The back story (round 1) John 7:37
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as[c] the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." 41Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? 42Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family[d] and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders 45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?"
46"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.
47"You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. 48"Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them."
50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51"Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"
52They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet[e] does not come out of Galilee."
So in round one:
Jesus is in Jerusalem, celebrating the feast of booths, and the Pharisees are like who does this Rabbi think he is?
He is changeling them on their own turf...
He can't talk like that!
We have to stop him!
So they round up their thugs and send them out to arrest Jesus so that they can privately quiet him.
Perhaps they thought a few days in jail would cool him off a little.
The leaders in the south thought the same thing about Martin Luther King Jr. too. But that's where King wrote some of his most famous material (such as his letter from Birmingham Jail).
But the Thugs show up and are struck by what Jesus is teaching, even they are transformed by what hew has to say...
So the Pharisees next devise a plan to confront Jesus publicly...
They set a trap, to embrace him into submission or get him killed.
Getting stoned (round 2)
1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They 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. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
If they could humiliate Jesus in public by posing a question about the scriptures that Jesus could not answer (without destroying what he was teaching) then his popularity would fade.
So that night they arrested a woman "caught in the act of adultery." And held her until the morning when Jesus came back.
Jesus could have avoided the temple, he must have seen the thugs who had come to arrest him the day before. But he must have also known that there would be considerable confusion among the people he had taught the day before. He chose to walk back into the temple despite the fact that the religious elite would be gunning for him.
According to Jewish law the day after any major feast has to be observed as a Sabbath. So no work was allowed.
Jesus shows up and sits down (as any good Rabbi should ) before he begins teaching.
Only then did the Pharisees make their move. They could have tested him at the gate, but they waited until they had LOTS of witnesses.
so they bring out the woman "caught in the act of adultery"
which raises some questions:
"how/where do a group of religious leaders find/catch a woman in the act of adultery?"
Adultery is rather hard to do by ones self...
"Where is the man?"
The Law dictated that both should be stoned Lev 20:10
In round 1 the leaders had invoked a curse on the crowds for not knowing what the law said... Now they are acting as if they only know part of the law...
It is the same today as it was then...
People tend to highlight the parts of the bible that they like and ignore the parts that they don't...
Can you think of an example?
Back to our story...
The religious elite are clearly only concerned with beating Jesus and preserving their own status and power.
The woman is just a prop in their plan...
Just as humans tend to do, they have forgotten her humanity...
But there is something else going on here as well. If they can't get their local thugs to arrest Jesus then they will have to get some one else to do it.
Around three sides of the second story of the temple was a Long covered walkway. Connected to and overlooking this walk way was a military fort built by Herod the Great. He knew that civil unrest often began in the temple area.
The Jews were not allowed to sentence anyone to death (that's why the religious leaders drag Jesus in font of the Romans, but we're getting ahead of ourselves in our story).
Roman soldiers would have had a clear view of what was going on in the temple area that day.
4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"
They are quoting Moses directly and then asking Jesus to agree or disagree...
So if Jesus follows the letter of the law and sentences the woman to death by stoning then :
2the incident would cause an outcry from the people Jesus was teaching
3the soldiers will see the incident (the stoning and the outcry) as an uprising and the religious leaders would point to Jesus as the one who started it.
If Jesus breaks with the Law and tradition and says that the woman should be forgiven:
1 the religious leaders can discredit Jesus as a heretic for ignoring the law, they would have called him a coward, and said things like "are you unwilling to pay the price for our freedom?" ;-)
SO it seems that their trap has left Jesus with no where to turn.
Moses or Rome?
Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't
The people were listening, the Romans were watching!
The religious elite are so sure of their victory that they planed this confrontation in public on their own turf!
The question is about Justice...
The religious leaders see justice as a strict (public) application of the law.
Jesus sees justice by looking at the woman as a human in need of grace...
6They 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.
Remember this is a Sabbath?
The primmer requirement of the Sabbath was to refrain from doing work.
Jesus is a rabbi...
The Pharisees had determined that writing could be considered as work for a Rabbi.
But this required that they define what writing was.
They had settled on writhing as making some kind of permanent mark like putting ink on paper.
So what does Jesus do?
This is so brilliant...
He bends down and begins writing in the dust!
This is not a permanet mark... Its gone as soon as the wind blows.
He is making it clear to them that he is familiar not only with the written law but also with their interpretation and man made rules surrounding it!
Remember in round 1
They said "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet[e] does not come out of Galilee."
Jesus is saying look I'm no country bumpkin.
So what does he write?
We don't have a definitive answer on this...
But his following words presuppose that he probably wrote something that would give the men pause, since they didn't start throwing stones straight away, and still gave a strict observance of the Law. perhaps he wroteLeviticus 20:10 :
'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death."
Where is the man?
Then Jesus announced the method of execution...
7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
Jesus calls them out!
"Which of you is willing to step out and claim that they have never sinned?"
And remember the Romans are still watching...
If one of the leaders steps up and throws the first stone they will be the ones arrested!
Jesus pulls the ultimate Jujitsu move and traps the Pharisees in their own trap.
Now they must admit that they are ether sinners or are heretics for ignoring the law, and/or are unwilling to "pay the price for their freedom."
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
Interestingly Jesus is not interested in gloating or bringing further shame on them. He does not want revenge! He doesn't stare them down or watch as they withdraw. He refuses to "twist the knife."
He bends down and continues writing in the sand, giving them the chance to change their mind (and perhaps their hearts).
10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
Imagine being this woman...
She has been arrested in the middle of the night and kept in jail until the morning. She knew what the penalty was for her crime. She had spent the whole night knowing she had committed a capital offense and would be stoned... She was dragged in-front of a mob of people and the religious folks condemned her with scripture on their lips...
Brutal violence could only be next, and she had had all night to think about it!
But then this crazy Rabbi shows up and transfers the anger of the religious folks from her to himself. Her terror must have slipped away as she saw the humiliated men one by one dropping their rocks and quietly slipping away.
What a cost this man has paid, shifting the anger of such powerful men from her to himself. And he doesn't even know her name. What will he want in return? How will he treat her?
11"No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
Jesus is the one without sin! If anyone could condemn her it is Him!
Jesus nether condemn her no overlooks her self destructive lifestyle.
The woman's past in no way diminishes his willingness to save her.
He sets her free
The woman is able to walk away, from the incident but also from her former life.
Do you you see a pattern emerging?
Jesus is taking the pain and anger of the world upon himself.
He is setting captives free
He is giving the powerful a chance to change their path as well...
Do you play the part of Jesus in this story, offering grace to the wonam and the judgemental religous folks?
Do you play the prt of the woman needing grace and repentance?
The Religous leaders being scandelized by the people Jesus lets into the kingdom, and yet being offred a chance to change your ways?