Tonight we restarted our weekly Bible Study after a break for Easter. We have been working our way through the Gospel of John, one of my favorite books of the Bible. What we do is read a chapter and then comment on it. I use the Orthodox Study Bible as the foot notes are great. I am not crazy about the translation but, like I said, the foot notes are worth the price of admission.
Tonight we read from chapter eight, the story of the adulterous woman. You know the story. Jesus was teaching the in synagogue and the Pharisees bring Him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. He kneels down and starts to write in the dust one the floor and they continue to ask Him what should be done. The law says that she should be stoned but, as the foot notes mention, this law had not really be strictly enforced in the days of Jesus. So He continues to write with His finger on the ground, then He stands up and asks that whoever has not sinned to cast the first stone. And they all walk away. When He realizes that they have all left He asks the woman where they had all gone and she answers that they left. Jesus tells her He does not condemn her and to go and sin no more.
Now at a first glance we might ask well where the man is, after all it takes two to tango. The man is not mentioned, not because the writer of John’s Gospel hated women, he is not mentioned because this is not about the woman, than man, or adultery, this passage is about sin in general and how we are to live and judge others without first judging ourselves. We get caught up in the injustice of the law and forget that this is about sin and forgiveness not about the sin. Sin is not the object, forgiveness is the object.
When we approach Scripture we need to approach with an open mind and an open heart and be willing to take the journey with God. A simple surface reading of the passage will lead us in the wrong direction but a careful, prayerful, study of this passage will lead us to see the real meaning that lies just under the surface. What we see on the surface is not always what we are to learn from Scripture and that is the value of this lesson and this passage.
Did the woman sin? Yes. Jesus never addresses the woman until the end, His focus is on those who accuse her and the fact that they themselves need to be forgiven. The lesson is before we tell someone else how to live make sure we are living the way we are supposed to.