One of the deacons asked me to write a reflection piece for a newsletter they hand out in their jail ministry. It’s not something I’ve done before, but I told him I would jot some of my thoughts down. It’s on the story of the woman caught in adultery who the crowd wanted to stone, but then Jesus was like… this is some BS… you all need to step off and mind your business! I’ll add the passage so you can get the context of it, rather than basing it on this explanation I just gave.
John 8:1-11 (1) while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. (2) But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them. (3) Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. (4) They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. (5) Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (6) They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. (7) But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (8) Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. (9) And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. (10) Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (11) She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery.” That leaves me with so many questions. What is her story? What is her name? We know so little about this woman and yet the group rushed to condemn her. Funny how the focus is only on her when obviously she couldn’t commit adultery by herself. And yet there she is… alone.
She was being used as a pawn to trap this radical named Jesus. They had caught her in the act, so how could He talk his way out of condemning her? They didn’t realize how radical He really was. He could not help but be radical because unlike the others, He could ‘see’ her.
He could see the gift she truly is.
He could see her passion.
He could see her suffering.
He could see her strength.
He could see her weakness.
He could see her beauty.
He could see her pain.
He could see her accomplishments.
He could see her failures.
He could see her longing to love.
He could see her longing to be loved.
He could see her… the ‘real’ her that she couldn’t even see. Here is the radical part… He could see all of this and rather than condemning her, He loved her.
Eyes speak so much. I’m imagining the way He looked at this nameless woman. The condemning stares from the crowd were probably something she tried to avoid by looking down in shame. But Jesus called the crowd out by telling them to cast the first stone if they had no sin. When there was no one left but Jesus she had to have looked up to see who this radical was. Can you imagine what she saw? She saw pure love! He knew her… He could see her… He loved her.
I picture sadness in Jesus’ eyes though. I picture sadness that she was not seen by the crowd for the treasure she truly is. I picture sadness in His eyes because she could not see the treasure she is. He was not there to condemn her, but to love her. He wanted her to see how loved she is. He wanted her to see that she is a precious treasure.
Life is a school for learning how to love. I have yet to meet anyone who has perfected how to love… we are all a work in progress. Thankfully God is patient and meets us exactly where we are at… particularly when the place we are at is on the margins. We are not alone on this journey. He is walking with us. When we trip and fall He does not respond with scorn or words of condemnation, rather He responds with love and mercy. He is the source of love, hope, and strength. He wants to embrace us with His healing love. Our task is to accept His love and mercy… to realize we are Beloved.