The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say? John 8:5 (MSG)
The Law Of Moses Says To Stone Her – Written In Dust Series – Part 1
There’s a short, dramatic story in John 8 that people of faith have loved to retell for centuries. It’s about sex and power, law and grace, corruption and freedom. All those things inside eleven verses.
Most likely, you’ve heard the story so many times you could recount it on the spot if asked. And I think most people would say that their favorite scene from the movie “The Passion,” encapsulates what this story is about.
Jesus was teaching in the temple when suddenly a group of Pharisees and Sadducees dragged a woman to the front of the crowd and made her stand alone before him. They said that they had caught her having sex with someone who wasn’t her husband. The Pharisees and Sadducees asked (demanded):
“The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to catch him out, trip him up, have something that they could hold against him. But instead of replying, Jesus bent to the ground and began to write in the dust.
A morbid silence settled over the crowd as one by one, starting with the elders, the men left the tight circle of hostility until the only people left were Jesus and the woman who had been accused of a capital crime.
He stood up from the ground and said to her:
“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
“Neither do I.” He said. “Go and sin no more.”
This small story has had such a huge impact for many people. It seems like such a beautiful story of grace and forgiveness. And it is.
But it's also a story that brings up a lot of questions for the inquisitive reader:
Where was the guy in the adultery equation?
Why were they trying trap Jesus?
Why did Jesus write in the dust?
What did he write in the dust?
And why did that make everyone leave?
And why did the older men leave first?
Why did John include this story, with the details he did, in his memoir?
These questions help us get to the guts of the story, what was really going on, and why grace can sometimes feel like being rescued from a stoning for both the stoner and stonee. This story is going somewhere. It didn’t start the morning that Jesus began to teach in the temple, but almost a week before when the community was celebrating the feast of tabernacles and reading scriptures of old about life and dust and grace…
Written by Lizzy Milani
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