Friday, 19 March 2010

Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again (Joh 8:11 RSV)

This weeks Gospel is from John 8:1-11, in which the Pharisees and scribes bring the adulterous woman to Jesus to test him. The Gospel starts with Jesus going to the mount of olives. In the Gospel of Luke we can learn that it "was his custom, [to go] to the Mount of Olives" (Luk 22:39 RSV), and it is possibly to pray as we read in so many places in the Gospels, as Jesus slips away late in the evening or early in to morning to be alone.

Early in the morning he goes back to the temple and "he sat down and taught [the people]" (Joh 8:2 RSV).
Notable, it is early in the morning, even though Jesus went out of the city for the night, he is back early and He does not give up preaching, even after the abuse of the day before. Also as I have mentioned before, I think that when it is specifically mentioned that Jesus sits down to teach, which is a symbol of authority, there is something important coming.

In this case "the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst" (Joh 8:3 RSV). We can imagine the scene where she is with disgust flung into the middle of the courtyard of the temple. The Pharisees and scribes trying to catch Jesus on something he is going to say while they make their charge. They tempted him in asking to judge the woman, calling him master now instead of deceiver as they did the day before. They did not come to ask real advice from the Son of God...

But after the charge is made, "Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground." (Joh 8:6 RSV) A silence probably follows, and a tension is in the air... Off course, we don't know what Jesus was writing exactly, but often suggested is that it could be the sins of the accusers, or something hinting at it. Finally, after they keep pushing Him for an answer, Jesus stands up and answers them:  "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (Joh 8:7 RSV) and Jesus goes back to His writing...

Jesus challenges them first of all to their integrity, as "the hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death" (Deu 17:7 RSV). Did they really think it right that the woman was stoned, would they throw the first stone as they had to according to the law, was their own conscience concerning this matter, or their own integrity towards adultery? "When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him." (Joh 8:9 RSV) Did he write on the ground that they acted in a similar way as the woman, did they not come clear of the charge made to the woman themselves?

Jesus asks the Woman: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (Joh 8:10 RSV) She answers "no" and Jesus replies "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." (Joh 8:11 RSV)

Just two brief thoughts: First off all, whatever Jesus wrote on the ground had some effect, possibly the realisation of the accusers that their own concious was not pure. It is not up to us to judge our neighbour but it is up  to God, and as such, they all left and Jesus was left alone with her. A remarcable thing in itself, if it was in the middle of the temple, but the fact states that "Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him" (Joh 8:9 RSV). Now indeed was she left before God alone to be judged...

Finally I think it could be noted that Jesus does not say anything about the nature of the sin, if it really happened, was it excusable, or was it grave? It does not entails that it didn't matter what the woman had done. But we have to understand that God is not necessary interested in our past and in our sins, but more in our future. Our sins have consequences, and we and others have to live with them. We have to repent from them, but the most important thing is that we "sin no more" and live a life closer to God. Jesus could look into the heart of the woman and saw the beauty in which He made her, and saw that she was on her way back to Him.

The adultery, a sin of the darkness was being brought to light, and although this is painful and ugly, at the woman seem to be reconciled with God... but what about the Pharisees and scribes?

1 comment:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

This is one of my favorite Gospels. I read somewhere that the word "finger" applies biblically to the Holy Spirit. So often in life I've seen accusers go after people for the very things they themselves are doing. The Pharisees probably cooked up this thing in advance so they could catch Jesus in a wrong and have excuse to arrest Him. They were so brazen but they couldn't outsmart God. Instead, they were rightfully embarrassed and had to slink away while the woman was spared. As a child I always loved to see Jesus getting the better of His accusers. Thanks for this meditation.


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