Entering into the Story…
We all find ourselves with different baggage we carry in our lives. Some of us have backgrounds that we feel disqualify us from true community and some of us have a spirit of judgement. In this story, Jesus deals with both someone who is caught in an act of sin – as well as a bunch of people caught up in judgement. How he deals with them both is very revealing about the nature of God.
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
There are two things of note within this story to help give it clarity: first, when it says, “the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees,” it means, the religious leaders. Often, this is the group that attacks Jesus. The second, that adultery was a capital offence in first century Palestine, so the typical response to a woman being caught in adultery is to be stoned to death. It is also a very male dominated society and while a man could also be stoned for adultery, it would not typically happen.
- How would you re-tell this story in a 21st century context?
- Who do you most associate (the woman, the crowd, the religious leaders) with within the story and why?
- How can you live out the example of Jesus today in your actions towards others?