I am working with Celia Kellett at BBC Radio Nottingham on an idea to present most of the books of the Bible, one a week, during 2011 as part of the celebrations of the King James Bible. The plan is to read some verses from the book, to give a one-and-a-half minute summary, to hear a human interest story which relates, and then include a short discussion making the connections.
Verses: John 8.3–11
They brought in a woman caught in adultery and made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 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.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
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. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John’s Gospel is probably best known from the reading at Christmas services: ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ Unlike the other gospels, it starts with an extraordinary reflection on the significance of Jesus for the whole of creation.
But as the gospel unfolds, one of its most striking features is its series of encounters between Jesus and a number of individuals. Men and women, young and old, the wise and the ordinary, encounter this man sitting under a tree, in a room at night, by a well in the noon-day sun, at their brothers’ tomb.
You almost have a feeling of being alone with Jesus and each person, and eavesdropping on their private conversation. But what is really striking is the way that these encounters transform the lives of those who meet Jesus. A puzzled thinker sees the answers to his questions. A confident teacher suddenly finds he has much to learn. A shunned woman runs back to her village to spread the news. A condemned sinner finds forgiveness. Grief-stricken sisters are given hope. And a tearful Mary becomes a confident messenger to others still cowering in fear.
The power of these stories is that they have been echoed in the lives of countless others since. These people saw Jesus, and believed. The ones who are really blessed, says John, are the ones like you and me, who have not seen, and yet had similar life-changing encounters with the man from Nazareth.