Scripture: John 7:53-8:11
Key verses: (8:3-4, 11)The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery…. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
Reflection: The gospel of John is full of juxtapositions, offering new theological develops that the synoptic gospels were perhaps too young to note (although each of the gospels have unique theological personalities). In the passage that precedes this one, hearers of Jesus’ teachings are confronted with believing if Jesus is the messiah or not. In the passage following our selection for today, Jesus claims to be the light of the world in a culture that links light with God. The deep theological truths that are evident in John’s approach to story-telling are illustrated in this passage for today. The testing of Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees throughout the story is marked by responses that furthers deep theological truths about the nature of the Messiah: a compassionate and thoughtful teacher, a friend to the sinner, and an unconditional offeror of grace and forgiveness. Jesus came not to condemn the sinful world, but to save the world from sin through invitation and acceptance, providing a path of love and mercy.
This is a well-known passage yet it does not appear in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the bible. This does not however take away from the powerful message of this passage and the truths that can be found within it. We find this woman accused of adultery being brought to the temple for judgement. Jesus is teaching in the temple; all of them are sitting. The woman was made to stand in front of Jesus and all those gathered; she was on full display, adding to her already intense humiliation. Dishonor and death were equals in this first-century context, and Jesus works to relieve her anxiety by turning the focus back on the accusers. In the well-known exchange that takes place, the accusers all leave one by one as they realize they too are sinners. Jesus then offers grace and forgiveness before even noting the accusation of adultery.
The accusers were imperfect, yet wanted to condemn. Jesus is perfect, yet chose to not to condemn. The accusers see only one outcome of sin: punishment and death. Jesus sees only one outcome of sin: forgiveness and life. I wonder how we too see only one outcome of sin. How might we offer forgiveness to those who sin against us? What would life look like if we first provided mercy and grace, then the invitation for life anew in Christ? Perhaps it is a world filled with hope and marked by redemption, as we encourage one another when we all fall short. May we be lead in love, not judgement, to ask: how can I ease this person’s pain and be there for their healing?
Prayer: I am a sinner, O God, and I have fallen short of your glory. In my sinfulness, I know grace and forgiveness rest in your hands, and through Jesus Christ I have life anew. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
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[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].