Originally scheduled for April 5
If you have a Bible with extensive footnotes,
you will probably see that this passage is noted as not being in the
earliest manuscripts. The reason is rather simple. In the early days
of the church it was felt that this story might tell people that
Christianity approved of adultery. As strange as it sounds to modern
ears, righteous people of that time, both Christian and
non-Christian, knew that adultery was a sin. Even today there are
those of us who think that it is a sin, and a most serious one. The
early church fathers kept it out so that no one would be mistaken
about this. However, the story is universally taken as one which
displays Christ authentically.
To understand this story well we may ask some
questions. First, just who is it that has the right to accuse
someone else — in this case, of adultery? I submit there are three
primary qualifications to being an accuser.
First, you must in some way be
connected with the person who is offended. The Pharisees in this
instance have at least a theoretical appeal by her husband.
Next, you must be someone with clean
hands. That’s why in our criminal justice system we assign people
named “district attorney” to do the accusing. They represent the
public, but they were not involved in the actual crime itself in any
Finally, you must be someone whose
facts are not clouded by a hidden motive. The Pharisees here want to
trap Jesus much more than they want to punish adultery.
It should be fairly clear that Christ is quite
well-qualified to be an accuser; often enough, we are not. The
second question might be, how is it that we acquired the attitude
that Christ had in this instance? He did not deny that adultery is a
sin, but gave the sinner of the mercy of God. I do you get to be a
person like that?
You might take a look at verse one
and see where Christ spent the night before — in prayer, on the
Mount of Olives. The closer you are to God, the more you will take
his point of view as to what should be done.
See also his patience! He does not
immediately denounce the Pharisees; whatever he was writing on the
ground convicted them and they left one by one. Patience is not
buffaloed by hurried agitation.
As always, the courage to do the
right thing is obvious. Here Christ exemplifies for us the saying
that courage is the foundation of all virtue.
The scene sets before us something which is
similar to communion. If you will please note the sinner does not
pay for the sin — just as Christ paid for our sins on the cross.
There is no sense of mystical separation from the world here either.
She is commanded to “go.” In other words, she is sent back to the
community she lives in. She is sent back with a command, however.
She is told to “sin no more.” That’s us at communion. It’s not an
entryway to a monastery; after we partake, we go back to our normal
lives. But we are sent back with the command, “sin no more.” I
submit this involves these three things.
It obviously involves our repentance
of our sins.
To the extent that it is possible, it
also obligates us to reconcile with our fellow Christians.
It gives us the chance to renew our
relationship with God. We go from one hiding from the light to one
basking in it.
Remember that the elements of communion remind
you of his body and his blood, that you might be saved. The lady in
this little story is an example of how God wants to deal with you.