“I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him.” [C.S. Lewis ‘The Silver Chair’]
There is a crowd. A mob, if you will. Kind of gives the imagery to me [internally at least] of the angry townsfolk armed with flaming torches and pitchforks storming the castle seeking the Frankenstein monster. Nothing can get in their way. Because they are an angry mob.
And so it is with this poor woman. Who, like the Frankenstein monster, is never given a name [Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created him]. And like the monster, has been turned into this creature of shame, who has committed this evil act and must be brutally killed.
Enter Jesus, stage left…
John 8. 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I suspect we lose a lot of the story by not being able to fully relate to or comprehend the times this was set in. Public stoning of adulterers is not something we have too much of an understanding of. And we know this is a trap to try and take down Jesus [and, as in the way Jesus deals with every attempt that is brought His way, we see His Aslan’ness – He is safe, but not tame – every single time the person who set the trap slinks away with their tail between their legs, shamed and caught out].
What I really enjoy about this story is like the opening Lewis quote – Jesus commands the attention of the crowd but not by loud noise or big action – simply by His Presence. You quickly get the feeling that all eyes are on Him. And then He slows it all down by asking the question that stops them all in their tracks. And then by bending down to write some mystery words on the ground.
One thing this does is it takes the crowd’s attention away from the woman caught in sin. And directs people’s attention to their own hearts. Oh wait, that’s me. Whoops. Oh dear. Um… cheque please!
One interesting thing I just now picked up on [and it is possibly more an internal thing than external, although you may have been able to visualise this to some extent if you were there] is how the posture is reversed. The woman is brought in shamed, face down, slinking in and humiliated while the crowd and the accusers stand tall and defiant, feeling justified and ready to catch this Jesus guy.
Then there is an encounter with Aslan Jesus. It is quiet. And gentle. And direct.
Suddenly the crowd are quiet. Their heads are bowed down. They are the ones slinking away, one by one. Their shame has been made apparent. Then Jesus puts the attention back on the woman, now that it is only Him and her. God’s gaze is fixed on the broken, trembling creation. He speaks words of life to her. Words that restore her dignity. And direct her towards a better way of living. And she walks away head up, confident, feeling loved and restored and feeling the hope that a second chance holds out.
What is really powerful about this story echoes the dual nature of the lion in the Narnia series – good, but not tame.
There is a statement that God loves you so very much, that He refuses to let you settle for being in that place when there is a better place to be.
So I love you completely but go and sin no more. I created you for so much more than this. Keep walking with Me and drawing on the power of My Spirit and you will continue to be changed and grown towards the perfect creation I intended you to become.