Day 21: Seeing through the fog
Fog tends to obscure what you know to be present. Have you ever been caught in a fog? You can have a vague general sense of the area. Maybe you have been in that fog-filled place a hundred times. Yet somehow the fog throws off your bearings. Cutting through the fog, in order to see, is vital.
I grew up on the water. I spent a lot of time on the water with my dad. Every now and then the fog would roll in. And he was always careful. It didn’t happen too often, yet when it did, the world got small, quickly.
One moment you could see land, you could see your landmarks, and the inlet you were headed towards. The next moment, you could not trust your instincts. One time we ran aground on a sandbar. Praise the Lord for aids to help navigate the fog, like a compass.
I bring up fog, because that is what the religious leaders of the day are trying to do to Jesus - and to those who are wrestling with just who he is - here in John chapter 8. They are trying to encase Jesus in a fog. They are trying to obscure how others will see him. They set a trap.
Let the guilty party off the hook, and he obviously does not follow the Law (which they worship). Condemn the woman to death by stoning, they will hand him the first rock. And if that is not enough, only the Romans could legally execute someone. Land mines every where.
Beyond the trap, to our minds this story has so many angles. Most people today yell, “Hey! It takes two to tango; where is the man who is also guilty?!” Friends, that is just the beginning. The man was supposed to be there, and the punishment for him was stoning as well. Let’s be careful. When you are in a fog, any distraction can keep you from your appointed destination.
What’s our destination? It is reaching the goal of why John wrote this Gospel: to meet Jesus. To see Jesus and decide, for yourself, who this person is. Is He God come to earth, or someone else (I hope by now you will have abandoned the general sentiment that he is a “good teacher” – we have already seen that good teachers don’t claim direct connection with God, or invite others to eat their flesh.)
It is a clever trap for this “Sabbath-breaking, self-taught Rabbi from Galilee”.
The scribes and the pharisees bring a woman that the text says, they caught. Then they say to Jesus, "In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women."
Jesus’ response is amazing. He "bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”
Next, listen to what Jesus says, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Many people hear this as Jesus saying something like, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” While that is a great statement, consider the situation.
Jesus just gave permission to stone her. He did. So long as they are doing this in accordance with the law. You see, the witnesses of a sin were required to initiate the stoning… so long as they had neither any part in committing the sin, nor had an opportunity to stop the sin from ever happening. Pretty big deal if you are going to have a rock in your hand.
Can you feel it? The fog is lifting.
Jesus bends back down and keeps writing in the sand until they all leave.
Then it is just the two to them.
Where does His wisdom come from? The Law. Jesus is confronting these people, and he is confronting us, that we need to consistently follow God’s teachings, not just when they happen to line up with the “wisdom of the day”.
This is not a story where Jesus is giving a “pass” on sin.
All of us are called to live our lives “aiming towards God”. Each moment of each day, our attitude should be to live for God. We fail. (At least I do.) And my shortcomings should keep me out of judge-jury-executioner mode.
I hope the fog is a bit lifted. Can I tell you how I am seeing Jesus?
Jesus is God.
God the “I AM” who, on Mount Sinai, met people in fire and thunder. A jealous God. A Holy God. A God who turns water into wine at a wedding, heals a dying son with simply a word, feed 5,000 from a lunch bag, walks through a storm… and says to a self-confessed sinner… neither do I condemn you… In this sentence, and in the heart of mercy which lay behind it, is all our hope and all our salvation for ever.
Jesus is not ignoring who He is. He is God. The moral law, right and wrong, it is all real. He tells her, go and sin no more…
Don’t think sin is unimportant, for that sentence, that last sentence, will cost Jesus the hell of Calvary… for the wages of sin is death, but thanks be to God for our Lord Jesus Christ.