I confess I like Radio Babylon’s “Coffee with Jesus” comic strip. They have some good points and they get me thinking. This one takes on an event in the eighth chapter of John’s Good News letter about Jesus.
The leaders of the community want to set a trap for Jesus so they manage to catch a woman in the very act of adultery. The whole thing stinks of deception, manipulation, and hypocrisy. Fortunately, Jesus turns the tables on these evil people and saves the woman from certain death. Their conversation concludes:
“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”” John 8:10-11 NLT.
This got me thinking about how we often approach this beautiful passage in John 8. Whenever it comes up in a discussion, there’s always one person who really wants to stress “Go and sin no more.”
But what a minute. Let’s put ourselves in the woman’s shoes. It’s very likely that this woman is the same one who would later take every penny she had to buy ointment that she would use to wash Jesus’ feet. That means it’s very likely she’s Mary, sister of Lazarus and niece of Simon the Pharisee. How did she find herself being accused of adultery and being threatened with death? Evidence suggests that her uncle Simon, led Mary into it and may have even led her to a life of prostitution. That would not have been a life with very many options. Today we know that most prostitutes are not choosing that life because they are licentious, sin-loving, women enjoying the profits of their sin. More often they are in that life through a series of abuses in a society that chews women up and spits them out.
So the one way to look at this is Jesus saves her from being murdered and then says, “Stop being such a screw up.” My initial thought is, that doesn’t make me want to take every penny, buy ointment, and then fall at Jesus’ feet as I weep in gratitude.
But what if we see that sin is much more than the bad things we do? Ultimately sin is being separated from God; alienated, unreconciled, broken. What if we brought this deeper, broader, understanding into this passage?
Jesus saves her from being murdered and then says to this woman who has been abused, manipulated, and then left for dead, “I will never condemn you; never let go of me.” Would that make your heart sing?