The story of Karla Faye Tucker is heartbreaking. Karla Faye dropped out of school at an early age and followed her mom into a life of prostitution and drugs. When she was in her 20’s she started dating an older man named Daniel Garrett. While searching for items to steal and sell for drug money, Karla Faye and Daniel broke into a nearby apartment and killed two victims with a hammer and pickax. Karla Faye and Daniel were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. Daniel died from liver disease on death row, but Karla Faye became a Christian. She “stole” a free Bible from a visiting ministry group and gave her life to Jesus after reading it in her cell. She became a model prisoner and showed great remorse for her actions. When a date finally set for her execution, a crowd of supporters urged the state to commute her. Their efforts fell short, and Karla Faye was executed by lethal injection in 1998 with a few close friends and family members by her side.
The story of Karla Faye Tucker’s life and death serves as a heartbreaking backdrop for an equally tragic story found in John 8:1-11. In this passage, a group of scribes and Pharisee urge Jesus to pronounce a death sentence on a woman caught in adultery. In the end, the religious leaders learn something that the woman caught in adultery already knew – Jesus is the Righteous Judge.
As the Righteous Judge, Jesus declares judgment on the self-righteous (8:1-9).
Even though these religious leaders seemed interested in justice, they were really trying to trap Jesus. Stoning wasn’t very popular in Jesus’ day for obvious reasons, but it was called for in the Mosaic Law. If Jesus rejected the punishment outright, He would lose credibility as a teacher of the Law. If Jesus enforced the punishment, He would lose popularity with the people and might even get in trouble with the Roman authorities.
Instead of answering them, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dirt with his finger. We don’t know what He wrote, but we know what He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). This was a direct reference to Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7. Jesus was not saying they had to be perfect or free from sin to condemn the woman, but they did have to be sinless in this particular case.
The scribes and Pharisee were secure in their own self- righteousness. They were so secure they were willing to sacrifice this woman’s whole life to cover up their own sin and condemn Jesus. They held this woman to a higher standard of righteousness than they held themselves too.
As Jesus bent back to down to write in the dirt again, the religious leaders filed out one by one until they were all gone. Those who came to embarrass Jesus were themselves embarrassed. They snuck out of the temple one by one until they were all gone.
As the Righteous Judge, Jesus demonstrates mercy on the unrighteous (8:10-12).
Straightening up, Jesus asked the woman where her accusers had gone. She replied that they were all gone. Jesus did not imply that the woman was innocent, simply that she was not condemned. She experienced God’s mercy because she knew something the religious leaders did not know – we are all guilty and unrighteous before God.
A genuine encounter with Christ always results in a transformed life. Her past had been forgiven and her future was now wide open. Jesus sent the woman out to live a transformed life.
As the Righteous Judge, Jesus looks past outer appearances and judges the heart.
The problem is that too often, we storm the courtroom of life and take the responsibility of judging ourselves and judging others on ourselves. But as humans, we are not in a position to judge. Like it says in James 2:4, we judge with a double standard and become “judges with evil motives.”
You can respond to this story in two ways. One way is to show compassion on another “sinner” so that you can distance yourself from self-righteousness. Sin is still sin, but we should not rush to condemn someone who God has forgiven. We often judge other people harsher than we judge ourselves and “blowing out some else’s candle so our burns brighter.” The degree to which you can show compassion on someone who has wronged you is the degree to which you have cast off your own self-righteousness.
Another way to respond to this story is to give up one of your besetting sins as you glory in God’s great mercy towards you. We all struggle with a number of sins (1 John 1:8). Sexual sins are no worse than any other sin, but they can be harder to overcome because they are self-destructive (1 Corinthians 6:18). You cannot change the past, but with God’s help, you can change the future.
God wants to help you escape from the prison of your own self-righteousness. You can fool your family & friends, but you can’t fool God, because He is the Righteous Judge.