When I teach academic writing, I constantly emphasize to my students one principle: if you want to convince your audience, you need to develop your examples. If people are on your side, they won’t require much convincing—you are, in effect, preaching to the choir. If your goal is to convince those who are disinclined to see your point of view, you have to convince them. To do, you need to present a solid case. You cannot make this case without providing your examples/reasons and then developing these examples so that the point is clear. That way, even if they don’t agree with you, at least they understand your position.
Sometimes, this is all you can ask from your audience.
Each of the Gospels approaches the life of Jesus in a slightly different way. John tends to pick and choose which examples from Jesus’ life to explore, but the ones he does include, he tends to really develop these scenes/examples. The depth here does a pretty good job of establishing why—if you haven’t yet been convinced—why Jesus attracted such a strong following.
One of these examples is especially interesting because it apparently does not appear in the “earliest and most reliable manuscripts” of the Bible: 7:53-8:11. I’m not sure if that invalidates its inclusion in the edition I have but it seems a pretty significant story to include.
While teaching in the temple courts, the teachers of the law and Pharisees bring in a woman who was caught in an act of adultery. They were looking to see how Jesus would respond when they asked: The Old Law says we stone her. Should we? (8:4-5). Jesus began writing in the ground with his finger (apparently the only scene that shows him writing anything) and then he eventually responds to their question: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (8:7). He returned to writing. This challenge sends everyone away, until the only two left are Jesus and the woman. He then asks her if anyone has condemned her. With no one left, she says no. He says then he doesn’t either, and sends her on her way.
The message seems clear. First, even though laws/rules are in place (The Old Testament), who is available to enforce them? How can someone stand in judgment of a person when he himself is imperfect? Second, Jesus puts a stop to people in power who seem all too eager to punish people; in this case, only the woman is present, not also the man responsible. The teachers may be thinking they are merely enforcing a hard line in respect to the laws; yet Jesus is the one with the hard line: These laws are too harsh. How can you expect people not to make mistakes?
Clearly, people responded to the reason and compassion that Jesus demonstrated towards people. By drawing out this scene, this becomes more clear than if it were shorter. Now I don’t know when this part was added (or why it might have been omitted from older texts) but it seems a wonderful example of why people shouldn’t go around judging others. If this section were really embraced, would people who constantly roadblock gay rights with the Bible think twice?
He sends her away and says “Sin no more”.