“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4-5)


What Jesus says in response to this question is, in itself, quite remarkable. But it is how Jesus maintains his composure in a stressful and antagonistic situation that has really caught my imagination this morning. As he was teaching an attentive and eager crowd, he was rudely interrupted by an angry and aggressive group of Pharisees. They paraded a condemned woman in front of the crowd, humiliated and degraded her. All the while their real intention was to use this poor woman to entrap Jesus. I am intrigued by the mention, in verses 6 and 8, that Jesus’s immediate response is to stoop down and write in the dust. He doodles in the dust and ponders his response, perhaps he prays. Perhaps he hopes if he just ignores these ghastly people, they will leave him alone. But they keep demanding an answer. Finally he gives in and answers them – “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone” (John 8:7). Jesus was frustrated that the Pharisees couldn’t see their own sins. He was offended by their lack of compassion and their abuse of this woman in order to expose him. The writing in the dust is such an odd thing to report in the scripture, and yet it reveals so much about Jesus’s humanity, and his struggle to behave with dignity and respect in the face of such blatant provocation.


John 8:1-11 NLT

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”


Jesus agreed with the Pharisees that the Law of Moses left no doubt that the correct punishment for this woman’s act of adultery was to stone her. Jesus, in his ministry, was not attempting to re-write the scriptures or over turn the ancient laws of Moses. He was simply trying to reveal to the Jews, the true nature of God’s love and compassion using the ancient scriptures themselves. My Goal is to follow Jesus into the scriptures that I might find the truth of God there. I pray that in finding God’s truth in the Bible, I might learn the dignity and respect Jesus was able to show those who wanted to provoke him.

Today’s readings:

1Samuel 15:1-16:23, John 8:1-20, Psalms 110:1-7, Proverbs 15:8-10


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