Straightening up

This morning while reading the account of the women caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11) I noticed that Jesus was sitting when the Pharisees approached him with the unnamed woman.

Jesus had sat down to teach – as was the custom for teachers in his day. The seated Jesus is the teacher, the one with authority.

But as the Pharisees try to entrap him to condemn the woman to death, he bends over and writes in the dust. But as they kept on asking him, “he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.'”

Then he bent over again. And the Pharisees quietly slipped away – beginning with the oldest.

Jesus is left alone with the woman – though there may have been others looking on.

What happens next is surprising. He “straightens up” – or, as The Christian Community Bible translates it, he “stands up.” The Greek word can mean either “to straighten up” or “to stand up.”

Jesus treats the unnamed woman as a person to be addressed personally, as he treated the religious leaders. He doesn’t speak to her in a condescending way, without looking at her.

He treats her as a person – not as a tool in an ideological battle.

Can we today begin to treat all people – sinners like ourselves, but caught in sin – as real persons, loved by Jesus, worthy of dialogue and discussion?

Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Jesus frees her to begin anew, not held bound by condemnation or her past.

“Go in peace,” he might have meant, “free to live without sin, free to live without a condemnation hanging over your life. Live as a daughter of God.”


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