Summary: A look at the woman caught in Adultery and how it applies to our lives
Her mind refused to accept what had happening. It had to be a nightmare, it couldn’t be reality. She squeezed her eyes shut knowing that when she opened them everything would be all right and she’d wake up from this horrible dream. On the count of three. One, two, three, she opened her eyes and blinked against the harsh Palestinian sun. The truth sunk in, she was still here, and they were still gathered around her, their eyes reflecting the scorn they felt for her. Her humiliation weighed heavy on her shoulder as she shrunk into herself.
Why had they brought her here, they knew the story, they had already passed judgment on her, why make it worse with public ridicule. Just get it over with, let it be done but do it quickly don’t drag out her suffering any longer.
Then she saw something that see hadn’t seen in a long time, compassion. It was in the eyes of the stranger that they brought her to for Judgment.
Maybe you know the story and maybe you don’t. Ruth read it this morning from the book of John Chapter 8 the first eleven verses. It’s pretty self explanatory, really all you have to do is read it to get a sense of what is happening.
A woman had been caught committing adultery, a sin that was considered a crime under Jewish law. As a matter of fact the Rabbis said "Every Jew must die before he will commit idolatry, murder or adultery." a view that obviously wasn’t shared by everyone. In particular a view that must not have been shared by this woman, at least not in practice.
You’ve either heard the story or you’ve heard the phrase "Cast the first stone" which is the central part of what happened that day. This morning we are going to look at the characters who made up the story.
1) The Accused Let’s start by clearing a couple of things up right away. First you ever get the impression that the woman here was a innocent spectator? You kind of get the idea that she was just standing on the side of the road and they grabbed her and dragged her to Jesus. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this message preached and I’ve always gone away feeling sorry for the woman. Hold it. The woman was an adulteress. The Bible says that she’d been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. Now I don’t know for sure what she was doing in bed with the man who wasn’t her husband but I’d be willing to bet they weren’t playing checkers. Now in 1998 Adultery may not seem all that serious, after all most of us probably know at least one adulterer or adulteress, but in Jesus day it was a pretty dangerous accusation.
The second impression that you get from hearing some of these sermons was that she was just caught in the act right then and dragged from the scene and thrown at the feet of Jesus sans clothing or as they’d say in Australia Starkers mate. Well the scripture does tell us that she had been caught in the actual act, but it doesn’t even imply that it had just happened. So we probably should presume, because we don’t know any different that the woman was fully clothed and her husband or her partners wife or whoever had caught them, had reported them to the powers that be and now action was being taken.
The third impression that you get is that the man got away with it. You hear preachers asking that question "Where was the man"? And then saying things like "She couldn’t have been alone" As if this was some grand conspiracy where only the woman involved in adultery was punished. And then the preachers start speculating that the person that she had been caught with was one of the religious leaders or someone important.
Maybe, but according to one source the Mishnah, or Jewish codified law states the penalty for adultery would be strangulation and it even lays down the method. It says "A soft towel set within a rough towel is to be placed around his neck (in order that no mark may be made, for the punishment is God’s punishment). Then one man draws in one direction and another in the other direction until he be dead." It then reiterates that death by stoning is the penalty for a a girl who is betrothed and then commits adultery. So, maybe the guy had already paid the price.
We know nothing else about this woman other then the bare facts laid down in John’s narrative. She was caught in adultery and was being sentenced. There was no defense for her, she couldn’t appeal to a higher court. She had started writing the story and her accusers would finish it for her. As a Jewish woman, in a Jewish culture, raised in a knowledge of the Jewish law she would have known the consequences of her actions. We might ignore the words of the law laid down in the Old Testament but for her that wouldn’t have been an option so she would have know that Leviticus 20:10 said If any of you men have sex with another man’s wife, both you and the woman will be put to death. When she started down that path, she would have know the ultimate destination if she got caught. She may very well have thought that she wouldn’t get caught but she knew what the law dictated would happen if she did get caught.