Fifth Sunday of Lent | They Made Her Stand in the Middle

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Today’s Readings
Reflexión en Español

Today’s Gospel is often called, “The Woman Caught in Adultery.”  Yet, a line now leaps out for me: “They made her stand in the middle.” The crowd of men forced her to stand in the midst of an angry mob who wanted to kill her. It wasn’t enough to execute her in a way calculated to inflict unimaginable pain. They wanted to shame her, to parade her as a wanton transgressor of male property rights—for that is how “adultery” was commonly defined at this time. (Which is probably why she alone is singled out for punishment, even though it takes two to commit this act).

The violence of the passage intensifies as we see that her public humiliation was only a means to another end: to get at Jesus and bring a charge against him. The emotional abuse and physical violence against this woman is but the pretext to find some way to threaten a man who dared to live outside of the bounds prescribed by his faith and culture.

This Gospel’s traditional title fixates on the woman’s wrong-doing, leading many preachers to focus on the dangers of uncommitted sex and Jesus’s final exhortation, “From now on, do not sin anymore.” But this misses the more insidious brokenness of a society and faith that would sacrifice a woman’s well-being to shore up the value of men and enforce proper male behavior.

The renowned theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, notes that the problem is not that Jesus was a man, but that more men are not like Jesus. Jesus is a model of authentic masculinity. He invites women to see themselves in a light other than what a broken society and faith reflect to them. He challenges men to value women as genuine equals. His spirit inspires the “new things” that God is doing through movements that strive for more just societies that foster the well-being of all, regardless of gender.

3 replies
  1. Denis Khan
    Denis Khan says:

    Jesus Wrote on the ground.’(John8:6 -8). This is the only time when Jesus wrote. What did Jesus Write? Tradition tells us that Jesus Wrote in the Quabbalah language. The sins of every accuser were written on the ground. When the accuser read the writing, he read, ‘You are guilty of this sin. If you cast the stone, before the stone reaches her you will die.’ This led to all the accusers discarding their stones and walking away.

  2. Barbara Schultz
    Barbara Schultz says:

    What if it was a case of mistaken identity, or an angry husband and she never did what she was accused of. We never hear her side of the story. Only the men are believed.


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