The Bible tells us that it was early in the morning when Jesus came to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
Jesus is in Jerusalem. On such occasions he appears to have spent the night in Bethany at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus or out in the open on the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he came to teach at the Temple. As he is teaching, a group of men drag a woman caught in the act of adultery before him. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Pharisees get a bad press in the Gospels. They were verbal terrorists always trying to trip Jesus up, lobbing tricky questions, and ready to throw a stone. The woman must have been terrified. She is a pawn in a deadly game in which his enemies wanted to destroy Jesus. If Jesus said stone her he would fulfill the Law of Moses but break Roman law which forbade any condemnation to death, except someone condemned by the Romans themselves! So, was it to gain time that he bent down and began writing with his finger in the dust? Or was he writing down the sins of her accusers? No matter the reason they persist in their questioning.
In execution by stoning, there was a ritual. The oldest would cast the first stone. Jesus looked up: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He didn’t eyeball them, didn’t look at them. Jesus’ body language is non-confrontational. He bends down and begins doodling in the dust once again giving them time to scan their own lives, their own record on sin. You have to admire their honesty. They walked away starting with the oldest and ending with the youngest. When Jesus looked up, they were gone. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and sin no more.”
As sinners we can identify with the woman taken in adultery. We can identify those who cast stones, but are we able to identify with the forgiving heart of Jesus? Do we belong to those who take pleasure in other people’s wrongdoing, keep reminding others of past failures, or do we forgive and forget without hanging on to the hurt? This Sunday at South Side we will continue our series entitled “I am Jesus” and look at how this story impacts our lives today. Worship begins at 10:45, and we would love to have you and your family come worship with us!
South Side Church of Christ