Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Jesus and the Stones

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." (John 8:3-11)

Is solidarity the heart of spirituality? Some believe this to be so. In past decades, a variety of “liberation theologies” proclaimed that God is unilaterally on the side of anyone oppressed – in fact, the more oppressed you are, the more assuredly God is on your side. Such theologies have therefore proclaimed “God is black,” “God is red,” “God is woman,” and so on – meaning that he is most present in the plight of those who feel disenfranchised.

Certainly God hates oppression and the dehumanization of others. However, God’s compassion may be misunderstood, especially in our politically charged society.

Jesus did not love outcasts simply because they were outcasts, but because they were human beings – fallen and broken individuals that he came to redeem. Therefore, he spoke up for the adulteress with the familiar words, “Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone.” Yet he told this same woman, “Go and sin no more.” Notice that he was not so much on the woman’s side as on his own side; calling her, as well as her accusers, to repentance.

Jesus knew more deeply than we do the depth of sin in all of us, and therefore the universal need we possess for forgiveness and transformation. The woman presented to Jesus was clearly guilty of adultery. Those who would cast the stones at the woman were guilty of unbelief (they were ultimately just pulling a PR stunt against Jesus) and mercilessness (using this woman as a pawn).

Jesus calls all kinds of people to repentance. He calls boastful conservatives to repentance as well as prideful liberals, the greedy as well as the slothful, the sexually unrestrained and the spiritually sluggish. He does not affirm their sin, but promises to transform hearts. One thing to note, though, is that the Bible does proclaim the poor “blessed” – not because they have a free pass to heaven, but because their disadvantages make it easier to understand their spiritual needs.

Jesus was not on anyone’s side. He invited people – people of all sorts – to his side.


Jeff said...

Hey Ken. Did you see Pearls Before Swine from monday of this week? You must look. Its really funny, its at comics dot com.

Jeff said...

Speaking of funny things, pete finally updated his blog, and I made a funny comment. I can't help myself, they just come.

Ken Shomo said...

Quite right - very funny! Especially if your seminary education was sprinkled with a bit of pop culture... or submerged...

Speaking of which, "Pinball Wizard" just came on as I was typing.

njcopperhead said...

I have read/heard commentary on this passage that the Phairisees stood condemned not only because they were unrepentant as you state, but also because the law required two witnesses to condemn and also that these witnesses were to throw the first stones. Perhaps the Pharisees would have witnessed to their own sin by standing up as witnesses to her adultery! Also, in no way would Christ have encouraged the ignoring of the command of the law to punish adultery, but as there were not two witnesses, civil justice prohibited punishment (but not eternal punishment). Praise God that this punishment that we deserve was borne by Christ for those who flee to Him!

Deut 17:2-6 (ESV)
"If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst."

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