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Is There No One to Condemn You?

John 8:1-11
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

What?

Jesus went into the temple and began to teach. The people were impressed; the teachers of the Law—the scribes—and the Pharisees were incensed.  They decided to entrap Jesus.

 

These leaders somehow knew of a woman who was caught committing the act of adultery.  They made her stand before the group and spoke to Jesus, accusing her of committing adultery.  Then, calling him, “teacher,” they told him what the Law of Moses commanded concerning such women, that she is to be stoned. “Now what do you say?” they asked.

 

It was a trick.  In Jesus’ day, a Jew had no say in the corporal punishment of such a crime. That was Rome’s job. So, if Jesus said “stone her,” he would have been at odds with Roman rule.

But if Jesus had said not to stone her, it would have seemed as though he was disregarding the Law, in spite of the fact that the woman’s accusers were taking only the part of the law they wanted to use as their accusation. (The law actually required both parties in the sin be executed, though “stoning” is not specified unless the woman was a betrothed virgin.)

 

Jesus was not buying into their scheme. He wasn’t going to engage with them in the way they were baiting him.

Here stood a woman, we can imagine, head bowed in her shame, surrounded by men in the temple of Jerusalem during a festival time, where people were coming and going.  What a spectacle this must have been.

 

Scripture is silent on what Jesus wrote when he used his finger in the dirt.  Rather than speak, Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground.  Then he stood and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then he stopped and wrote on the ground again.  The accusers dispersed.  Standing there, draped in all their religious and fabric finery, they were before Jesus in as naked a form as they’d ever been. Their sins had been exposed.

 

When God wrote the Law on the tablets for Moses to bring to the people, He wrote them with his finger.  As the teachers of that very Law were attempting to trick Jesus, the author of the Law, Jesus knelt down and wrote in the same manner.

 

When her accusers were no longer there, Jesus spoke to her for the first time. Whether they were alone or if his disciples were standing close-by, it must have felt as though there were no other people in the world, much less at the temple.  The woman was standing, Jesus was still kneeling.

And then He stood and turned to her. “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  He asked her.  “No one,” she answered. And she called him “Lord.”

 “Neither do I condemn you,” he told her.  “Go, and sin no more.”

So what?

In the Mediterranean world of Jesus’ time, such an act of writing on the ground would have been recognized as an act of refusal and disagreement.  His approach to responding to their accusations against this woman was not to give them credibility.  Instead, Jesus holds a mirror up to the crowd of teachers and leaders. 

 In the end, Jesus treats all of them as equals—the scribes, the Pharisees and the adulterous woman.  Typing “adulterous woman” calls to my mind that there could also be “cheating scribe” or “lying Pharisee.”  The passage does not let us in on the nature of their sins, only the woman’s.  What we learn here, what we are reminded of, is that none of us is without sin.  From the most senior among us, to the youngest and all in-between, we have all sinned and stand in need of grace and mercy.

Now What?

Do you ever wonder why Jesus said what he said to the woman?  Perhaps for all the nakedness of her sin, what Jesus knew that the accusers did not, was the condition of her heart, the circumstances of her situation, and where she was spiritually at that very moment, for she called him, “Lord.”

 “Go and leave your life of sin,” he concluded.

 Understood rather than condemned. Saved rather than stoned. Sin exposed yet covered in Jesus’ love.

 What about you?  Think about a time where you were “caught with your hand in the cookie jar” – when your sin was exposed for others to see. How did you feel? What did you want more than anything at that moment?

Pray

Dear God, help me to admit to you and to others my sin. Open my heart to receive your grace and extend that same grace to others. Amen.

About the Author

Rev. Mark Brainerd is the Senior Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Administration at PHPC.

 

Posted by Rev. Mark Brainerd with

Why Are You Afraid?

Mark 4:35-41 
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

What?

Here lies another story of the disciples’ lack of faith. Right?
 
With the appointment of the twelve disciples in the previous chapter of Mark, we learn that Jesus and his disciples have recently made their relationship official. Anyone who has been in the dating market might call this moment a DTR – Defining the Relationship. Is this just casual or is this getting serious?
 
And nothing tests a relationship more than a couple’s first disagreement.
 
Before that unforgettable night on the sea, Mark tells us that after John the Baptist arrest, “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’” (1:14-15). Then Jesus calls the first of his disciples, saying, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (1:17).
 
From then on, Jesus and his disciples traveled from village to village. Jesus healed those who were sick and hurting. Jesus affirmed their sense of belonging in fellowship and at table, even when criticized by others. Jesus empowered the disciples to heal and cast out demons just as he had been doing. Jesus taught new ways of understanding and living by the Torah, creating a wave of awe, admiration, confusion, and tension across Galilee.
 
Whether it was out of curiosity or contempt, a large crowd flocked to Jesus that day. A crowd so large he climbed onto a boat to tell his parables. He told them about a sower whose seeds fell upon different kinds of soils. How the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed. 
 
Like a beloved professor and his students, Jesus and his disciples were likely mentally and physically spent from wrestling with these parables as the hours passed and the sun made way for the moon. Jesus was especially tired as he somehow managed to sleep through a windstorm – one that caused the disciples to fear for their very lives. And with the same authority the disciples witnessed when Jesus healed, taught, and cast out demons, Jesus calmed this great storm. “Peace! Be still!” he said to the wind. “Why are you afraid?” he asked of his disciples.

So What?

This story is often interpreted and applied to Christian spirituality in a way that individualizes the discipleship into which Jesus invites us. We tell ourselves that we will survive the inevitable “storms” of our lives because Jesus is with us always. Yet, this story is part of Mark’s gospel, and Mark wants his readers to see that Jesus is doing more than transforming the lives of individuals. Yes, the disciples, those who are healed of their wounds and demons, and the crowds who might be awakened to a new way of observing Torah meet Jesus in the personal way Jesus touches their lives. But what does this story of Jesus, who even the wind and the sea obey have reveal to us about all of creation and about the kingdom of God?

Now What?

Rather than dismissing the disciples as those poor fools who were too filled with doubt and fear to recognize that Jesus’ power was God’s own, let us remember how chaotic their worlds have already been up until this night on the sea. The invitation and the actual commitment to discipleship is undoubtedly full of adventure, as well as its share of danger and risks. The disciples have witnessed the ways there is resistance to Jesus, to the kingdom of God drawing hear. A resistance that will inevitably lead to Jesus’ own death. Perhaps it’s not our fear we ought to dismiss when it seems the world is in a state of chaos. Rather, we ought to consider how our fear can be a catalyst for an unshakable faith in the One who that even the wind and the sea obey.

Pray

Dear God, help me to lean on you in the storms of life, trusting that you never leave me. Amen.

About the Author

Rev. Kathy Lee-Cornell is the Associate Pastor for Mission and Outreach. She is a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity, 2016) and the University of Texas School of Social Work (Master of Science in Social Work, 2016). 

Posted by Rev. Kathy Lee-Cornell with

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