Standing Naked Before God: the Woman Caught in Adultery
- Eva Marie Everson Featured Writer, Crosswalk.com
- 2006 12 Jul
The following article is part of a continuing series on "Ah-Ha! Moments" in the Bible.
I love ah-ha moments. I expect them literally every time I read from the Word. You see, God is not like man when it comes to what He says. Or, I should say, not like me. He doesn’t waste His words. So every book, every chapter, every verse, every word of His Word has been spoken and then written for a purpose.
Would you like to explore one of those ah-ha moments with me now?
A Look Back
In two earlier installments of “Ah-Ha” we looked at Eve (who literally stood naked before God) and Sarah (whose thoughts were exposed to God as though her very mind was naked before Him). We explored what it means to truly stand naked before God, whether naked in our skin, naked in our sin, or naked in our thoughts and emotions. Above all, we learned there is little we can hide from Him.
The Woman Caught In Adultery
It was the Feast of Tabernacles. In the time of Jesus, every good Jewish man and woman went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, which commemorates the time their ancestors had lived in tents as they wandered in the wilderness. Agriculturally, Sukkot (as it is also called) is a harvest festival, sometimes referred to as the Festival of Ingathering.
Just before the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall of the year before His crucifixion, Jesus was laying low when it came to Judea because of those who were already wishing Him dead. But when Sukkot (pronounced sue-COAT) rolled around, He quietly returned to Jerusalem.
Once there, Jesus remained in the shadows, not making much of a fuss so as not to cause any problems or arouse any disturbances. But halfway through the week-long celebration, He went into the temple and began to teach. The people were impressed; the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were incensed.
They decided to trick the Lord. Somehow (and I often wonder how) they knew of a woman who was — at that very moment — committing the act of adultery. The scripture reads:
They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
The Great and Wise Teacher
It was a trick. You see in Jesus’ day, a Jew had no say in the corporal punishment of such a crime. That was Rome’s job. So, if Jesus said “stone her” He would have been jutting his jaw at the Roman’s. Not a good move.
But if Jesus had said not to stone her, it would have seemed as though He was flagrantly disregarding the Law, in spite of the fact that the woman’s accusers were taking only the part of the law they wanted to use as their accusation. (The law actually required both parties in the sin be executed, though “stoning” is not specified unless the woman was a betrothed virgin.)
Jesus was not buying into their scheme. He wasn’t going to play Bible Baseball with them either. Here stood a woman — I imagine face-down in her shame and scarcely clothed — surrounded by men in the temple of Jerusalem during one of its busiest times, sukkot.
Wonder What He Wrote
It remains a mystery of the Bible. Rather than speak His answer, Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground, using his finger. Then He stood and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Then He stopped and wrote on the ground again.
The accusers dispersed.
We don’t know what Jesus wrote, but let’s just imagine that He wrote their names. “If any one of you....”
Then, let’s imagine that when He knelt down again to resume writing, He began to finger-pen a list of sins...their sins.
“...is without sin...”
Standing there, draped in all their religious and fabric finery, they were before Him in as naked a form as they’d ever been. Their sins had been exposed.
The Ah-ha Moment
There are two ah-ha moments within this story.
- When God wrote the Law on the tablets for Moses to bring to the people, He wrote them with His finger. As the teachers of that very Law were attempting to trick Jesus, the author of the Law, He knelt down and wrote in the same manner.
- If the woman was caught in the very act of adultery, she was — in my opinion — most likely scarcely clothed. (Maybe they allowed her to grab a robe or a sheet from the bed, I don’t know.) Either way, I can’t imagine for the life of me that Jesus would have let her remain that way for long. Perhaps he took his outer garment off and wrapped her in it. Perhaps He stood — as her gallant Savior — in front of her, hiding her from the crowd.
When her accusers were no longer there, Jesus spoke to her for the first time. Whether they were alone or if His disciples were standing close-by, it must have felt as though there were no other people in the world, much less at the temple. The woman was standing, Jesus was still kneeling.
And then He stood and turned to her. “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” He asked her.
“No one,” she answered. And she called him “Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn you,” he told her.
Do you ever wonder why? Perhaps for all the nakedness of her sin, what Jesus knew that the accusers did not, was the condition of her heart, the circumstances of her situation, and — more importantly — where she was spiritually at that very moment. “Lord,” she called him. Kurios, in the Greek, meaning, “Messiah.”
“Go and leave your life of sin,” he concluded.
Understood rather than condemned. Saved rather than stoned. Sin exposed yet covered in His love.
What about you?
Award-winning national speaker Eva Marie Everson is a graduate of Andersonville Theological Seminary. Her work includes the just released Sex, Lies, and the Media (Cook) and The Potluck Club; Trouble’s Brewing (Baker/Revell) She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.evamarieeverson.com