Monday, May 5, 2014
A different perspective: John 8:3-11
Have you ever stopped to consider the people in the stories we read in the Bible? I was recently reading the account in John 8 where the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, intending to trap Him with His answer. Here is the passage.
"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such woman. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stopped down and wrote on the ground.
At his, those who had heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
John 8:3-11, NIV
Okay, first off, does anyone else wonder why the men weren't punished, too? Why is it only the women who were stoned? Not saying I think they should have stoned the men (or anyone for that matter), but something should have happened to them, right? It only seems fair.
Now that I've got that out of the way, let's look at it from the different perspectives. Imagine you're reading this as a novel, and each person has a point of view. I'll start with the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
They have this woman with them, who is accused of adultery, right? I'm guessing someone (her husband, maybe?) brought her before them to be punished. They see this as they're chance. They've hated Jesus for months and they will finally be able to trap him. Imagine what is going through they're minds. What do you think? I'm guessing they're thinking something along the lines of, "Finally, we'll be rid of him! This so called 'Teacher' won't be able to make fools of us for much longer." So they march up to him, dragging her along. They are so smug as they stand there, asking Jesus what he has to say . . . but wait. What is he doing? He's bent down, writing in the dirt! This isn't at all the reaction they expected! So they ask again, "what do you say about her?" I imagine Jesus gives this long suffering sigh as he stands. "If any of you is without sin, you may throw the first stone." (paraphrased) Then he bends down again, doesn't even watch to see what they will do. Can you picture their shocked expressions? "What is this?" They're probably thinking. "He isn't condemning her. How is this possible? She was caught! She is guilty! But, what can we do now? We will be seen as uncaring hypocrites if we continue to press the point." So they shuffle off, pride probably crushed again (anyone else notice that Jesus was good at that?) That's the end of them, for now. They leave to plot again.
Next, we have the woman, who the Bible leaves nameless. Put yourself in her shoes. Here she is, standing before a crowd and this well-known Teacher, humiliated. I imagine her being rather sloppily dressed, head down, awaiting the verdict, the first stone to be thrown. I'm going to try to write this from her perspective.
Yeah, I've heard stories about this teacher, the one called Jesus. How he has healed the sick, fed a bunch of people, forgiven the sinner. But me? Why would he bother with me?
So, I stand there, listening to the Pharisees build the case against me, the crowd moving closer to see what is happening. What do I care? I'll be dead soon, anyway. I just wait, staring at the ground, trying to be inconspicuous. I don't want to see the man's face when he tells them to kill me. No way will this guy, or the men who hauled me here let me go. Then, just as I'm resigned to my fate, what does this "teacher" do? He bends over and starts writing in the dust! I crane my neck to see what he is writing. Is he ordering my death, but is too weak to say it out loud? You have to admit, it's probably not that easy to send someone to their death. Or is he crazy and not the great man I've heard so much about? The Pharisees keep asking him what his opinion is - they obviously want me dead! "Just leave him alone!" I mentally scream. "Let him play in the dirt if it means I live to see another day!"
He looks up at me, at the crowd, and what he says shocks me! "If any of you are without sin, you may throw the first stone." What?! He isn't telling them to kill me? As the crowd begins to move off, I stay. I have a question for him. "Why? Why did you defend me?" But the words stick in my throat. I can't ask.
Jesus looks up again and sees me standing there. He asks where everyone is, has no one condemned me? "No one, sir." I reply.
"'Neither do I condemn you.'" Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin."'
Wait! What?! That's it? Just go and leave that life behind? But, why? No one has ever cared about me before. Why didn't he have me stoned? And did he just forgive me? What makes him different?
Puts the story in a whole new light, doesn't it? When I was reading the verses, it just hit me. Jesus knew everything about this woman. He knew her sin, her past, her future, yet He chose mercy for her. He gave her a second chance. He knows everything about each one of us, too. He wants us to choose His mercy, His forgiveness, the second chance He offers us. He died to give everyone this gift, but so often, we refuse it, or feel we have to earn it. A gift isn't something you can earn. It is something freely given.
What has God been showing you lately?
Have you ever tried putting yourself in the shoes of someone in the Bible? If so, who? If not, are you interested in trying it?
Do you think I should have more posts like this?
Well, thank you if you took the time to read all of this! I hope it blessed you in some way. If you have time, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts!