Thursday 1st July
Women Jesus Met – The Woman Taken in Adultery
St John 7: 53 – 8: 11
Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’
In the middle of this week’s focus on ‘Women Jesus Met’, we have today a woman who did not seek out Jesus. Nor did he approach her. It was other people who brought them together. These other people were dangerously negative in their intentions both towards Jesus and towards the woman.
She has no say in what happens. She has been caught in adultery. Imagine the scene, the rough treatment as they bring her forward, make her stand exposed to the gaze of all, and speak of the stoning that ‘such women’ deserve according to the law of Moses.
Jesus is put on the spot, which, of course, is the purpose. If he fails to denounce her they can accuse him of contravening the law of Moses. But Jews at this time were not permitted to pass a death sentence, so if Jesus upholds the Mosaic demand they can accuse him of breaking Roman law.
How gloriously Jesus turns the tables.
We are interested today in the woman, not in her accusers. She enters this drama as a victim, subject to the power of others about which she can do nothing. She leaves this encounter as a person responsible for her own life. Jesus recognises and affirms the woman’s agency. “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
Reader, whatever your gender, might you take from this reading a renewed sense of your own agency? Might you hold your head a little higher and move into the day with a deeper confidence that God believes in you?
Turner of tables, saviour of the helpless, insightful and wise Holy One,
accept our joyful praise and wholehearted love. Amen.