The scene is an incredibly dramatic one. A woman caught in the very act of adultery is dragged into the temple and brought before Jesus. The Pharisees demand that Jesus makes a decision. The Jewish law says she (and the man – there had to be one) are stoned to death, however, only the occupying power of Rome could pass a death sentence.
For the Pharisees, this is a moment of triumph. At last they have trapped Jesus because, whatever He says now, is going to put completely destroy Him. If He agrees and endorses the Law of Moses, then He is on collision course with Rome. If He endorses the rights of the occupying power, He will undermine the Jewish law and be seen as a quisling.
Perfect or, as Mr Burns may say, “excellent”
Well, if you know the story, you will know what happens next. Jesus turns the whole situation round and suggests that those who have no sin have the right to stone her. You can read this story in John’s Gospel chapter 8 verses 1 – 10
I preached on this passage last week in our current sermon series “Grace is Greater”. But, it’s been a story that I have been re-visiting this week. The more I have reflected on it, the more I can see that it is not what Jesus says and does that speaks to me, it is what He doesn’t say and do that challenges me. As I looked at different translations of the story I found one version that said;
But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. (John 8 vs. 6 – New King James Version)
Do you see it too?
Jesus was silent!
And this has led me to reflect on the power of silence. That is what really challenges me in this story. The power of silence.
Jesus is silent at this point and later as He waits for those without sin to “cast the first stone”.
Now, you don’t need me to give you a long ramble on how noisy the world is, you can hear it for yourselves! But, I found myself wondering, why do we find silence so difficult?
Silence can feel oppressive almost to the point when it can be deafening. I have sat in prayer meetings and felt awkward, in those moments of silence when I almost feel as though I have to say something.
Sometimes, we can see silence as an opportunity. A chance to get our voices heard. We can set the tone of a discussion if we grasp the silence.
Perhaps, silence makes us uncomfortable because, we cannot escape the one voice that we all struggle with, our own. It is only in the silence that we can truly hear ourselves and do not always like what we hear.
In the silence we can hear our fears, our weaknesses, our insecurities that have built up through the events of our lives.
But there is something else about silence.
Silence can also be companionable. Comforting. No pressure to speak, or “prove yourself”. It’s in the silence that we can meet our Companion God. He can and does journey with us in the silence of our hearts and takes us deeper into Him;
Deep calls to deep (Psalm 42 vs. 7)
As somebody, very wisely, said;
So, I mean this in the friendliest way possible, shut up!