Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this seven-week Bible study based on Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. We’ll be studying the stories of seven incredible New Testament women. It’s the perfect way to journey through Lent together.
The Woman Caught in Sin: The Forgiven Girl
Read: John 8:2-11
The woman could not escape. Two men held her arms tightly as they pushed her in front of Jesus. “Jesus!’ the teachers of the law shouted. “Look at this woman. We caught her sinning. Our law says she should be stoned. What do YOU think?”
So begins the story of The Forgiven Girl, in Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. It’s hard to imagine the feelings of that poor woman, who was dragged and disgraced, not just in front of Jesus, but in front of an entire crowd.
And let’s not forget the significance of where this awful scene took place. This shame-filled act happens in the temple courts, instigated by the religious leaders. In other words, this woman was judged, and already condemned, in the church, (another name for which could be ‘sanctuary’) by the church-goers (another name for whom could be ‘Christians’) of the day. Shocking isn’t it? Surely nothing like this would happen in our church, by our Christian friends, would it?
The woman of John 8 who had been caught in adultery was, of course, a pawn in the hands of the Pharisees. A peek into the events prior to this incident reveals that these religious rulers were already trying to trap Jesus. When they dragged the woman in front of him, they thought they’d found the perfect way.
The Pharisees were, in fact, breaking the law of Moses, not seeking to abide by it. Old Testament law required that both the man and woman caught in adultery should be put to death. But the Pharisees conveniently overlook the role of the man in this incident, and focus their attention on the woman. Can’t you just hear their pompous voices as they push the woman forward?
Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who was not her husband. In the Law, Moses commanded us to kill such women by throwing stones at them. Now what do you say?
The Pharisees have just played what they think is their trump card: if Jesus objects to the stoning, he disagrees with Moses; if he agrees with the stoning, he breaks Roman law, which did not permit Jews to carry out their own executions.
But whenever we ask Jesus, what do YOU think? we’d better be prepared to hear, or witness, something extraordinary. And it probably won’t be what we wanted or expected.
Jesus stoops down, writes mysteriously in the sand with his finger, and when he stands up, says:
Has any one of you not sinned? Then you be the first to throw a stone at her.
What a genius response. You could have heard a stone drop. And that’s just what happened. One by one, the Pharisees drop their stones, until the only people left are the redeemed and the Redeemer.
Woman, where are they? Hasn’t anyone found you guilty?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then I don’t find you guilty either,” Jesus said. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The doors of the cage are opened and the one who was imprisoned spreads her wings and flies free. It’s one beautiful example of Jesus fulfilling his mission to proclaim release to the captive and justice for the oppressed.
I wonder what the law of love says? Somehow, I just don’t think it could include dragging individuals in front of Jesus and accusing them because of their differing lifestyles. And yet, sadly, I know this happens: in the church, by Christians.
Surely our world would be a much more healthy place if, instead of dragging others before Jesus and asking what do you think? we dragged ourselves before him instead, and asked what he thought of us?
And what better time to practice this than Lent, a time of self-examination, not other-examination?
Suppose, this Lent, we decided to choose to stand on the side of the Redeemer?
What if we let Jesus be the judge?
Might we be free, not to loathe, but to love?
Not to condemn, but to care?
Not to accuse, but to accept?
Not to throw stones, but to throw our arms out wide in welcome, and love as Jesus did?
Surely we, who claim the name of Christian, must show the love of Christ to all we meet.
Because the world is watching.
God, thank you for Jesus, who covered that woman in love and forgiveness and is ready to do the same for us. In this season of Lent, help us to remember that you call us to examine, not others, but ourselves. Take from our lives anything that separates us from you, and help us, as the redeemed, to be those who stand alongside the Redeemer, proclaiming your love and hope and justice to all. Amen.
Questions For Reflection:
- What do you think Jesus was writing in the sand?
- How might you be part of proclaiming justice to the oppressed?
- Remembering that Jesus covers us in love and forgiveness, what do you think Jesus would have you work on in your life as you stand in front of him?
- What is God revealing to you in this story?
- Watch this dramatized version of the story. What are your feelings about the men who accused the woman? The disciples? Jesus? The woman herself?