There is some dispute over John 7:53-8:11 because these verses were not contained in some of the earliest manuscripts of Scripture found. But it’s a story I love. A story I resonate with. And it tells the story of a woman I hope to meet some day.
Jesus has been teaching in the Temple courts and there is quite the buzz about who He is saying He is. Of course, the religious leaders are mad. So they are always looking for a way to trap Him. At the end of John 7 and moving into chapter 8, the temple guards and the chief priests and Pharisees all go home, while Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives. The next day, He’s back at it again in the Temple.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They 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. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At 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. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
So many questions…so little time! Who was this woman? Where was the man who was caught with her? What did Jesus write on the ground? Did she go and leave her life of sin? So much I want to know!
What we do know
The question Jesus asked here is “Has no one condemned you?” Can you just imagine what was going on in this woman’s heart and mind during this exchange?
She has been drug into the Temple courts in front of many people. Despite the way she is often pictured in art wrapped in a sheet, she probably really wasn’t wearing any clothing. And standing there, she had to listen to these men list her sins as they challenge Jesus to determine her punishment.
Quietly Jesus simply stoops to the ground and writes in the dirt. Not once, but twice. I imagine you could have heard a pin drop.
While the woman just stands there in her shame and humiliation. Finally, one by one, all her accusers leave and there is no one remaining except Jesus.
And he asked, “Has no one condemned you?” When she answered no, he replied, “Then neither do I condemn you.”
In that moment, she received forgiveness and freedom from a death sentence. I imagine her sigh of relief could have been heard all over the Temple courts that day.
Sin caught her and she was certain of her punishment. So she stood there, holding her breath, while Jesus interacted with her accusers. Until finally she could exhale.
Scripture doesn’t tell us what happened in the rest of this woman’s life. But I’d be willing to bet that she exhaled the name of Jesus over and over and over again as she told the story of the One who saved her life.
She is not alone as a sinner redeemed by Jesus’ grace and mercy. We have all been this woman, condemned by our sin, and holding our breath to find out our fate. Until we encountered Jesus, experienced his love and forgiveness, and were free to exhale His name to anyone who would listen.
Encounter, Experience, Exhale
As this series ends, here’s Jesus’ three questions again…and three of my own…
“Who touched me?” Are you seeking an encounter with Jesus?
“Do you want to get well?” Are you willing to do what it takes to experience the power of Jesus’ healing?
“Has no one condemned you?” Will you accept His healing and exhale His name for others to hear?
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