John 8:1-11 has one of my favorite stories of Jesus. It’s the story about the woman brought to Him, and how He handles the men who bring her. The story is so well known, I’m not sure I even have to summarize it. The men bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. The implication is she was caught in the very act, they pulled her out of the bed while having sex and drug her to Jesus. Where is the guy who was committing adultery? Theories say he may have been let go, it was a setup to get the woman so they could make things tough on Jesus, or even it was a Pharisee using the woman in order to set Jesus up. We simply don’t know. But he’s not mentioned in the story. I mean, it’s kind of hard to “catch” someone in the act of adultery if it’s not your spouse. It seems like a set up. So, anyway, it’s early morning and they drag this woman into the temple in front of a large crowd. Let’s not forget, she does commit adultery. The story is never questioning her guilt. She’s guilty. She either blew it as a married woman, or is a prostitute, or somehow has made a serious of decisions that has put her in a mess. She’s guilty, she’s made massive mistakes, and now they are all blowing up on her in the most nightmarish, public way possible. If you haven’t ever been in a situation that feels like this, you are blessed. It’s a horrendously painful thing to have your sins exposed. God says they all come out one way or the other. It’s her day.
Here’s the trap for Jesus. The law said a woman caught in adultery should be stoned. It laid out that she had to be caught in the actual act of sex, and there had to be witnesses. Some scholars say this rule, rather than being barbaric, was actually to protect women. A husband couldn’t just accuse her and kill her, like most of the societies in the time of Moses. There had to be proof, and a witness. The situation had to be severe. But this woman was guilty under that law.
Now, there aren’t a lot of historical documents that point to the Jews ever actually killing someone from this law. They didn’t keep a lot of the laws from the Old Testament, and tended to pick and choose, much like I do. So, they have Jesus trapped. If He says “Let her go”, like He always tends to do, they can accuse Him of breaking the law, destroy His credibility as a teacher, and be done with Him. If He says “Let’s kill her”, He will lose every one’s favor who follows Him, because suddenly He will be seen as even more uptight than the Pharisee’s. It’s a beautiful trap. It’s dishonest, sinful, and manipulative. But no one can escape it. “Only God Himself could find a way out of this one”, they probably think.
So, Jesus starts writing on the ground. What? We don’t know. Theories are that He writes the thoughts of everyone of the Pharisees right then. Or He writes out the plot of how they trapped the woman. Or He writes out the sins that each of them hide and struggle with. Or He writes passages of Scripture on forgiveness. We don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s not enough to rattle them completely. They stay on Him.
Then He tells them, “You stone her. If you are sinless, you stone her.” Only men who were righteous were supposed to have that kind of power. At this, one by one, they leave. Imagine being the last one there with a stone in your hand. Remember, this is in front of a huge crowd, listening to every word.
Then Jesus forgives the woman, and tells her to go, but to change her life. He calls for her to repent, literally to turn around and go a different way.
Here’s a challenge for us. As we find older and older copies of the Bible, this story isn’t in the ones we currently have as our oldest ones. That means that this story may have been added later, and John might not have actually written this story in. I consulted a man much wiser and smarter than I about it, and I think His advice was solid. First off, there is nothing to say that we won’t find an even older copy that has it in, justifying that John did write it. Until we have John’s original, we can’t be sure. Secondly, does this passage fit with what we know about Jesus? Of course, it does. This is vintage Jesus. So, leave it in for now until we know for sure.
I thought is was solid advice.
So, here is the story. The parallels are not hard to see. Sometimes we are the woman. Busted. Out in the open. Exposed. If we will admit, and follow Him, we will be healed and forgiven.
Sometimes we are the Pharisees, full of judgment and justification towards others. We use people for our own agendas, and can’t see God right in front of our face. We have to confess our own guilt, and walk away from the rocks we want to throw.
Sometimes, just sometimes, we find ourselves in the role of Christ. Wise. Peacemaker. Living life on God’s terms, by His rules. Then, and only then, does life get interesting.
My prayer is that today we will find ourselves letting the first two roles die, and embracing the third.