“O Lord, judge! We caught this fiend in the very act of sin! Doesn’t the law tell us to stone it into the Stone Age?”
Thus the religious leaders cried, displaying their ignorance of stoning.
Yes, the law commands stoning. For instance, parents must initiate the stoning of unruly children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Now, how many extra chances would a parent give a child? Not as many as my Heavenly Father has given me! So, does the law really offer an excuse for retribution? Stones throughout Scripture testify to God’s mercy, which triumphs over judgement (James 2:13). Can you really please God by stoning anyone back to the Stone Age?
The patriarchs, who lived in the Stone Age themselves, built stone altars and erected stone monuments, never to themselves, always to God for His grace and mercy. Lest they considered blending altar and artwork, to honour themselves as well as God, God warned, “cleft rocks make sacrifices unacceptable” (Exodus 20:24-25, Deuteronomy 27:5-6). You couldn’t chisel off a rough edge or make it aesthetically pleasing.
Contrast that with Tubal-Cain, who moved the world from the Stone Age through the Bronze to the Iron Ages (Genesis 4:22). He was feasibly the first idolater. He made no monuments to God; his gods were monuments to himself. He was descended from Cain, the first murderer, an aimless wanderer east of Eden, ie, with an armed angel barring his way there. Cain’s line achieved things and made progress. Verses 16-24 feature not only the first metallurgist, but also the first city, followed by the first tent dweller (tragic testimony to their restlessness and dissatisfaction), the first musician, the first bigamist, and the first unforgiving rage of mass killing.
The only “first” in the other line of humanity, Seth’s descendants, was the first act of worship (v 26). This line stayed in the Stone Age. Their lives were simply: be born, beget and die. (The exception was Enoch, who miraculously evaded death.) Yet they soon mingled and intermarried with Cain’s line. When they compared themselves with the successful, advanced line of Cain they could only join them. Tragically, Seth’s line couldn’t return to Eden either.
The only marker stone that proclaims “This way to Eden” is Jesus Christ. By making Him the “rock of ages, cleft for me”, God transformed everything He finds unacceptable into a perfect monument to Himself. There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about Jesus’ body on the cross, nor anything spiritually pleasing about me. Humanity rejected this stone as worthless and put the biggest stone it could move to keep Him from re-emerging, yet in the ultimate triumph of mercy over judgement the risen Saviour cast it aside. Thus I can only wholeheartedly acknowledged Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
When Simon made this glorious proclamation, Jesus dubbed him Peter. According to Rev Richard Quadrio, had Jesus spoken English instead of Aramaic, perhaps He would have named him Rocky. (The French word for “rock” is, incidentally, “pierre”.) Even though Peter was guilty of dreadful apostasy – three times denying that he knew Jesus – Jesus cast this rock out to represent God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace to the Gentiles.
We are all guilty of Peter’s wickedness, yet whoever accepts the truth he proclaimed is graciously pardoned and becomes like him. Founded on God the Rock and aligned with the Christ the cornerstone, we are holy stones in His temple, of which the religious leaders had at best a cheap copy.
Nevertheless, the Lord was in their sham temple for a while. This is where those religious leaders ignorantly demanded to use stones for retribution. Jesus first indicated the sandy floor. The sand absorbed the blood of animal sacrifices. When it did, the grains stuck together just as we crushed rocks, washed in the blood of Christ’s sin offering, become united in Him.
Then Jesus said, “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” There was silence. The rocks sing praises when there is silence (Luke 19:40).
But the religious leaders still rejected Jesus. They kept casting stones, until not one stayed atop another (Matthew 24:2).
Thus they brought Jesus’ judgement on themselves. When they wanted to stone others into the Stone Age, they inadvertently did the same to themselves! They will be forced to take refuge in caves (Isaiah 2:19) – tragic for those who progressed society into cities, but glorious for those who remained in the Stone Age, forced to live in caves while Cain’s line hunted them down (Hebrews 11:38). For we anticipate the Celestial City which God alone has built for us, together with all the saints and angels, devoid of judgement and of sin.