Gospel text from Lectionary for the Day:
“Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
In our devotions for Lent, we must remember that we are totally lost and without excuse save for the mercies and grace of God in Christ. The Gospel account tells of heartless and cruel religious leaders who, disregarding any show of mercy or kindness for a helpless woman, drag her before Christ in order to use her case in tripping up our Lord. She was trembling with fear and shame as she was cast in the midst. She was most likely in disarray of apparel and the knowledge of her great sin caused her face to burn with the shame of it. Having been caught in the very act, she had no defense and realized that her fate would end in the terrible death of stoning. These religious hypocrits brought the woman alone to Christ. Being politically correct, they did not bring the man whose guilt was at least equal in gravity to that of the woman. These men meant to destroy this woman and, in the process, destroy Christ. Those enemies of the woman who meant her the greatest harm were ironically the agents by which she was brought before the Sovereign who could provide her the greatest good.
They quoted the Law of Moses to Christ that she should be stoned but, knowing the compassion of Christ in always being merciful, they asked “but what sayest thou?” The text clearly declares their purpose – to find fault with Christ. If He declared the sentence of stoning, He would have been in breach of Roman Law and subject to punishment thereby; but if He granted mercy, He would be in abrogation of the Law of Moses – a double pronged trap!
Who is this woman? She is a real woman because this account is not a parable. She is a woman of Jerusalem, but she also represents every man woman and child who reads this devotion. Before we came to Christ, we were all worthy of death: we were all without excuse having been taken in our sins red-handed. There was not for the woman, nor for us, any word of defense we could offer. The only resort for her, and for us, was the Grace and Mercy of God.
The woman was silent as the accusations were hurled at her. She dared not even raise her head for shame and fear. But she listened to the Voice – such a tender and compassionate Voice. “….But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.” (John 8:6) This was a common practice in Iran where I lived for more than five years. Writing on the ground was a means of delay in negotiations, or a manner in covering profound embarrassment. But what did Jesus write? We are not told, however, whatever he wrote had a strong impact on the on-lookers. They continued to demand her death when Jesus stood. “….He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Jesus wrote a second time upon the ground. Again, we know not what, but it could have been related to His comment regarding those who were without sin. In fact, NONE of them were without sin. Perhaps the second writing of Christ on the ground fully revealed their sinfulness for they all departed, convicted by their own consciences, the eldest first (those who opportunities to sin held seniority), and then the youngest. We may gain insight from Jesus’ writing from Jeremiah – “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” (Jeremiah 17:13)
When Jesus lifted Himself up the second time, the woman continued to hide her face in shame and fear. She and Christ were alone! The day comes when each of us must face Christ alone. It is at that instance that we must accept Him as our Lord. “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10) These are the first words Jesus spoke to the poor woman, but they were enough to cause her know Him. She timidly looked up into the eyes of her dear Savior and said, “No man, Lord.” Her first words to Christ revealed her acceptance of Him as her Lord. Jesus did not condemn the woman, but forgave her: “…Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:11) Once forgiven, we must turn from our sins – a most proper admonition for the Lenten Season.