man” lay there for 38 years with his infirmity. Throughout the Gospels we meet those who were suffering; in fact, in many cases, that is all we know about them. We never get to know their names, only their sickness. They are described to us by what is wrong with them-whether it be a sickness or a sin. Those who were demon-possessed, a man born blind, a woman with an issue of blood, and a leper who came and worshipped Him saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3).
As I pore over these two books, I can see so clearly how I often allow what is wrong with me to become what defines me. Would you say that might be true for any one of us? Rather than recognizing our positive qualities, our gifts and talents, all we may do right, we focus on what we see as the lesser-the mistakes and the failures. Always pointing out the negatives, rather than any positives. There was a time when I sang and the only parts of the song I remembered were the mistakes I made. When I sang off key, or my voice may have cracked, if someone came to me and made a remark of how nice it sounded, I refused to believe it. I knew better; I heard the mistakes. A husband may give his wife a compliment that she simply can’t accept, because she believes it is spoken to be nice, rather than because this is how he truly feels. A kind word of encouragement and it is shrugged off because of the unkind remarks we’ve heard before.
One story that always moves me when I read through it is found in John chapter eight. This is where we come face to face with a woman who was “caught in adultery, in the very act” (vs. 4, emphasis mine). I had never thought of it before, but this time I wondered, do you suppose they allowed her to dress before they dragged her into the streets, in front of the crowd that had gathered to hear Jesus teach. The teachers and the Pharisees were trying to find something to use against Him, so I wonder now, would they have been concerned at all for her dignity? Imagine, not only would she have stood with her “indiscretion” exposed before everyone, but was she standing there, in the center of this crowd, before Jesus, unclothed as well? Stripped completely bare? Is that why Jesus knelt and began to write with His finger in the sand, to take His eyes off of her nakedness? To help her in her time of shame?
Have you ever stood before someone full of shame and embarrassment? Is it possible for each of us to scan through our lives and discover shameful, embarrassing moments that we would love to forget. I’ve decided that a “do-over” button would be a lovely device to have in my possession. It would be a wonderful tool for those not so wonderful moments in my life. Yet, reading this also caused me to question myself and ask; how many times have I behaved like a Pharisee, willing to expose someone’s shame while trying to cover up my own? There have been times when I have had to stand before someone, admit my guilt, being shameful of my actions, and offer an apology. However, I can’t deny the times I have been quick to expose another’s failure, while refusing to see my own. I recognize now how unkind words towards others have caused the truth to be revealed of my impure heart, which I never wanted exposed. I know all too well the shame and embarrassment of my past that I would never want exposed, so why would I expose another’s? Yes, I have held the stone and I have felt the stone.
But you know what? For every person who came to Him, in faith, He was willing to forgive, heal and restore. While the woman caught in adultery “sat in the midst” of the crowd, waiting to be stoned for her sin, Jesus took the attention off of her and pointed out that anyone without sin should be the first one to throw the stone. No one could and when they finally “had left her, convicted by their conscience, Jesus was left alone with her”. Alone… with Jesus. And then He spoke…
“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” John 8:10-11
How I love the heart of Jesus. No lectures, no demands, no condemnation, just the words that would bring the freedom we all long for. “Go and sin no more”… live free from the sin and shame that so often defines us.
Sometimes we fail to get to know people by their name and instead we know them by their mistakes and failures. Too quickly we drag them out into the crowd, pick up our stones and strip away any of their privacy. Leaving them to stand alone, nameless, yet exposed. No, I don’t know, for sure, if the Scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to stand before the crowd completely naked, but I have a feeling they might have. After all, why would they care? They had a point to prove. One thing I do know is that I do stand before Him naked and bare. He knows everything there is to know about me. He knows my hopes and dreams, my fears, my insecurities and every other detail there is to know. He has seen every mistake and failure. He also knows the sin “which so easily ensnares me” (Hebrews 12:1). He knows every part of me. “All my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You” (Psalm 38:9). I can’t run from Him, I can’t hide from His presence, Psalm 139 confirms that. I can only stand before Him, like the woman caught, like the sick and lame, or like the leper and cry out to Him, “Lord if you are willing….
Alone with Jesus, totally exposed, I will stand and listen for His reply… “I am willing.”