John 8:1–20—Throwing Stones & Missing God
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. 15 You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. 16 And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 17 Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. 18 I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”
19 “Where is your father?” they asked.
Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” 20 Jesus made these statements while he was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But he was not arrested, because his timehad not yet come.
Points of Interest
- ‘The law of Moses says to stone her’—the law of Moses actually says both the man and the woman should be executed (Leviticus 20:10), but somehow the man is missing.
- ‘Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger’—there is indeed a thorny theological question here: why would Moses give such clear, harsh laws at all, if they weren’t meant to be enforced? But Jesus knows that they’re not asking genuinely, and he refuses to be drawn into their trap. He does his best simply to ignore them. We know the religious leaders are being disingenuous here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is, of course, their obvious glee at putting Jesus on the spot. Secondly, despite their apparent moral clarity that the woman ought to die, the death penalty was not in general enforced for adultery, by them or by anyone else really. There are numerous cases in the Bible itself of people being caught in adultery and not executed, the great King David himself being a prime example (2 Samuel 11 and 12). And the common practice in Jesus’ time was to impose some other punishment (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. ‘Divorce’); in fact, it was illegal under Roman law for them to execute the death penalty (IVP Bible Background Commentary).
- ‘he stooped down again and wrote in the dust’—I go back and forth among picturing Jesus drawing stick figures in the dirt, writing something more profound such as other laws of Moses, or spelling out all the deep hidden secrets of the accusers. I’d love to ask Jesus what he wrote here.
- ‘beginning with the oldest’—as they do a mental scan of Moses’ laws, they recognize that if they start stoning, they’ll keep stoning until no one is left standing. The ones with greater life experience recognize this first.
- ‘Neither do I’—Jesus does what he was sent to do: ‘God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him’ (3:17)
- ‘I am the light of the world’—if the dotted line doesn’t make it clear, the language does. We’re now back to what was written by John.
- ‘you won’t have to walk in darkness’—when Jesus releases the woman, it’s with the words, ‘Go and sin no more.’ I don’t think this is so much a stern warning—’I let you off with a warning this time, but next time I’ll have to stone you’—as it is an invitation. Now that she’s met Jesus, she has new light shining on her life. She doesn’t have to go about life in the same, old stumbling-in-the-dark way.
Taking It Home
- For you: How does it feel when you are in a very dark room? (e.g. it’s hard to see, we keep bumping into things, maybe it’s a little scary). What’s it like when a light is turned on? What makes you happy about the light? Jesus says that he wants to be like the light in a dark room. Are there parts of your life that make you feel like you’re in a dark room: scared or confused or out-of-sorts? Ask Jesus to be just like a flashlight, or nightlight, or bedside lamp, making things brighter, cheerier, and more obvious.
FF Family/Household Option: Discuss the “For you” section.
- For your 6: Just as Jesus silences all of the voices of condemnation accusing the woman caught in adultery, ask Jesus to free your 6 from any condemnation. Whether it’s fear of accusation, an internal sense of accusation, or actual accusation from others in their lives, ask Jesus to protect them and set them free from it.
- For our church: Whatever it is Jesus writes (or draws), he doesn’t get flustered by, caught up in, or distracted by the Pharisees’ complaints and games. Ask Jesus to help our church do the same. Pray that whenever we are faced with such situations that Jesus would help us respond calmly and not get distracted from him.