1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts; where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." - JOHN 8: 1-11
Before I get into this, it’s important that you know I am no theologian. I have several very good friends who have spent most of their lives researching the Bible both for personal/spiritual and academic fulfillment. I would not fall in the latter category.
The adulterous woman in John 8 is a story often brought up when someone close to us does something that society or we see as unacceptable. However this isn’t a pick and choose story. This is a teaching of Christ.
I love the stories that as your reading you can visualize the look on the faces of the people who think they are backing Jesus into a corner, this happened often. They keep pushing, harder and harder. Then Jesus looks up, almost with the look of “you’re still here?” and he creates a teachable moment.
He responds to their continued efforts to have her stoned and to ultimately “out” Jesus as being who he said he is with a simple response, “Hey guys, you’re right…. But how about the one with no sin step up first.” He blasts them away.
For some reason, that’s where a lot of references to this story stop. However, the last part of this story is probably the most important portion of this teaching moment.
I can imagine the woman bent down with her face to the ground and hands covering her head in preparation for the stones that would be thrown and she begins to hear a thump and then more. The stones are falling to ground. Not only has the crowd dropped their stones to the ground, they leave the area. She looks up and it’s Jesus she sees. He is the only one standing there. He looks her square in the eyes and tells her, “Go and sin no more.”
Jesus doesn’t only challenge the accusers he challenges the accused.
There is something in this story for both sides. And after all, we are all on one side of the situation more times than we can count.
We establish rules and laws in society and sometimes we get caught up in the rules and laws. We forgot why we put these rules and laws into action in the first place.
If we go after the rule breakers without consideration for the spirit of the law, we are no better than those who are standing there with the stones ready to pounce. The woman had to bear public humiliation. I’ve heard it said that this woman was literally caught in the act and pulled straight from the bed and out to the streets.
Jesus, probably with the eyes of a father, looked at her and told her to “stop this foolishness.” “Turn it around.” “Your life is important to me and I don’t want you to waste it.”
I’m not sure what happened to her after this. I would like to think it was a transformational experience and she probably struggled but she would always remember the time a man saved her life and would make attempts to do better.
The challenge I offer here is this: Let’s stop trying to pretend we are perfect. Let’s stop trying to pretend we know better than others. Yes, we have rules and laws, but let’s do our best to carry out the spirit and not the letter.
Jesus showed great mercy and grace to those he came in contact with, but he never left them unchallenged or unchanged. However, he couldn’t do the latter without the former.
And that is why the adulterous woman is so relevant to us to today.