The text for this study is taken from John 8:1-11. There are debates about whether this story was in the original (greek) gospel of John, or whether it was added 100 years or so later. That debate is not the purpose of this post from my viewpoint. This happens to be one of my favorite stories (I think I say that about a lot of stories from the Bible).
Jesus was at the Temple one morning. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They most certainly understood the law and what it said the punishment was – however they ignored the fact that the law said that both parties should be punished…they only dragged the woman to the temple. Hmm.
So here is this woman. Caught in the act…and dragged into a large crowd of people. I can’t imagine what she must have felt. Barely clothed. Terrified for her life. Completely shamed and humiliated.
These men though were only using the woman as a pawn in their game to trip Jesus up and trap him into saying something they could use against him (they wanted him dead). Now this makes me really not like these guys. They are using someone to accomplish their own agenda. Not just using her, but publicly humiliating her and threatening to stone her – all to make their point! Jesus was the real target, she was just their weapon of choice.
At this point Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. Some scholars suggest that he was stalling for time as he figured out how to handle the situation. Perhaps he was doodling – some people do this when they think. I’ve never much thought of Jesus as a doodler. I like to think he was just taking his time – giving the teachers and Pharisees time to squirm and get really anxious. At this point he stands back up – and the teachers demand an answer from him. “The law of Moses says stone her. What do you say?” I’m sure at this point the Pharisees are feeling pretty good about themselves, thinking they finally got him on this one.
Jesus answers by saying, “The one who has never sinned should throw the first stone.” (As I read this story over and over it came to me…isn’t Jesus “the one” who has never sinned?) And then he bent down and began writing again. At this point it is believed by some that he was writing the names and sins of each of this woman’s accusers (he’s Jesus – he certainly knew what they were guilty of). I truly hope that is what was happening here. I picture him thinking “Alright, boys…if this is how you want to play it – let’s go” I can see Jesus waiting for their reply. Looking at each one of them and then back down to his list in the dust, and then back to each one of them.
One by one the men dropped their stones and left the scene. Of course they didn’t mind exposing this woman’s sin – but when it came to their own sins begin exposed they were gone! They could very clearly see and point out the sins of others, but could not see their own sin.
Finally just Jesus was left with the woman. She had to be wondering what in the world would happen next. Still scared and humiliated. Jesus walked to her and asked her “Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’
“No, Lord.” (She called him Lord…)
“Neither do I…Go and sin no more.” He didn’t yell at her. Shame her. Tell her how worthless she was. Call her an adulterer. He did acknowledge that she had sinned, but in those simple three words…Neither do I, he offered forgiveness and compassion and hope. Jesus saw her with love, not judgment. He told her to go and leave her old life behind and that there is true life in him. Jesus was much more concerned about the woman’s future than her past. In those three words, Jesus freed her from her past. She was understood by Jesus rather than condemned by him. Rather than being stoned, she was saved.
1. Think about something that has caused you shame. What does it feel like to even think of that thing? Now imagine if it were publicly announced.
2. This woman was judged by the religious leaders and the Pharisees? Have you ever felt judged this way? Have you ever judged someone else?
3. What do you think about the fact that the woman called Jesus “Lord”?
4. Tell about a situation where you have seen God show mercy in your life instead of letting you suffer the consequences of your actions. How has God shown mercy in your past circumstances?
5. Describe what you think was going through the woman’s mind as Jesus wrote in the dust.
6. In what practical ways can we be merciful to others in our daily lives?