Where Is the Man? Part One

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

The following is 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. The second half of the story will be posted next Thursday.


The two men in expensive robes looked very out of place in the darkest part of the back streets, but they were not afraid. Their robes and their attitude let everyone know who they were. No one would dare harm them, even at night.

“Do we understand one another?”

“Yes, separate one. I understand perfectly.”

One of the robed men tossed a few coins into the shadows of a doorway. As they turned to walk away he called back over his shoulder.

“Don't be late. And don't disappoint me!”

They walked quickly through the alleys with the sleeves of their robes pressed over their noses and mouths. The man who had thrown the coins said to his companion, “A most distasteful business, I must say.”


Jesus came early to the temple the next morning to continue his discussions with a small crowd of people made up mostly of tradesmen from the streets of Jerusalem. They were thrilled that this exciting young rabbi seemed to enjoy teaching regular people. Soon they were knotted around Jesus and engaged in a passionate discussion of the Torah and its interpretation.

Their conversation was interrupted by the panicked shrieks of a woman. All heads turned at the same time to see a group of about ten men pushing their way through the crowd and up to the front where Jesus stood. These were important and very religious men, some of them scholars and officials of the Temple. Others were Pharisees, respected and wealthy men who took pride in keeping themselves away from sinners.

The townspeople around Jesus parted respectfully, allowing the men to the front. Two were dragging a woman along with them. They thrust her violently toward Jesus, and the crowd drew back further when they saw her.

The woman stood with her head down and her hair covering most of her face. Her shoulders were hunched inward with shame, and she was desperately holding a tattered robe around her body. Her feet were bare and her hair was dirty. She was disheveled and confused, and she was not properly covered. A glimpse of her thigh was visible through a fold in the cloth. Under her chin the robe sagged, revealing her collar bone.

One of the Pharisees stepped boldly forward and spoke directly to Jesus. “Honored Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.”

He paused and looked around at the crowd for effect before repeating himself loudly.

“In the VERY ACT! Her guilt is beyond question. We bear witness to it. Now the law of Moses says that we should stone her here and now. But of course, with Jesus here at the temple today, we are fortunate to have an expert opinion on matters of the Law. We wouldn't want to act hastily. After all, a woman's life is at stake.”

He cocked his head slightly and stretched his arm out toward Jesus with his palm up.

“So I ask you, rabbi, what do YOU say we should do?”

He said the word “rabbi” with mock intensity, drawing it out until it almost sounded like an insult.

Jesus looked at the group of religious men before him. They met his gaze without looking the slightest bit uncomfortable or unsure of themselves. He turned his head and looked at the small crowd of people who moments before had been listening to him teach and asking questions. They were all looking at him now. Some of them were nodding to each other as if to say, “Yes, I'd like to know what Jesus says about a terrible thing like this.”

Then Jesus turned his eyes to the woman who stood trembling before them all. His eyes moved slowly over her, picking up details that told him something of her story.

She was a woman of the streets; that seemed obvious. She looked hard and desperate. The bottoms of her feet were calloused and thickened, as were the fingers clutching the edges of her cheap robe. She had known hard labor, and the life she now lived made her harder still. Her hair was dirty and there was straw in it. It looked as if someone had thrown her to the ground, tossed the robe at her, and given her a few seconds to make herself presentable.

But something was wrong here. Something was missing. Something nagged at the blurry edges of his awareness, something he couldn't quite put his finger on.

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 Conclusion will be posted next Thursday.

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