The stories that captivate us are about heroism. The first reading I ever did, as a child, was comic books. When things look darkest, when there's no hope at all ... the hero arrives, just in time. It's thrilling.
Jesus was a hero at least once in his life.
In John 8:3-11 we read a story about a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The "religious people" brought her to Jesus and asked him what should be done with her.
It was a trap.
At that point in history, Palestine had been conquered by the Romans, and was under Roman control. Whenever the Romans conquered a country, they left the existing government in place. Why should Romans have to deal with road repairs, small claims cases, welfare, and the day-to-day operations of government? The Romans left the existing government "in power" (to do all the grunt work) with a few stipulations: (1) You have to pay us some tribute each year, such as money and crops; (2) You can't impose the death penalty anymore; that's a strictly "Roman" function; (3) Maybe we'll take some of your most beautiful women home with us; (4) You can't have a standing army anymore; and (5) We'll leave behind a few troops, and a Roman procurator, just to make sure that you don't re-arm yourselves and conduct a rebellion.
Jewish law prescribed the death penalty for adultery death by stoning (Lev. 20:10). So when these Pharisees brought the adulterous woman to Jesus and asked his advice, they were really asking him if she should be stoned, right then and there. They were trying to get Jesus to (1) side with Jewish law against the Romans ("Yes, stone her to death"), which would cause problems for Jesus when word got out, or (2) side with the Romans against Jewish law ("No, you can't stone her"), which would cause problems for Jesus when word got out. It was a "no-win" situation for Jesus.
There is an interesting question that arises at this point:
Where was the adulterous MAN? It takes two to tango. She was committing adultery with someone else. This means that when she was "caught in the act," the man was right there. Why wasn't he dragged before Jesus?
I think I know. This isn't in the Bible; I'm filling in the blanks, so to speak.
Imagine a group of self-righteous people bursting into somebody's bedchamber and shouting "Aha! We caught you!" There on the bed, their limbs entwined, are a man and a woman having sex. They're married, but not to each other.
The man stands up, casually rearranging his clothing. He is 6'3" tall, mostly muscle. He is extremely calm. If it were 1988 CE instead of 31 CE, you'd guess that he was a biker or a professional wrestler.
He looks over at the group of people who have invaded his privacy. "You guys got a problem?" he asks in basso profundo.
They don't answer.
He casually walks out of the room. Nobody tries to stop him.
The woman isn't so fierce-looking. She's 5'5" and weighs 122 pounds. They grab her and drag her out.
So at this point, she's been abandoned. Her "paramour" cared enough about her to have sex with her. He didn't care enough about her to stand up to a rabble that wants to see her executed.
And where was her father? Didn't she have a brother or two that could have come to her defense? An uncle? Perhaps even a female relative who could have been a bit assertive?
Everyone has abandoned her. She faces this mob completely alone. She now knows who her real friends are ... nobody. What she needed right then, at that very second, more than anything else, was a friend.
Jesus bent down to the ground and wrote in the dirt with his finger. The lynch mob kept on asking him what to do. Finally, he said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." And he kept writing on the ground, apparently unconcerned. One by one, the accusers walked away. Every single one.
Until the only two people left were the woman ... and her One True Friend.
Jesus didn't use any special powers that day. He didn't feed 5,000. He didn't walk on water. If you had been there, and had had the courage, you could have done what he did.
Jesus. A hero.