The Adulterous Woman + Experiential Salvation
In this Gospel, we are read about the objectification of a woman, a story that is all too familiar throughout history. We follow Jesus from his quiet time of prayer , to teaching in the temple, to this very messy, and somewhat crazy situation.
In this short story, taken from Handmaid Issue #1 ponder on what it must have been like for this woman.
There she was in the shadow of darkness shoved violently to the ground staring at the bubbles of sand encapsulating her fallen tears. Fear had seized her and everything around her seemed to encourage her death. The crowd jeered and shouted, hands waved back and forth. One of the elders said something and they all roared in unity. In their alliance and common meeting of minds some violently agreed while the scribes nodded slowly, saddened by the unfortunate series of events but confident in their judgement. The angry faces of young men shouting and women talking between themselves hovered over her. Onlookers seemed both interested and indifferent as they stood by for a brief moment before carrying on their way. She tried desperately to catch her breath through her sobbing, to breath through the unbearable heat, and breath through the noise that thickened the air. She could see children on the periphery blankly staring at her, wondering what she had done to make so many people angry. She tried to cover her face. Someone shoved her and she gasped, brought her hands down swiftly having thought it was a stone. Her eyes darted from left to right , she slowly brought a hand over her mouth as she tried to muffle the wails of agony and wipe the sweat. She wanted the children to stop looking at her, she wondered where the first stone was going to hit her. She so desperately wanted the humiliation to end and just like that, death didn’t seem so bad.
‘If there is one of you who has not sinned let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’
Jesus who is the only one without sin, and therefore the only one who could throw a stone at the woman, doesn’t. In fact he challenges the Pharisees approach to the Law.
He takes the focus away from the woman and draws attention to himself. In her most terrified and shame filled moment, His boldness and compassion is her covering.
The Pharisees were not too concerned with the sin of the woman, they were obsessed with the law. Jesus however is concerned with sin. He’s concerned because he cares. He doesn’t condone her sin but he doesn’t condemn her either.
Jesus knows what it feels like to be rejected and shunned as we can see in the previous chapter of John’s Gospel. In his revelation of Christ, he sees people as people, and doesn’t label them according to their sin.
He walked out, and he walked the earth looking for people, and when he met someone he approached them in their suffering and he acknowledged their suffering, he responded to it, whether it was leprosy, the death of a daughter, or if they were a prostitute… whatever it was he addressed it. But Jesus saw that the root of their suffering was not their leprosy or their whatever it is, Jesus saw that they were thinking they were what was wrong with them. That they were a walking mistake or that their suffering had the power to name who they were. So Jesus sees the suffering, sees through the suffering to who they are in him before the origins of the universe, like ‘I know you, I know you’ and reflected in his eyes they see their true face before they were born which is experiential salvation, that taste of experiential salvation, that deathless identity ,that trans subjective communion of oneness with God revealed in Christ, is the Christ-nature and to the power of the Spirit who dwells in my heart.
James Finley excerpt from Christian Contemplative Meditation
We see the pharisees using the ‘woman caught in adultery’ to trap Jesus. They wanted to see if Jesus would encourage the breaking of the law of Moses. Instead we see Jesus reclaiming the dignity of the woman, addressing her as he did his mother at the cross.
He asks her ‘Woman,where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?’
Perhaps he wanted her to open her eyes and see that there was no one there, maybe he knew she would be condemning herself.
‘Then Jesus said unto her neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.’
Jesus restores her power, haven given her the compassion and love that allows her to see her true identity. Compassion over condemnation leads us to true repentance. Condemnation fills us with shame, covering us in a fog unable to see our true-selves and God. Compassion however gives us the room to see ourselves and to see God.
I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.
In what ways do you condemn yourself and others?
What would the compassion of God towards you look like?
As you move towards Easter consider moments were Christ has been reflected back to you this Lent.
By Charlene Ogu