This is one of the essays written for a course on the Gospel of John. We were instructed to write a sermon that was spiritual in nature, easy to understand and incorporated some history of the times.
This 'sermon' is based on the passage from
In order to understand the story better, there are a couple of background points one needs to know. For example, it is important to know that Jerusalem was occupied by the Romans and that the Romans had restricted the rights of the Jews in many ways. The Jews, although they had their own laws from Torah - the Mosaic law - were still under Roman occupation and would be held responsible for breaking laws made by the Romans. Most important for this story is that the Romans had made it illegal for the Jews to use the death penalty. This is what causes the dilemma for Jesus. Since the right to use the death penalty - stoning in this case - had been retracted, causing a stoning could put Jesus in breach of the Roman Law. On the other hand, the Laws in the Old Testament are relatively clear on the issue. Adultery was punishable by death through stoning for both parties to the act. For Jesus to judge that she should go free would break the Mosaic Law.
So you can understand the dilemma for Jesus. If he says to stone her - he will be breaking the Roman law. If he says to let her go free, he will be breaking the Mosaic Law - the religious law for the Jews. Enough background, let's consider the story more closely now.
As the story unfolds some interesting points become clear. This woman was brought to Jesus after being 'caught in the very act of adultery'. You see, it was necessary that she be caught in the act because the death penalty required eyewitnesses. This raises an intriguing question. How was it that she was caught in the very act? Since the nature of the adulterous act usually makes it a private act - that is to say there are normally only two people present during the act of adultery - witnesses can be hard to come by.
One of two things must have happened. Either these Scribes and Pharisees who caught her 'in the very act' walked in on her by accident, which doesn't seem too likely, or they plotted to catch her in the act in order to create this legal trap for Jesus. If the latter is true - that a trap was set - the scribes and Pharisees would also be guilty because they were condoning this sinful act for their own purpose. There is a legal point in the Mosaic Law that a prosecution can only be done by a person free from malice. Since they would be part of the sin, they could not pass judgment on the woman.
Another thing that seems kind of suspicious about her being caught in the very act is the absence of the man. Where was he? The Mosaic law says that both parties are to be stoned. This seems to indicate that the woman was being set-up to be caught in the very act.
In any event, Jesus makes his judgment. "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." It is interesting that the accusers leave eldest first. This may show that those who are older and wiser recognize their own sinfulness more quickly. The eyewitnesses have particular responsibility with respect to carrying out the sentence and yet they leave.
Jesus does not condemn her, however he does not find her guiltless. 'Go and leave your life of sin' implies that sin was present but Jesus chooses to have mercy and forgive. As I have read it put, he offers a "full and free pardon without for a moment excusing or condoning the wrong." The question I asked myself was: "What can I learn from this and how can I apply it to my life this week? I decided to put myself in the shoes of each character - or, more accurately, in the sandals of each character.
Do I ever behave like the scribes and Pharisees? Do I jump to conclusions about people and condemn them? Do I say things when I really have other motives? Am I free of sin? When I stand with Jesus and my entire life is laid before us, would He judge me worthy to throw the first stone? This week I am going to work on avoiding actions that would be associated with this character of the story and when I catch myself behaving this way I am going to change that behavior.
What about the woman? Am I engaging in a sinful behavior? One of the most important things to remember in this story is that Jesus does not condone the sin. He forgives and advises her to 'leave your life of sin'. This week I will examine my actions more closely to see if I need to leave a sinful behavior behind.