Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year C.

Jn 8: 1 – 11

Father, you wait for us until we are open to you.
We wait for your Word to make us receptive.
Attune us to your voice, to your silence.
Speak and bring your Son to us – Jesus – the Word of your peace.

It is important that you now read the text once or twice so that you are familiar with what John has written. Pay particular note  ALL to the characters in the story.

In verse 2 we are told the Jesus, “sat down and taught”. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say to the people. How he structures the lesson. We might even call it a sermon.

His audience turns out to be a cross-section of society. The Pharisees arrive, full of indignation and self-righteousness, with a woman caught committing adultery.  The woman is obviously the victim of a setup. Why else would the man be missing?  Their malice towards Jesus is obvious. They have little concern for public morals. Their concern is to get Jesus. They quite happily lie when they quote the Law. Yes they quote it correctly but only half of the text. They leave out the part that lays down that the man should also be stoned. Look at the cruel way they treat the woman publically exposing her for their own vicious ends.

Then there is the crowd and of course many of Jesus’ disciples would have been present, including the apostles.  Twice we read that Jesus “bent down”.  There was quite a lot of bending down done that morning.  Just look at those openly picking up rocks.  Others at the back did so rather more furtively. Not one of the “crowd” came to her defence. Not one person spoke up demanding that the man be produced. Nobody questioned the obvious injustice. People sin by what they do not do.

The values of the Pharisees, crowd, disciples, placed the Law above the well-being of the person. There was no place for compassion. The institution was far important than mercy and concern for the victim.

Oh, yes, the woman had sinned. She had committed adultery.

What about that sermon/teaching that Jesus was giving? The only thing he has to say is, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Twice he we read, “He bent down and wrote on the ground.” We have no idea what he wrote and any suggestions are pure guess work. However he is conveying an important truth about our God. Our God, if he records our sins, writes them down in the sand. That being the case the record is not going to last very long. Our God does not have a computer that remembers every last mistake we have made. Do not forget the final lesson. “Do not sin anymore.”

Jesus does not say one word of condemnation of anyone. The only thing he says is, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Every single person went away, one by one. They go away accepting responsibility for their wrong-doing. No longer do they hide their sinfulness (for whatever reason) under the cloak of “pious virtue”.

10Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  11She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.

As Jesus “straightened up” we can see the same thing happening to the woman.  This battered, abused, humiliated, non-person has her dignity restored.  She becomes a person again. Jesus addresses her politely and she responds in like manner, “No one, sir.”

Jesus reaction to sin is to heal, to restore self-esteem, respect the person, to bring us to repent.  Consider all the people who went away healed; the Pharisees, the crowd, the disciples, the apostles and the woman.

One can almost hear each person hearing the gentle,
“Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Can you hear Jesus saying to you,
“Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

Some sermon!!

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