John Chapter 8 is, in my opinion, one of the most stunning, jaw dropping chapters in the Bible. Bookended by two attempted stonings is an eye opening conversation between Jesus and a group of Jews who had begun to believe in Him. That is, until Jesus began to show them the truth that would set them free. Because they didn’t want to be set free free by the truth Jesus would show (neither do we – Jack Nicholson was right in A Few Good Men), and the chapter finishes like this – “So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” John 8:59 ESV.
The chapter begins, famously, with the scene of the woman caught in adultery.
Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? The Pharisees were right. Not kinda right. Not sorta right. They were 100% right. You can read Deuteronomy 22:13-30 for the details of who should be stoned for sleeping with whom, including the specific verse related here – “”If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” Deuteronomy 22:22 ESV. Of course, I suppose the man in this case was very quick and hard to catch, because they only brought the woman to Jesus to stone to death. Either way, yes, the Torah, the Bible, says very clearly that this woman was to be stoned to death, a punishment also warranted by blasphemy (one of the charges against Jesus at his own trial), witchcraft, sabbath breaking (see Numbers 15 if memory serves me correctly), and rebelling against ones parents (guess they didn’t much care for teenagers!).
So, here’s something to think about – why were all these people to be stoned to death? Even in these ancient times, we had much cleaner, quicker, better ways of killing people than a group of people standing and throwing rocks at someone condemned until they be dead, dead, dead. One thing we’ve always been efficient at as human beings is killing other people.
One advantage of stoning is that it involves the entire community in the killing. The second advantage is that every individual involved in the killing can declare himself innocent. Everyone throws a rock, so everyone participates in the community killing. But every individual can tell himself that “I didn’t kill anyone, I just threw one lousy rock!”
What’s really going on here? Why stoning? Because here’s the truth – stoning (which still occurs today) is a way for an entire community to participate in collective murder and lie to itself about it. Collective murder, the lies we tell about it, and the buried bodies who’s blood cries out from the ground. Every participant can go to sleep that night because, hey, “I didn’t kill her!!”
It’s why everyone at a stoning must throw a rock! If you are at a stoning and don’t participate by throwing a rock of your own, you are now in danger of being stoned yourself. (Think I’m wrong? Don’t you remember what happened to the bullied victims on the playground? You had better participate, or you’ll be next!). For the community to maintain its illusion of innocence, all members must participate. If you don’t participate in throwing a rock, you are shining a light into their darkness, and the community must either repent or turn its stones on you. “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” John 3:19 ESV. What do you think happens most often (or almost always!)? That’s why they brought her to Jesus, and His timeless response “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” They wanted Jesus to endorse their practice of collective murder, but He refused. It was biblical, but it was not Christ-ian. It was of the Bible, but NOT of the Kingdom of God which the Son of God was enacting.
Think about that for a moment. Or a day. Or a year.
“Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
John 8:2-11 ESV