Scripture: John 8:2-11
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.”
Main Point: Even though Jesus has the power to condemn us for our shady behavior, we are instead offered forgiveness. This means we should also be willing to forgive others and not harshly judge people for their past actions.
Learning Game: Coup (25 minutes)
This is a quick playing card game based on deception and calling people’s bluffs. The goal of the game is to be the last person standing. The game plays up to six. With the expansion it can go to ten, but doing so adds complexity. For the purposes of this lesson it would work best to have multiple copies of the game going at the same time. Coup can be purchased for websites like Amazon for $13-15.
In Coup each player is dealt two role cards, and these cards also function as their lives. On a player’s turn they will always take one action. A couple of actions like income (take one money) and coup (pay seven money to make an opponent lose a life) are available to everyone. The other actions are dependent upon the role cards a player has. For instance a Duke allows a player to take three money, while a Captain grants the steal action and takes two money from another player.
The twist to this game is the roles a player has are hidden, and they can lie. On a player’s turn they can claim an action for a role they do not have. On a player’s turn when they claim an action other players have the option to call them out on lying. If this happens the player who’s honesty is being tested must be able to show the questioned role card. If they can not (or chose not to) then they must turn one of their cards face up for the rest of the game. A face up card is out of the game and this is a lost life. If the player who is accused of lying can show the card in question then the person making the accusation loses a life and the player who was questioned is randomly dealt a new role card.
The assassin action and the always available coup action are the other ways players can lose lives. The last player left with at least one life is the winner of the game.
Post Game Discussion (5 minutes)
The scripture that is going to be studied involves some self-righteous people who were probably not being completely honest. To get the students thinking in the right direction, a good starting point is discussing the nature of lying in the game they just played. Throughout this lesson several of the questions have “facilitator instructions”. These are meant to be helpful tips for the person guiding the conversation. Use the following questions to start discussion:
1. Did you lie at all while playing that game? Why?
2. Did you ever get caught lying? How did you feel to get called out?
3. Do you think the consequence for lying is appropriate in this game?
4. Based on how you knew the person, was there a player that you thought would be more likely to lie or always tell the truth?
Facilitator Instruction: The last question is very important for introducing the scripture. One of the major points is we tend to judge people and hold their actions against them even when we should not. The students may have had this very experience in playing the game.
Biblical discussion (30 minutes)
Begin by giving the students some background. This story was probably not originally in the gospel of John, because the earliest copies in existence do not have it. However, it could still be an authentic story of Jesus that was passed down and at some point was inserted into this gospel so that it would still be included in scripture. Much like the game that they just played, not everything is on the up and up in this story, encourage the youth to pate attention to suspicious behavior and things that do not quite add up. Invite the students to follow along and read John 7:53-8:11. Then use the following questions to prompt discussion:
1. What are some of the odd things going on here?
Facilitator Instructions: Hopefully the students pick up on some of the odd happenings going on here. There are three that can especially be highlighted. First, they came to Jesus with a woman caught in adultery, but it takes two people to commit that act. If she was caught in the act she would have been caught with someone, and he should have been just as guilty. Like the game, this is not a level playing field and the entire truth is not being told. Those trying to trap Jesus also bent the Old Testament law. It does say if an engaged woman is caught in the act of adultery then she and the person she committed the act with are both supposed to be stoned.
The second odd thing is that this all meant to be a trap for Jesus, so what is the trap? If Jesus said that the woman should not be stoned, then they could accuse Jesus of not upholding the law and breaking it. They could use this as a way to discredit him. However, if he said that she should be stoned, then they could report him to the Roman authorities as someone who was taking the law into his own hands as only the Romans had the authority to execute.
The third odd thing that might stick out to the students is Jesus writing on the ground. We do not know what he was writing, but there are two theories. The first is that the woman, might have been not properly dressed when the men “arrested her” so Jesus was adverting his eyes out of modesty. The more popular understanding is that Jesus was writing the names or sins of the men who came to accuse her.
2. What do you think Jesus meant by “Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone?”
Facilitator Instruction: This is why it is often thought Jesus was writing in the dirt about the accusers, the point that Jesus made is that all of the accusers are just as guilty of sins that also deserve consequences. If they are so quick to condemn this woman, then they have to apply that same judgement to themselves.
3. Who was left standing at the end with the woman? Why is this significant?
Facilitator Instructions: All of the accusers left because they could not in good conscious throw the first stone. Jesus was left because he could fulfill his own requirement. He was without sin, so he could cast the first stone. This is significant because even though he had the right to do so, Jesus chose not to condemn her. In essence he chose to forgive her of her transgression and not hold it against her.
4. What does this scripture teach us about how we should forgive and treat others?
Facilitator Instructions: Jesus challenged the accusers to realize their own guilt. In order for us to forgive others, we have to do it from a place of humility. We cannot hold their sin against them forever, and one of the ways we can get over that is to realize we too are guilty of wronging someone else. If we are quick to condemn, then we too should be condemned. This connects back to the game and how we assume certain people might be more likely to lie. We cannot forgive people if we always hold their past actions against them.
5. Thinking beyond the scripture, how do you think the woman lived differently after her encounter with Jesus? Why do you think that?
Facilitator Instructions: There are several points that can be made here after the students share how they think the woman lived differently. First, all of us are in the woman’s shoes. Jesus stands able to condemn us because he is the one without sin, and he tells us likewise to go and sin no more. Second, the question we have to ask ourselves, is do we live the way that we say the woman would. If we do not, why not? Finally, Jesus forgives us, so we should be willing to forgive others. However, we should also live in a way that honors the fact that we are forgiven.