Thursday, October 09, 2008

Things I noticed from John 8

I shared this narrative in Texas last week and I'm not sure if it was for them or me but as I was studying it, I noticed a few things.

John 8
1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."


1) If they are really "teachers of the law" and religious leaders, why are they interupting Jesus' teaching? (translation: judge a leader by their fruit, not their title)

2) If the woman was caught in "adultery" then she was married. The Law of Moses in Deut. 22:23 says that stoning is required for a betrothed or an engaged woman, not a married one. Should teachers of the law know their own law? (translation: Often our absolutes in theology are actually just representative of our bias preferences and not gospel truth)

3) "Jesus bent down" and said nothing. This is a genius communication skill. In the event, the Pharisees held all the power and momentum by interupting and throwing at least a half-naked woman in the middle if not fully naked. How does Jesus diffuse the situation, steer the power away from the bullies and protect the dishonored woman? He uses silence and it was deafening. He doesn't honor their cruelty with a verbal response, he does the counter-intuitive. Then they are exposed for their cruelty like a giant spot light is upon them. Jesus takes on the eyes of the crowd to what he's drawing in the sand (and away from the vulnerable woman, perhaps even giving her time to cover up).

Jesus' non-verbal skills utilized in this event are just genius. He does not have the title of a "teacher of the law", rather he just embodies and lives out the very heartbeat of the Law of God, to honor and love his Creation. I find these values of humility and strong compassion very rare for male leaders I've observed and come across in my lifetime. The stereotypical strong male leader/CEO type is the easy way out, its mostly just leadership in the flesh. Show me someone with the inner strength and character like Jesus instead of the outside bravado and I'll show you genius leadership.

4) If anyone of you is without sin throw the first stone. The law says the witness to the event is the one who starts the stoning. So which man and religious leader is gonna be the one to say they were peering in together and watching the adulterous act. Or even more so, was one of them the male witness involved in the act? This sounds less like activities for the teachers of the law and more like a scene from the Porky's movies triology.

5) The woman finds herself not alone, but in the presence of the only one who cares about the true her and sees beyond her sinful behavior. Jesus fought and protected her dignity, treated her as the daughter of God that she was. Jesus gives her words of compassion first, then follows with words of discipline and holiness. Notice the order . . .compassion then a call for holiness. The mercy of God is not earned, its freely given then leads us to change out of gratitude.

Just some things I noticed.

Peace to your moment of genius today,

2 comments:

+ Alan said...

I think I'm bored, so I'm throwing in a couple of thoughts too. :)

1) On "adultery," if the woman were single and having sex with a married man, she would also be guilty of adultery. So, the law may well have required her to be stoned - maybe all the better for the story to follow.

2) One of the biggest things that has always hit me in this passage is in the "let him who has no sin cast the first stone" deal - Who's qualified? Well - Jesus! He could have thrown all the stones and been absolutely justified in doing so. So, He chose not to condemn her, even though she may have deserved it - "see there, nobody condemns you, not even me (who could have), so take that and run with it into a new life." Alan's paraphrase.

Pat said...

Great stuff, Chris. I'm always struck by how subversive Jesus' communication style is, and this story is one of the great ones. Answer hatred and vitriol and rage with... silence?

That's quite a theatrical moment.

And I do like to speculate what Jesus is writing in the sand - their sins? their mistresses' names? Romans 8:28? ;)