Scripture Reading: John 8:1-11 CEB
1 And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he returned to the temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. Placing her in the center of the group, 4 they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.
7 They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”
11 She said, “No one, sir.”
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”
In, Out, Up, Down
Pay attention to the kinetics in this passage: in and out; up and down. All the people come in together to gather around Jesus. The legal experts and Pharisees enter the circle and place a woman in the center of the group. Jesus sat down and taught them. Jesus in response to the religious leaders’ question bends down and doodles on the ground. More questions. Jesus stands up and responds to the continued questioning. One by one the elders exit out, leaving Jesus and the woman in the middle of the crowd. Once again Jesus bends down to write on the ground. Jesus stood up to speak words of life to the woman.
Jesus, in this embodied display of both authority and humility, flips the script on the religious/social norms of who is in and out. The leaders bring the woman literally into the middle of the discourse, using her as an object lesson, as a point of theological/doctrinal argument, thereby denying her dignity and humanity.
A fortune and half to simply be an ant on the sands witnessing what Jesus wrote on the ground. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what he was doodling so much as he was conveying a form of resistance and displeasure by not even dignifying the Pharisees’ questions with a response (cue Jeopardy theme song in the background). In any event, Jesus finally responds by turning the lesson on the lesson-givers, making the scrutinizers the scrutinized. They leave speechless, the elders apparently possessing much more restraint, wisdom, (maturity?) than the younger experts. In the Kingdom of God, orientation is turned on its side. Up means out and down means in. Another way to look at this is to say that Christ is the center of a center-set, relational community. What makes one “in” is her humility and desire to engage on a real human level with the Lord and Savior. The good news in this story is that Jesus looks the woman in the eye, speaks directly and personally with her, advocates for her, and speaks life and truth into her life without condemnation. In an improvisational act not driven by law, tradition, rules, and norms, Jesus chooses to restore the woman ‘caught in adultery’ to new life.