The Woman Caught in the Act of Adultery

Please Mrs. Butler

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps copying my work, Miss.

What shall I do?

Go and sit in the hall, dear.

Go and sit in the sink.

Take your books on the roof, my lamb.

Do whatever you think.

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.

What shall I do?

Keep it in you hand, dear.

Hide it up your vest.

Swallow it if you like, love.

Do what you think best.

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps calling me rude names, Miss.

What shall I do?

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.

Run away to sea.

Do whatever you can, my flower.

But don't ask me!

Allan Ahlberg

There is no doubt in my mind that Derek Drew was a bad lad.

He copies work, can’t think for himself and is obviously a real pest.

He steals, takes what he wants when he wants, and is very annoying.

He has a foul mouth, not a pleasant character at all.

He is probably well aware of his naughtiness, and is more than likely an attention seeker.

Though it’s strange, but the person in the poem, who reports Derek Drew’s misdeeds,( and I may be wrong in assuming it’s a girl) is the one the teacher seems to disapprove of.

The teacher wants her to go and sit in the hall, in the sink,

On the roof anywhere, to get away from him.

She even tells her what to do with her rubber, in the politest sense of course…to swallow it, to push it up her vest, or even just to hang on to it.

Finally she tells the girl to remove herself from the scene, to lock herself in a cupboard, to run away to sea, anywhere as long as she bothers her no more.

The girl is blind to her tittle tattling, her whingeing, and her constant moaning which irritates. She has eyes only for Derek Drew’s offences against her.

In our gospel which we heard this evening,(John 8.2-11), I wonder if Jesus felt the same way about the scribes and the Pharisees, the tell tales…was he totally irritated and fed up with the lot of them, despondent that these people had no insight or vision into the real heart of God.

The scribes and the Pharisees could have taken the law into their own hands, taken the woman caught in the act of adultery through their own system of justice, but they choose to drag her before Jesus.


To entrap him, of course, just as they would also try to do with the coin to pay their taxes to Caesar, ‘Is it right to pay taxes or not?’

Like the coin trap, if Jesus had favoured the woman, he would be acting against the law, and they could bring a charge against him.

If he favoured the law, giving permission for the woman to be stoned, it would be detrimental to his message of love and compassion that he was preaching about and demonstrating particularly to the underdogs and the ‘riff raff’ or common people.

Jesus cared for the sinners just as much as he cared for all the others.

So in his wisdom, he paused for thought.

Was he consulting with the spirit of God within him? Was he praying for inspired wisdom. He stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

Some accounts have suggested he was actually writing in the sand, a list of all the accuser’s sins. Having the mind of God he already knew them, inside and out.

I like this explanation.

But who knows, perhaps he was just playing for time.

They kept on questioning him…. the problem was not going to simply go away; they were waiting for justice, as they saw it.

Either the woman’s demise or his, which would it be?

Now we come to one a sentence, which is one of the gems of the bible, and still speaks so relevantly to us even today,

He straightened himself up and looked at them and said,

‘Let anyone among you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.’

When they heard it they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders who were experienced in years, and probably the ones who had the biggest accumulation of sin, then to the younger ones until no-one was left to condemn.

What does this sentence say to us tonight on Ash Wednesday?

Let us just all reflect on the last time we erred, even with our tongues alone…

Could it be that the very thing we accuse others of, we do ourselves?

In the shadow side of our natures where our deepest desires and hurts lay so well hidden, could it be that the thing we notice and most despise in others, is the very thing we struggle most with in our own lives, and fail to realise it.

Perhaps the religious leaders, with such ‘holier than thou’ attitudes, harboured secret desires and lusts of their own when they looked at women of such beauty like the one they were humiliating before Jesus, so they needed a scapegoat to punish?

What are our shadows, the things we fail to see in ourselves?

When one finger points away, are we aware that we point three back at ourselves?

Pride, Lust, Jealousy, Self pity, Intolerance. Arrogance. Ignorance. Envy. Rebelliousness. Boastfulness. Laziness. Self indulgence?

Let us ask God to shine his light on our faults if we don’t know what they are, that we MAY see them and confess them.

In Revelation 3, the church in Laodicea is told:-

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire*(when gold is heated and refined, all the impurities rise to the surface and can be skimmed off), so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness (if our sins and failings could be broadcast on video, like a sports replay, what would we most want to cover up and hide from others); and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.(a cure for our blindness, *when Ruth aged 4, a friend’s daughter, collected her brand new spectacles, she gazed at her mother’s face for the first time without her blurred vision, and she whispered, ‘Oh mam you’re beautiful’)

As Christians are we truly pure in heart, sincere in our worship, focussed in outreach, quick to share compassion, truly in love with our own brothers and sisters in faith? Honest and open and wise and truthful face to face with each other?

Like Jesus really?

So what about a Lenten Fast?

What would please our Lord most?

Fashionably losing weight?

Curtailing our intake of chocolate?

Denying ourselves in sackcloth and ashes or making ourselves ill?

What advice did we hear from Isaiah?

Set others free!

Stand up for justice!

Who do we need to do this to?

Share your bread with the hungry,

Care for the homeless among you,

Cover the naked, the ones feeling shame,

Be there for your own kin?

Who does God speak to us of here?

Which fast would really please God most?

Again to be like Jesus really…now there’s the big challenge for Lent.