My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).
John was clear with his readers: he did not want them to sin. That’s the reason he was writing to them, so that they knew the nature of temptation and were prepared to flee from it in the power of the Spirit. He was clear, but he was also realistic.
Though he did not want them to sin, he knew they would. And as we read these verses today, the same is true for us. We likely didn’t wake up this morning with the intent to sin, but sin we will, and so the news is as good for us as it was for them. That if anybody does sin, what we find in Jesus is not an accuser, but instead an advocate. Someone who stands before us. Someone who pleads our case. Someone who is on our side.
John wrote this, but he also experienced this. It’s a beautiful thought to consider that there were perhaps many, many times when he walked with Jesus that John saw this advocacy in action. But perhaps none of those experiences were more vivid or poignant than the events he recorded in John 8. Perhaps, even as John wrote 1 John 2, he leaned back in his chair and remembered that specific moment of advocacy that happened so many years earlier.
It was a regular day, another day when Jesus was teaching and the people were listening, when there was a ruckus that arose at the back of the crowd. Near the gates of the temple. With the approach of the Pharisees, the crowd turned and saw that they were pushing and puling a bedraggled woman with them. They brought her and flung her down at the feet of Jesus.
They smugly looked at the woman in the dirt and then back at Jesus, and then they spoke:
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
She was caught in her sin, and now Jesus was caught as well. Trapped by the Pharisees, or so they thought. What would he do now, with all his pronouncements of mercy and forgiveness? With all his condescending words about their hypocrisy? Here was a real life moment, apart from academic teaching. Now the rubber would meet the road.
And what they found in Jesus was not another accuser. They found an advocate when it really mattered:
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
That’s what he said. And then one by one, all those accusing her left. They departed, having no firm place to stand. All that was left was a broken woman and a pile of rocks. That, and the only person who actually could condemn her.
But she found that the only rightful accuser had become an advocate.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Yes, John remembered it clearly. He remembered, and he saw the pattern of Jesus’ attitude toward all who are laid bare before him in the dirt. We are all, still, the woman. And Jesus, still, is the only one who can rightly accuse. But the sinless one has given his life for us. The only one who could rightly accuse has chosen to advocate. The righteous one has stood in our place, and does so still today.
Let us, then, go and leave our sin behind. But even when we revisit it, let us know that there is still an advocate there waiting for us, even as we are in the dirt.