Devotion, 2-7-14, John 8

John 8:1–11

7:53 Then each of them went home,

8:1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They 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. 7When 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.” 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

There is some debate among scholars about this passage; it is not found in some of the older Greek manuscripts of John. However, the story seems to be an essential part of John’s message, and it is one that has a message for us.

The following day Jesus comes back to the temple, and is teaching the people. The scribes and Pharisees come, bringing a woman. They tell Jesus she was caught in adultery, saying the law of Moses demands that they stone her, and ask what he says. They present no legal witnesses, as required by the Mosaic law, and they bring only the woman, and not the man who had been with her – thus, they themselves are breaking the law, which demands the testimony of two witnesses and condemns both partners of adultery. It is, of course, a test; if Jesus responds that they should not kill her he is speaking against the Mosaic Law; if he responds that they should follow the law and stone her, he is breaking Roman law for only Rome has power of life and death. But Jesus does not fall for the test – instead he calls the questioners to accountability: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Of course, before saying that he bends down and writes with his finger on the ground – and there is all sorts of speculation about what he wrote – but most likely he is simply showing his disengagement from their questioning. When they persist, he straightens and challenges them. And then he bends down again.

And that is when we hear the sound – stones dropping to the ground – for each man (they were, after all, all men who accused this woman) silently drops his stone and turns away. When Jesus looks up again, only the woman remains. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” And she replies, “No one, Sir.” And Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin again.”

Jesus calls people to be accountable for themselves, rather than to condemn others. That is the message we should remember from this passage.

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