Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 1Chron 19-21; John 8:1-27
3 The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. Placing her in the center of the group, 4 they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” 6 They said this to test him because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.
7 They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”
11 She said, “No one, sir.”
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore” (John 8:3-11, Common English Bible).
I never thought about it before tonight. How did the Pharisees and legal experts actually catch the woman caught in the act of adultery? Unless her husband caught her, this story gets pretty creepy in a big hurry.
It is evident that the Pharisees and legal experts were out looking for just this kind of situation. Much like when they asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to the emperor back in Matthew’s Gospel, they wanted to trap Jesus.
If Jesus said, “Yes, go ahead, she sinned a sin that calls for punishment by death. Go ahead, stone her.” They can claim Jesus to be a hypocrite. He says love, mercy, and grace are most important but where are all those things now? Would this woman not deserve the things Jesus promised?
On the other hand, if he says, “No, it really isn’t that big of a deal. Let her live.” Now he isn’t being a good Jew because he is not following the law of Moses. Once again the Pharisees think they have him right where they want him.
In a lot of ways, the Pharisees are a lot like Wyllie Coyote of Saturday morning Bugs Bunny cartoon fame. He always thinks he has the Roadrunner right where he wants him and then something happens and his plan backfires and he ends up falling into his own trap. Undeterred, the coyote goes right back to work on the next plan that will allow him to catch the Roadrunner.
Though far-less funny (our kids have no idea what they are missing by not seeing real Saturday morning cartoons) the Pharisees keep trying to trap Jesus. They also, like Wyllie Coyote, continue to fail at every turn.
Jesus stoops down and begins to write in the sand. No one really knows what he wrote except him and the Pharisees and the legal experts. That has never stopped Bible scholars and commentators from speculating. Some say Jesus started writing their sins in the sand. After writing a few, he says let he who is without sin cast the first stone and then resumes writing their sins in the sand. One by one, the crowd leaves until only he and the woman remain.
The other popular explanation among scholars and commentators is that he wrote, “Where is the man.” A person cannot commit adultery alone. It takes two. And yes, they brought someone to Jesus who had committed a sin so great, it called for one of the worst deaths the human creature has ever devised. That being said, the man had committed the same sin. He would deserve the same punishment. Where was he?
But, as I was reading this story, I started to think, how did they know? Were they out there violating the woman’s constitutional rights protecting her from an illegal search? Of course, I jest but still, short of going into the house searching for the problem, or peeping in the windows (either would be creepy), how would they know? So, perhaps he wrote, “How do you know?” Or maybe, even better, he wrote, “What were you doing in her bedroom?”
Make no mistake, the woman did sin. Jesus never denies that, and, in fact, he actually says as much when he says to her, “Go and sin no more.” Her sin did not excuse the man involved from his sin, nor did it excuse the Pharisees and legal experts from the sins of their hearts.
This story, at least to me, is first and foremost a story about hypocrisy. I find it interesting that the Pharisees were trying for the possibility of calling Jesus a hypocrite only to be called out for the very same thing when their plan falls apart.
I am reminded of the old saying, “Be careful when you are pointing at someone else as there are three fingers pointing back on you.”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
With Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved