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).
A couple of years ago I had an ah-ha (a.k.a. “a light bulb) moment. How did the Pharisees and legal experts catch the woman caught in adultery? Unless her husband caught her, this story gets pretty creepy.
Clearly the Pharisees and legal experts were in search of a situation like this. They wanted to trap Jesus.
If Jesus said, “She sinned and her sin is a capital offense. Go ahead, stone her.” They would claim Jesus a fraud. “He says love, mercy, and grace are important but where are all those things now? Would this woman not deserve such a promised?
On the other hand, if Jesus says, “No, it isn’t that big of a deal. Let her live.” He downplays the law of Moses. Once again the Pharisees believe Jesus is where they want him.
I see the Pharisees much like Wylie Coyote of Saturday morning cartoon fame. He thinks he has the Roadrunner trapped until his plan backfires and he gets caught in his own trap. Undeterred, the coyote goes right back to work on the next plan. This one will work, until it fails.
Though far-less funny (our kids have no idea what they are missing by not seeing real Saturday morning cartoons) the Pharisees keep try to trap Jesus at every turn, and fail.
Jesus writes in the sand. Today it is unknown what he wrote. Then it was just he, the Pharisees and legal experts. Bible commentators do have ideas. Some say Jesus wrote their sins in the sand. At some point, he says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He then resumes writing sins in the sand. One by one, the crowd leaves until he and the woman remain.
The other popular explanation from commentators is that Jesus 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’s punishment is among the worst deaths humans devised. But, the man committed the same sin. He would deserved punishment. Where was he?
As I was reading this story, I thought, how did they know? Were they violating the woman’s constitutional rights against illegal searches? I jest but still, short searching her house for the problem, or peeping in the windows (either would be creepy), how would they know? Perhaps he wrote, “How do you know?” Or better, “What were you doing in her bedroom?”
Without question, she did sin. Jesus never denies that. He says as much saying, “Go and sin no more.” Her sin didn’t excuse the man involved. Nor were the Pharisees excused from the sins of their hearts.
I think this story is really about hypocrisy. It is interesting that the Pharisees wanted that title, “hypocrite for Jesus a hypocrite. Instead, the title belonged to them.
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.”
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved