Where Is The Man: Conclusion

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

The following is the conclusion of a dramatic retelling of John 8:1-11. All of the interpretation I might have worked into a sermon is presented in the imagination behind this narrative.

Jesus slowly lowered himself into a squatting position, eyes still on the woman. Then he looked at the ground before him and wrote with his finger in the dust as he thought and wondered. The crowd was quiet. They stared at him and wondered what he was going to do next.

And then he froze. His index finger stopped moving in the dirt. He understood. He knew what was missing. His eyes closed and he let the air out of his lungs with a groan. His shoulders sagged. He became intent on the ground before him, and he wrote in the dirt, “Where is the man?”

He stood quickly and stepped across what he had written and toward the Pharisee who seemed to be the ringleader. He spoke directly to him, but loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Where is the man?”

“What man?”

“You know what man. It does take two to commit adultery. Why have you not brought him here to face justice alongside her?”

The Pharisee's face tightened with anger. “The whereabouts of the man are not your concern here today. You call yourself a rabbi, do you not? We have come to you with a legitimate question of the law and of justice. Answer please, honored rabbi. What is to be done with this adulteress who stands before you in obvious guilt? Answer and perhaps we shall talk about the man when we are done with her.”

Jesus narrowed his eyes and stepped forward again until he was standing right in the face of the Pharisee. Years of carpentry work had made Jesus strong. He had broad shoulders and rough hands. But the Pharisee was unafraid. There could be no greater triumph for him than if Jesus were to strike him down.

But Jesus made no violent move toward him. Instead, he spoke softly in a voice that only the two of them could hear.

“You set this up, didn't you? Yes, of course you did. How does one catch a woman in the very act of adultery, I wonder? How unless he knows ahead of time when it is going to take place. How much did you pay him? I wonder how a man like you even knows how to find people who will do things like this.”

The Pharisee looked calm and spoke in a whisper. “The crowd awaits your answer, rabbi.”

Jesus turned and took three steps back to the side of the woman who had not moved or lifted her head. Her hair still screened her face, perhaps giving her some small feeling of privacy. Jesus stood for a few moments looking at the place in the dirt where he had written “Where is the man?”

Then he addressed the crowd in a loud voice.

“You have called me rabbi, and I willingly accept that title and all that goes with it. You have come to hear my judgment in this matter. Very well, my judgment I will give as long as you pledge to honor it.”

The ringleader squinted and looked suspicious, but the other religious leaders and many in the crowd were nodding in agreement. What he said seemed fair enough.

Jesus bent down and picked up a fist-sized rock. He bobbed it up and down in his hand, feeling its weight, and then he spoke again.

“This is what I say. She is guilty, so stone her according to the Law of Moses. Yes, stone her now and let God's justice be done!”

The woman screamed in terror, and the crowd exploded into frantic whispers. Everyone was talking at once. The Pharisee who had asked Jesus for judgment smiled. He had not expected such an easy and complete victory.

Many in the crowd were shocked and uncomfortable. Although the Law of Moses indeed specified this penalty for her offense, public stoning was rare and frowned on by the Roman government. Many would say that stoning was right, but few had the stomach to cast stones themselves. No one knew how to proceed. Even the religious leaders who brought this woman to Jesus did not think that he would say such a thing. Jesus was supposed to be an advocate of mercy for common people. He was known to associate and even eat with women like this.

Jesus used the confusion of the crowd to maximum effect. He slowly raised the rock over his head and faced the woman. The crowd became silent. All eyes were on him. Then Jesus turned to the man in the fancy robe, the Pharisee.

“You have heard my judgment. Now hear my terms. Let the first man to cast a stone be a man who is himself guilty of no sin! And let him come forward now, before us all, and claim his right to take this rock and carry out this justice.”

With that Jesus hurled the rock at the feet of the ringleader. It hit the ground with a loud thud. Then Jesus squatted back down and resumed writing in the dust by the feet of the woman.

The crowd was stunned. Many stood with their mouths hanging open. Some of the townspeople, empowered by Jesus, nodded in agreement. After a few moments everyone began leave. Some of the religious leaders melted into the crowd and left as well.

Jesus never looked up. He kept his eyes on the ground as the crowd dispersed. In the end, the only one left was the man who had brought the accusation. Feeling his power slipping away, he turned and left himself, uttering a barely audible oath as he walked away.

Jesus squatted in silence beside the woman. When he looked up they were alone. He rose to his feet and spoke to her.

“Daughter of Abraham, lift up your head and look around you.”

“I cannot.”

“Then lift up your eyes at least and see who condemns you now.”

Slowly, the woman's hand pulled her matted hair away from her eyes. She looked around, amazed to find that there was no one left but her and Jesus.

“Who is left to condemn you?”

“No one, sir.”

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go your way and be at peace.”

She pulled her robe more tightly around her shoulders, dropped her hair into her eyes again, and began to walk away.

“Daughter of Abraham. I have something to say to you before you go.”

She stopped, but she did not turn around or look up.

“Your name is worth more than this; do not dishonor it. Your life is worth more than this; do not waste it.”

The woman made a slight move with her head that might have been a nod, then started to walk again. Jesus spoke one last time.

“Daughter of Abraham, YOU are worth more than this. Go now and sin no more in this fashion. Be instead the child of God that you were meant to be.”

This time her shoulders shuddered and a soft sob was heard. She ran and disappeared around a corner.

Jesus watched her go and whispered softly to himself, “Go, daughter of Abraham. Go and live your life, for we are all worth more than this.”

Photo by Trig::Photographie. Used by permission, via Flickr. Post by Gordon Atkinson.