Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11(NLT)
The woman was caught in the jaws of the Law; the last thing she expected was to be released without at least being beaten and humiliated. There was a beating, but it was her accusers who took the blows. Many people have speculated over what Jesus wrote in the sand. A popular guess is that he wrote the sins of the woman’s accusers in the dust. It was just too much for them to bear the weight of being revealed as unworthy to accuse the woman, so they slinked away in shame.
This snapshot of Jesus exercising intense wisdom and authority may have only taken about 5 minutes to play-out in real time. But it has had its lasting effects on every part of our history and culture. Even where Christ is hardly an afterthought, people understand the weight of he who is without sin casting the first stone.
Re-reading the passage again this morning brought thoughts of the current debate over immigration. I know; I know…this is a particularly controversial subject right now, and I also know the woman caught in adultery wasn’t an immigrant. But she was clearly breaking custom and the law of the land. Those who brought her to be judged by Jesus had the full weight of the culture and its rules behind their accusation. Their problem however went much deeper than whether they were within the rules; their hearts were black with self-righteousness and manipulative hatred. They had no compassion, and, worse, were only using the woman as a pawn to set a trap for Jesus. Their actions were, at the least, self-absorbed selfishness, and, at worst, bordering on sociopathic cruelty. They “caught” an adulteress; Jesus “released” her with new hope.
My early morning brain-wandering led me to stand near Jesus and see what he might be writing in the sand about our current stew concerning those who have transgressed American laws by sneaking across the border. Looking into the dust, with my mind’s eye I saw Jesus write “Plymouth Rock” and I thought of people who were escaping their homeland’s persecution for freedom, and whose descendants would eventually persecute those Native American people who first greeted them at a place with no border. Can we see the word “hypocrite” written at Jesus’ feet?
I know; I know…its different today, border security, jobs, culture, law and order, and every other rationalization we can imagine. There is a case to be made for all of that! It’s just that somewhere along the line we have to do some critical thinking about what we do, and upon which side of the circle we will stand when it comes to being our brother’s keeper, or, like Cain, our brother’s destroyer.
Well, actually, for me, today…and you, if you will. The question I most want to answer in my own mind today is: What is more important, our American way of life…or being Christ-like? I’m pretty certain the two are not one and the same.