From This Moment On
‘Jesus and the woman taken in adultery’ is proclaimed in John 8. Brendan Byrne S.J. calls it a ‘precious gem’ (Life Abounding, 144).
In his commentary, Raymond E. Brown alerts us to the Lucan and Johannine characteristics of the narrative:
Its succinct expression of the mercy of Jesus is as delicate as anything in Luke. Its portrayal of Jesus as the serene judge has all the majesty that we would expect of John (John I-XIII, 336).
According to Deuteronomy 22: 22-24, adultery was a capital offense. Both man and woman were to be stoned to death, with the accuser to throw the first stone. Primitive societies reasoned that if you committed ‘deadly’ sins, then you were as good as dead.
Where is the man who was caught in the act of adultery? The answer lies in the text itself. They were not interested in justice, but rather ‘asked Jesus as a test, looking for something to use against him.’ The woman is a ‘pawn in their scheme’ (Life Abounding, 143).
This gospel scene is truly a ‘precious gem.’
Notice that Jesus is on his knees. The woman and the crowd are standing. They question Jesus, but he answers them not. They persist. He responds in his usual dialogical manner:
If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again.
One by one they leave. Jesus is left alone – still on his knees – with the woman, who is standing.
How vulnerable Jesus is – kneeling before the crowd.
How humble Jesus is – kneeling before the woman.
Jesus ‘looks up’ and asks: ‘Has no one condemned you?’ She responds, ‘No one, Lord.’
‘Neither do I condemn you, go, and from this moment on do not sin again.’
The, ‘from this moment on,’ must be retained in the text:
From this moment on, the moment of her encounter with Jesus, he offers her the double possibility of a new life (Maloney, The Gospel of John, 262).
Not only has her life been spared, but she is now entering into the life of a right, beautiful relationship with Jesus.
She has encountered Jesus. She has been forgiven, renewed.
‘From this moment on,’ everything is suddenly different for her.
Is it possible that we, too, ‘from this moment on,’ will find things to be radically different?