Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Free to Sin No More

One of the most powerful stories in John's gospel isn't found in the earliest known manuscripts of the text.  It comes from the first 11 verses of chapter 8 and is the account of Jesus' compassion on an adulteress woman.  I doubt this story was a part of John's original work, but it must have been a well known story in the early Christian communities and I have very little doubt that the event actually took place.  Yesterday, some friends and I discussed some of the implications from the story.  Here's my paraphrase of the text and my particular angle.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, some of his opponents brought a woman straight from the bed of her adulterous lover and presented her before the crowd.  "The Law requires a stoning, what's your verdict?", they asked Jesus.  But the entire episode was just a setup to trap Jesus.  Not indulging them, Jesus knelt down and doodled in the dust.  They kept badgering Jesus, so finally he stood up and said, "Whoever is sinless, pick up a stone and you can be the first one to give it a go."  Jesus knelt back down and began to draw.  From the oldest to the youngest, they all began to to shuffle off until only Jesus and the woman were left.  Jesus stood up and asked, "Where did they all go?  No one's condemned you?"  "No one.", she said.  "Nor do I," said Jesus, "You're free to go - you're free to sin no more."

People aren't objects to be manipulated; they're not pawns in some life-sized chess match.  Every single person - every individual is important.  All are created in the image of God - all are to be treated with dignity and respect.  When the Jewish religious leaders trapped this sinful woman, they were willing to use, abuse, and sacrifice her for their own perverted sense of self-righteousness and their own selfish, political power-plays.  They trapped her so they could trap Jesus.  They were willing to sacrifice her so they could sacrifice him.  But Jesus was having none of it.  He saw through their scheming, but more importantly he saw the woman, not as an adulteress, though that's what she was, but he saw her for who she could be - who she would be.  Jesus refused to utter a word of condemnation, rather he offered a liberating word of grace.  To quote the verse after that most famous verse, "Indeed, God didn't send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.", John 3:17 - Shay 


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