Saturday, 20 March 2010

Caught in the Law

John 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then be bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’

in full view of everybody

Meaning that she is naked, not even the bedsheet she is normally portrayed wearing. Because that would suggest sympathy or compassion and there is none of that here. This is not even a woman; this is an experiment; a test; a device to prove that Jesus is not who people say he is.

Her presence condemns her without a word spoken. Why else would these Temple men have her standing her; exhibiting her shame if there was even a chance that they were wrong?

Her nakedness condemns her without a word; there is no defence against being caught in the act.

Her silence condemns her; surely she would have her excuses; be calling for mercy; begging for her life; if there was even a shred of doubt.

She stands like a deer caught in the headlights; with whatever life she has lived catching up with her. Even a life lived well; with good deeds and prayers; an ordinary life, except…

Except that she chose the wrong person to fall in love with…

Except that she had been fooling herself…..

Except that there had seemed no other way…..

Except that now she has been caught….

And the Law of Moses has spoken….

No need for binding; her nakedness is enough; for where could she go?

span >Rooted to the spot which will witness her trial and execution by the good and holy people of the parish.

Just waiting for the Word of God to condemn her.

And he doesn’t…

Jesus waits…
waits for the woman to get her breath;

waits for the crowd to still;

waits for the stones to get heavy in their hands.

And then asks the question; ‘Are you any different?’

And we are, none of us, any different. We have our sins hidden beneath fine clothes and fine words; behind titles and respectability. We divert attention away from ourselves in the knowledge that there must be someone worse than us; someone more guilty. Especially when we can find others who share our sins; because then the Law can speak and we can pretend that it wasn’t really our idea. We would have been more sympathetic but it is out of our hands.

And if ever our guilt starts to become visible then we can hide; move away; perhaps in regret at being found out; in shame at our weakness; embarrassment at this fall from the pedestal. But, if we are without sorrow; remorse; a desire to make amends then all we have done is run away.

For forgiveness and reconciliation, we have to stand with the woman; unmasked; naked; honest even in our sin.

Stand and let all the excuses drop away.

We have to be with the Lord; until the feeling of shame has gone; the fear of punishment has gone; until, even as naked as we are, we can stand and let him see us for who we are.

Then we know that as long as we live, we are never condemned; that, before we even ask, we are always forgiven; that the Law will never save us and God who is Love, always will.


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