What Can We Learn From An Adulterous Woman?
Brother Lawrence Damien Cos
For several weeks now I have been stuck meditating and thinking about the woman caught in the act of adultery by religious leaders looking for a way to find fault with Jesus. The story is found in the Gospel of John chapter 8:2-10. Jesus had spent the night on the Mount of Olives and has just arrived at the temple. Jesus begins teaching the people there. While this is going on the scribes and Phariseeâ€™s bring a woman allegedly caught in the act of adultery. They are looking to test Jesus so they have something to accuse him of. They think they have the perfect trap to ensnare Jesus and give them something to condemn him for. If he says stone her then he is a legalist and makes a lie out of all the talk about love, forgiveness that he has been preaching. One the other hand if he says let her go he has broken the Law of Moses, ignored the sin of the woman and become a law breaker which would give the religious leaders many grounds for finding fault with Jesus and condemning him. So they think they have him either way.
I find the story interesting both for what it tells us and more importantly for what it does not tell us and also for what I believe it points too. The basic facts are the religious leaders bring an â€śadulterous womanâ€ť to Jesus demanding she be stoned as the Law of Moses commanded. At first Jesus ignores them and then when they insist on an answer starts writing on the ground. We are not told what he was writing. When they persist in questioning him he then tells them let the first one without sin cast the first stone. They are all convicted and leave leaving Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus being without sin could have condemned her cast the stones and stoned her to death. He does not instead telling he does not condemn her and for her to go and sin no more
This I admit leaves intrigued and with many questions. First I would love to know precisely what Jesus was writing in the dirt. John doesnâ€™t tell us and at this late date and ideas on what he might have written would be mere speculation with no definitive answer possible. However I believe there is a reason why John leaves this information out that I will explain in a bit.
Secondly where is the man who was committing adultery with her, as there has to be two people who are participating voluntarily for it to happen?Â Interestingly enough the law they were trying to stone the woman for committing adultery is found in Leviticus 20:10
â€ś If aÂ manÂ commitsÂ adulteryÂ with the wife of his neighbor,Â bothÂ theÂ adultererÂ and theÂ adulteressÂ shall surely be put to death.â€ť
So where is the man who should also being brought forth for stoning why is he missing? Then how did they know what she was doing? Were they spying on her? Perhaps this was a set up to entrap the woman. Maybe she was framed. Perhaps she was unpopular in her village and this was a good way to get rid of here as well as ensnare Jesus so they could condemn him. What might the woman have to say in her own defense? Would she have confessed and admitted what she had done? Would she have been able to name all the men she had sex with some perhaps among those wishing to stone her to death? Was she perhaps innocent and being unjustly accused?
A thought we need to consider here is itâ€™s possible to be morally correct and miss God entirely. The religious leaders were morally correct the Law of Moses did provide for stoning to death someone caught in adultery. They could have legalistly stoned the woman and fulfilled the letter of the law. However they would have been wrong and missed God entirely. For as we see here only one who is perfect without any sin has the right to cast stones. Why because we are all sinners who have fallen short of our best and what God requires. All 7 billion of us currently living on this planet plus all who have preceded us or will come after us are sinners. Only one man in all of history lived a sinless live Jesus. Therefore if we condemn someone for sinning we condemn ourselves as we sin too.
In the end we are left with just Jesus and the woman alone. Though he can condemn her rightfully he doesnâ€™t. He does not put her down, tell her how bad she is, demand she confess and do penance , tell her she may go to hell for her sins or anything else that would have left her where she was at feeling awful, dejected, feeling rejected and unloved and perhaps even being suicidal. Instead he tells her to go sin no more. He forgives her and then helps her to a new understanding and a second chance on life.
That my family is our calling, as legalism and self righteousness is not of God nor does it accomplish his will. However forgiveness leads the way to restoration, higher ground, a new life, a second chance on the journey of life culminating in heaven with God for eternity. It is to remember that the church is a place of welcome as a hospital for the hurting, wounded, rejected, outcasts of society not a country club for the saved. It is the path of forgiveness and love that can unite our world and help usher the reign of Godâ€™s love and peace here on earth and to our whole universe. We will reap what we sow. Â So today lets sow seeds of love and peace to all we meet and keep it going as long as we live. That is the way we can change our world for the good eternally. Like the adulterous woman we can be forgiven and have new life. Then we can go out and gather in as many as we can find and bring them along us all equal in the sight of God and all welcomed. Lord let it be.
Brother Lawrence Damien Cos