Sunday Fifth Week of Lent Reading: John 8: 1-11 Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They 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. When 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.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go on your way, and from now on do not sin again.’
Having spent a night in prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus returned to the temple and immediately responds to the cry of broken humanity. People have gathered to listen to his teaching but in this instance, a profound lesson will be demonstrated when he reaches out to set a suffering woman free from her bondage of deep, inner, suffering.
To date, the teaching of Jesus had not made a life changing impact on the scribes and Pharisees. They brought a woman to him who had been caught in the act of committing adultery and may have expected Jesus to sanction her death by stoning. At this time in history, women had a very low place in society; hence no reference is made of the man with whom she was sinning.
Lacking in self-awareness, the arrogant, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees persist in their interrogation of Jesus, wishing to catch him out and secure evidence for his condemnation. Jesus reached out and wrote an unknown message on the ground. He may have reminded them of his teaching about the judgement of others or asked them why she alone had been brought to him for judgement. He may have asked them to be merciful to her and to take her to her home where she might recover from her ordeal in private. When they persisted in their condemnation, Jesus challenges them to reflect on their own sinfulness and if any one of them had not sinned, only then could they cast the first stone. Shamed by Jesus’ response, the interrogators left Jesus alone with the woman. Jesus then asks her; ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ When she replied that no one had condemned her, he reassured her, that he too, did not condemn her. This may have been the first time in her life that she had not been condemned for her actions. He lovingly sets her free and asks her not to sin again. Her freedom is now in her own hands and she has a responsibility to stay free.
This message is also for me. I have not always followed the life changing teaching of the gospel. On occasions, I have not tried to understand the plight of those whose life experience is different to my own and whom I have judged harshly or perceived to be sinners. I too am in need of God’s compassionate forgiveness and am very grateful for the many times when I have been touched by grace, forgiven and restored to right relationship with him and humanity. Like the woman in the gospel, I have a responsibility to stay free. fellow human being.
I ask for forgiveness for the many times that I have judged or condemned others.
For the times that I have failed to be empathetic with the pain of another;
For the times that I have not acknowledged my own sin,
but blamed another for their human weakness;
Through the power of your grace,
help me to turn my life back to you,
I make this prayer, O gracious and forgiving God, Amen.