I love this story. It moves me and disturbs me at the same time. A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus. The Law demands that the culprits be stoned. Roman law prohibited capital punishment. Jesus asks a question to the accusers, which ones of you are with out sin? Thuds are heard. Only these aren’t rocks crushing bones, they are rocks bring dropped by the oldest to the youngest.
While the Pharisees are figuring out what in the world to do here, Jesus stoops and writes in the dirt. I think we are supposed to catch a shadow of the creation narrative. Out of the dirt of the ground, God created man. Here is a woman covered in the dirt of sin standing before Jesus, and its as if Jesus is recreating his beloved before our very eyes and stoops and moves dirt.
As the last stone clunks the dirt, only two are left. Jesus, the God-man, the light of the world standing with a dirt-stained daughter. Jesus doesn’t throw rocks, only grace is hurled her way. His words to her life altering, and life transforming. None to condemn and a commission to go. Go and leave your life of sin. The stooping and dirt scooping all seems to crescendo in this moment of grace. For here a dirt-stained daughter leaves a dirt-cleansed daughter. The same hands that formed Adam out of the ground are the same one’s that gave the contours to her face, and her life. Adulteress no more. Jesus doesn’t shy away from sin and shame. He dives in and recreates and offers hope where none existed before.
We read this usually and think wow, here is a great story about Jesus demonstrating grace. I don’t deny it, but I have some questions I want to investigate here a little further.
What if we were meant to read this communally? What if instead of a woman, the one caught in adultery here in John 8 is the church? I think this could be. Think about it, how often have we the church pursued other passions, other loves, besides Jesus? We often stand at the end of the world’s condemnatory fingers pointing at us, “Look at them. Look how they claim to be disciples of Jesus, but yet they don’t look like Jesus.” Perhaps it was why men like Ghandi could say that he liked Christ, but not his Christians? Does the symbolism change if the church is meant to be seen here in John 8? I think not. The lesson is the same. What we were once were, is not who Jesus has recreated us to be. While we may have accusatory fingers pointed at us, we can fall into the loving, creative and re-creative merciful hands of Jesus. The grace is the same and the commission is just as burdening and important. Go and leave your life of sin. Do you see it? Part of what Jesus tells the woman in John 8 is what he tells the disciples in Matthew 28, it is what we are drawn too, compelled to do and challenged to live for…
And as we go we are to reflect the light that Jesus brings into the world. We go to share the same message of grace and hope that Jesus inaugurated with his arrival.