Daily Readings in John – Day Twenty-Six
November 2, 2017
John 7:53-8:11 (NRSV)
53 Then each of them went home, 8 1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
In Ken Follett’s sprawling historical novel, Fall of Giants, we meet a character named Billy with Jesus. He picks up this nickname when as a young teenager, he’s left alone for hours in a mine shaft, deep under the earth, in total darkness. Not knowing whether he’d ever see the light again, he has this strange sense that he is not alone, that Jesus is with him. From then on, he’s Billy with Jesus.
Billy grows up and he, along with his conservative Welsh church-going community, learns that his older sister is pregnant, before getting married. As in the woman brought before Jesus in today’s passage, in the community in Follett’s novel, only the woman is put on trial. The man who impregnated her is nowhere to be found. Billy watches as his family’s church community shames and expels his sister from their church.
In a service where men are allowed to share a testimony, read a scripture, or lead out in hymn-singing, Billy reads today’s passage, the start of John 8. “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After he reads the passage, Billy closes his Bible and leaves the church, never to return.
Billy with Jesus leaves the church because he doesn’t find the grace and love and kindness of Jesus there.
All of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, will acknowledge that we are not without sin. We have in various ways lost sight of what is good and true and beautiful. We have diminished ourselves and others and our God, through words said and unsaid, things done and undone.
Jesus, we discover, is a calm and non-anxious presence with us in our sin. He is still and quiet and composed, not inclined to punish or shame, but to see us free.
May we know this real Jesus today, and may we become like him.