The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
John 7:53-8:11 is one of just a few passages in John’s Gospel over which the origin is in dispute. There are fairly compelling reasons based on manuscript evidence to think that the passage may not have been in the earliest versions of the Fourth Gospel, or at that it may have originally existed in a different location.
Rather than becoming fixated on such questions of text tradition, I prefer to urge my students to consider whether Jesus is reported as doing or saying anything out of character in the passage. Whether this paragraph was originally in this location is a matter of less consequence than the orthodoxy of the theology expressed. What happens here?
Jesus is teaching in the area of the temple. This is altogether in character. Pharisees bring a woman to him, caught in the act of adultery. This is also altogether believable. Though it is surprising that they did not bring the man involved, which would have been expected, that would be more of a sign of fairness than is usually shown around Jesus.The woman is devastated. She fully expects to be stoned to death. She admits to being involved in sin. Again, there is nothing out of place in this situation.
Rather than issuing a decree either condemning or exonerating the woman, Jesus allows some time. The people who have accused the woman, if they are free of guilt, are to throw the first stone. Wisely and honestly, the men leave one by one. Finally, Jesus releases the woman, telling her she needs to stop sinning as well.
If we are honest, we know our sin. All are proclaimed guilty in light of the perfect holiness of God. Rather than condemn and destroy the world, Jesus gives some time. He allows the conviction of the Holy Spirit to drive us to repentance. When we approach him as repentant sinners, he gives his forgiveness and cautions us against further sin.
Lord, give us repentance.
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