John 8: 3-11
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 your way, and from now on do not sin again.’
Working Sermon Title: A No Win Situation
The text creates some problems because John 7:37 to 8:12 is omitted in some manuscripts. This was discovered in the 16th century when Protestant and Catholic scholars were working to recover the most correct Greek tests of the New Testament rather than relying on the Latin Vulgate. They noticed that a number of early manuscripts lacked this section or it was located later in the book. While this is very interesting I am operating on the presupposition that it seems congruent with Jesus’ life and teachings and likely was a piece of oral tradition that was circulating and eventually incorporated into some manuscripts. Either way, it’s a great story!
Jesus is presented with a question designed to trap him. Should we stone her as ordered by the Law of Moses? If Jesus says “no”-he would be contradicting the Mosaic code. If Jesus says “yes”- he might have been inciting a mob action that would have been in conflict with Roman jurisdiction for capital crimes. Since Jesus was known to associate openly with prostitutes, this created quite a dilemma. The text does not may clear whether he might have known the woman (and I don’t mean in the biblical sense).
Jesus circumvents the dilemma by inviting the accusers to comply with the law BUT only if they can do so without guilt.
The questions I invite you to consider are these:
1. If we all sin, then based on this passage we are unfit to judge. If we are not to judge, how do we live? How do we counter evil? How do we name evil?
2. Twice, Jesus bends down and writes something in the dirt with his finger. What do you think he wrote? Why?
3. And finally, Jesus asks “Does no one condemn you?…”Neither will I condemn you. Sin no more.” What does it mean to be free of condemnation?
Read Paula’s sermon, delivered on Feb. 27, entitled “A No Win Situation.”