Saturday, October 22, 2005

# 101: Guilty or Innocent? John 8:3-11

This portion of Scripture is not found in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. I believe this section is included in modern bibles because of the depth of truth found in these verses, and the fact that it demonstrates how only Jesus could have known how to react in this “between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place” situation. It was either an addition that man/woman inserted into later manuscripts or a section that was deleted from earlier ones. If it was deleted, the probable reason for the deletion by the early writers or translators was this: Some likely took the passage to mean that Jesus was indirectly saying that in this coming age of grace, it is now permissible to commit adultery because He can and will forgive all sins (see conditions for forgiveness below). If you are not familiar with this portion of Scripture, read it in an up-to-date translation before continuing.

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When 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.’” No one moved. It doesn't say what He wrote. Here is what I believe he wrote: Adultery is a sin; if found guilty, that person must be stoned according to the law. The accusers saw what Jesus had written and were elated. “Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.” This is what he most likely added: He drew a picture of a scale. On one end he wrote the word “adultery.” On the other end of the scale he wrote the words “greed,” “self-indulgence,” and “hypocrisy.” Those three words, when put on God's microscopic, see-all scale, far outweighed adultery as to its seriousness, which meant that Jesus was silently accusing them of sins more grievous than the woman’s. “At 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.” If they stayed there and started stoning the woman, they realized they were breaking Roman law, and also they would have to put up a defense for the sins they were being accused of. That is why they departed in silence.

This fact did not make the adulteress any less guilty of her sin, but according to the Law of Moses, even Jesus could not condemn her without the accusers being present. There was no evidence that she had repented and no indication that Jesus forgave her. In this situation, the only good and right thing for Jesus to do is to say to this adulteress, "Go now and leave your life of sin." As nasty and offensive as adultery is, greed, self-indulgence and hypocrisy are much worse in God's sight. Read Matthew 23:25-33 about God’s most vicious enemies.

The preceding was another example where the Pharisees thought they could trap Jesus into breaking either Roman law or the Law of Moses. (1) If He did nothing, He would lose His authority as the Son of God. (2) If He let the woman go free while her accusers were present, He would violate the Law of Moses. (3) If, by obeying the Law of Moses, out of necessity, Jesus had sanctioned the woman’s stoning, He would have violated Roman law, which prohibited executions apart from those administered by Roman courts. Repeating, the religious leaders thought for sure that they finally had Jesus cornered; no matter what decision He made, He would have broken either Roman law or the Law of Moses. Then the Pharisees would have had just cause to have Jesus crucified. In fact, since the Jews were under Roman law regarding punishment for serious crimes committed, that fact negated Jewish law for punishment, which was stoning.

The above facts are evident in the subsequent trial of Jesus. The Jews knew they had no right to stone Jesus under Jewish law, so they went to Pilate the Roman governor to have Jesus crucified according Roman law.

The following are conditions for forgiveness of sin(s) by Jesus: First and foremost, one has to be a genuine Christian; second, one must turn one’s life away from all sins (true repentance); and third, one must realize the seriousness of sin. Sin in one’s life—even sins of omission (ignoring what one knows is good and necessary)—is the best indicator to God and the world that one is not a true Christian other than in name. Any type of sin must never be taken lightly. However, in this modern culture, we have cleverly disguised the word “sin” by giving it new names: “human weakness,” “entertainment,” “just having fun,” etc.

The truth revealed in the opening lines of the eighth chapter of John is there so we could take heed in our modern society, which is focused upon capitalist greed. Of course, we changed the word “greed” to “prosperity” or “self-indulgence”; we call it “having our needs met.” Most important of all is hypocrisy; we call it “smart living” but it is the worst of all sins. What sin is the organized church pointing its finger at these days? It is adultery or the unspoken sin of hypocrisy?

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