adulterous woman

The Thing About the Adulterous Woman

So, the thing about the adulterous woman in John chapter 8 is this: she did break the law. She actually did. She was caught red-handed (and yes, there is much to be said about that), but no matter how she was caught, possibly set-up, seduced or used, she did break the law.

Here, read it for yourself.

To Throw the Stone

1-2 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

3-6 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

11 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

Right there it is. She was busted. She had no wiggle room. We can (probably) safely assume how the catching part played out. The text says that the men were trying to incriminate Jesus with their questions. Looking for a wrong word or wrong move so they could toss him in jail, or just discredit him. If I were a betting woman, I’d bet they set her up so they could then set Jesus up. But the text doesn’t say, so assume is all we can do.

But truly, who doesn’t love that ending?

Couldn’t have been better if I’d written it myself. Finally, something in Scripture that ends just like I want it too. Those mean men walking off with their heads hanging. The crowds thinning because there’d be no drama that morning. And, the adulterous woman alone with Jesus, hearing words that must have made her heart soar, “Neither do I condemn you.” Perfection. Call it wrap and go home.

Except. She, the adulterous woman, did break the law.

I am not a legalistic person but I am quite literal. I want to hang out with Jesus just a bit longer–after she has left with her freedom and dignity restored–and ask him, but what about the law? Did you actually answer the question?

Don’t misunderstand, I have compassion on this woman, forever referred to as the adulterous woman. I have compassion on her because I am her. I could lock arms with her and say, “Stone us both. She is my sister in crime.”

And, I get Jesus stating the obvious. If you any of you be her judge, then step on up.

But, if you have my brain, then the thing you want to be sure of is that the pronouncement Jesus made over her (over me too, your sins are forgiven) is the real deal. I mean, are those men coming back? Does the verdict stand if the punishment is not met? That law was the very law God gave to Moses in the desert, hence an immutable law. Can Jesus, yes even Jesus, speak mercy over it and thus change it?

The words, “The law says,” would keep me up at night. Because if the law is immutable, the crime punishable by death, and no one died, then what? Is it truly a get-out-of-jail-free-card?

I told you I was literal.

If I am understanding the calendar of the day, and times and all that, Jesus was about six months from Passover. Six months from his conversation with the adulterous woman, he would hang on a cross and die the death she didn’t that day. That’s the answer to their question. He would die, not her. And, her crime–regardless of the screamingly unfair events leading up to it that make us want to protest for her freedom–her crime would be paid for by Jesus himself. The law stood when Jesus stood up to address those harassing him. Her Freedom = His Death. And so does mine.

Now, go, and sin no more.

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