Scripture: John 7:53-8:11
Key verse: (7) “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Reflection: What leads us to pick up stones? If you had been in the crowd that day and heard the buzz about a woman caught “in the very act of adultery,” and you saw people rushing to pick up their stones to execute the justice required by Leviticus 10:20 and Deuteronomy 22:23-24, what would you do? Would you pick up a stone? What led the people that day to pick up those stones and be so ready to kill this woman? Some picked up stones to protect the moral fabric of the community. This woman was caught in the “very act of adultery.” She represents a threat to the institution of marriage. She must be dealt with, for the good of the community. Others may have picked up stones because she represents something within themselves that they don’t like. They have impure thoughts at times, or maybe they have even acted them out, but feel really guilty about it. Psychologists call it “projected identification.” Some people pick up stones to feel better about themselves. Some in that crowd might have been victimized by adultery. They or someone they loved experienced the betrayal, the shame, the pain of a spouse breaking that sacred trust of a marriage vow. In the wake of that pain they pick up their own stone. Some pick up stones for the same reasons as the Pharisees — political expediency. The person caught in adultery didn’t matter to them. Stoning her is just a means to their political end of getting rid of Jesus, their political enemy. The real issue for them was not adultery. It was Jesus. He was a threat, so they tried to get rid of him through a political catch-22—if a woman gets killed in the process, it’s the cost of keeping power. People pick up stones for lots of reasons — anger, pain, guilt, self-righteous indignation, political expediency — the list is lengthy; but I think the reason most folks in the Temple that day picked up a stone was because everybody else was doing it; the opinion polls said it was the thing to do. They looked around and saw the scribes and Pharisees getting all riled up about this woman, and they figured they better join in. What would happen if they didn’t? We’ve got to stone her- if we don’t, they might come after us!
While public stoning is no longer a reality in our world, people pick up proverbial stones every day. Scandal defines headlines, gossip infects communities, resentment taints relationships. Too often anger, pain, guilt, righteous indignation and more move us to reach for stones to sling.
How does Jesus respond? “Go ahead and stone her…just let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one they put down their stones until Jesus was alone with the accused. In Christ, there is no condemnation. She is freed to go and sin no more. In those times when we find ourselves alone with Jesus we just might find, so are we.
Prayer: When I feel the temptation today to pick up a stone, help me stop and wonder why. Help me see what is in me that leads me to pick up that stone. Give me the grace to let it go and find myself alone with you and hear your grace that refuses to condemn, and your call that frees me to follow you. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].