The way Jesus interacts with people is usually quite surprising. You think you know what he is going to say, but he goes a completely different direction. You’re ready for him to blast a Pharisee, and he answers them with a question of his own. Or, there is a perfect chance for him to go into more detail and explain his point further, but he just walks away. This guy seems hard to pin down, but very fascinating.
One of the things that has surprised me over the years is how Jesus flips the script on those that come to him. You know what I mean? Religious leaders come to him with someone who ought to be condemned for their sin, and Jesus ends up condemning the religious leaders and the “sinner” gets off scot-free. Jesus meets a woman who has quite a checkered past, brings out the truth about her past, and then, instead distancing himself from her or telling her to go make herself better, he tells her that he is the Messiah and heads out.
This seems to be a pattern with Jesus. The condemning folks come to Jesus confident of their case and accusation, and leave with the noose they brought hanging around their own necks. The one who was being condemned comes burdened with guilt and shame, but leaves with freedom, hope, and joy. The script is flipped. Think about the hilarious parable Jesus tells about someone having a plank in their eye. You have a “discerning friend” (we’ll call them) who points out sin in other people’s lives, which seems like a “Christian” thing to do, and what do we leave with in that parable? Then that person is the one Jesus condemns. “Instead of worrying about the spec in their eye, how about you get the enormous log out of your own eye!” Yikes.
The condemning folks come to Jesus confident of their case and accusation, and leave with the noose they brought hanging around their own necks.
Perhaps Jesus is showing us something about how we come to him. Coming to him confident in our holiness, and showing how it contrasts with other sinners, is not going to receive a warm welcome. Instead we will receive the very judgment we were imposing on others and those “others” will receive a gracious pardon. Doesn't seem fair. Does Jesus not understand how bad their sin is? Doesn't he believe in “repentance”? Don't sinners need to know how terrible they are? Perhaps Jesus knows something we don't. Perhaps Jesus knows something of the power of forgiveness and believes it is powerful enough to change a person. If you’ve ever received love in the midst of shame and guilt you know what this is like. Isn’t that the good news of the gospel? You are indeed a sinner. You do indeed deserve condemnation. But Jesus has flipped the script. He offers you “no strings attached” forgiveness and full-bodied righteousness. Seems too good to be true, doesn't it?!? Come taste and see, drink deeply, but be careful, you may just become an addict of this grace—unable to get out of bed without it each and every day.