Friday, March 18, 2011

Writing in The Earth: The Woman Caught in Adultery

There is a secret to the story in John 8 of the woman caught in adultery. You might remember how it goes: Jesus is teaching in the temple and the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery and make her stand before them all. Then they ask Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?” They do this to test Jesus, that they might be able to bring some charge against him. In response, Jesus does a strange thing. He bends down and writes on the ground. What is Jesus doing? Had the scribes and the Pharisees been less intent on their evil they might have known from the beginning. In Jeremiah 17: 13 we read “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved: for you are my praise.” We can now understand what Jesus is doing. When he bends down and writes in the earth he is saying in effect, “Haven’t you scribes and Pharisees departed from the Lord?” “Aren’t your hearts dry like the dust of the earth because you have forsaken the fountain of living waters?” But the religious leaders go on questioning Jesus, they don’t notice what he is doing. Jesus then straightens up and puts it to them plainly, “Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again, Jesus bends down and writes in the earth. This, at last, breaks through the blindness of the men; they begin to “get” what Jesus is doing and saying and one by one starting with the elders they leave, until no one remains but Jesus and the woman. Jesus straightens up and says to her, “Woman, where are they, has no one condemned you? And she says, “No one, Lord.” Jesus replies, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on no longer sin.” Jesus could have thrown stones at the woman. He was without sin after all. But God sent his only begotten son into the world, not to condemn it but to save it, as John 3 tells us. I consider Isaiah 53-55 a summation of the good news and it tells us that “all we like sheep have gone astray” but the Father sends the Son to die on a cross, and “by his wounds we are healed.” To us, Jesus looks like a criminal on the cross, hated by God (vs. 4) but in fact, God makes Jesus into a holy offering for sin there, but the word of the cross is so that we, like the woman may go free, sinning no more. Golgotha is not condemnation but salvation. It is the Lord healing us and “we shall be healed.” Jesus Jehovah dies, hung on a tree and the gospel is preached and one by one people who were once dry as dust begin to drink from the fountain of living water and in turn, they themselves become fountains of living water, welling up to eternal life.