"Who are we, beloved?"
In these past ten years I have been employing a Bible study technique that emphasizes context. In other words, instead of thinking up an outline or presentation and then finding isolated scriptural references to support the selected theme, I have been trying to let the Bible chapter dictate the themes, main points, and direction of the study. Now, I am sure that my prejudices and shortcomings have often gotten in the way. But I have been trying to take on topics as they arise in the Bible and often assuming a relationship of ideas based solely on their proximity to each other in the Scriptural narrative. This is all influenced by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A very basic method, but one I have really enjoyed and found to be spiritually profitable every time. No where is this method more evident than in our current little study.
We will not even get through a whole chapter here, just the opening verses. This is a familiar story to many of us, but I want to use the context to take a little different tack on it today. Christ does something and then He says something and I want to relate those two things together. So, if you will agree to join me once more (...and maybe once more after this?), let's get started:
Verses 1-2- "Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them."
The chronology of John's Gospel is confusing, but the setting here seems to be some time in the middle of Christ's three year public ministry. He is in Jerusalem. This is the place to make a spiritual pronouncement in Christ's day and time. But His sermon is shortly interrupted in a way that would really shake up almost any preacher:
Verses 3-6- "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not."
Now this woman is in the wrong. We hear today that sexual sins are sort of a "victimless crime." But that's not the truth. An act like this creates victims. A wronged spouse, for example, with a broken heart would be a victim of adultery. There are some neglected children out there right now who are victims of adultery, alcohol and gambling abuse and other activities that pull people's attentions away from their families. In my opinion, it's those victims that make it a sin. Some Christian's seem to think that God is on a eon-long campaign against pleasure. He created pleasure, beloved, but He is, I believe, against our pleasure causing the innocent to suffer. And the Scriptures also tell us that those who participate in adultery make victims of themselves (see I Cor 6:18). So this woman is wrong, and the man she was caught with is wrong, too. But--listen carefully--so are those Pharisees.
They don't really care about justice, or this woman, or her family. They are just using her to try and confuse Jesus into saying something stupid. Their motives are religious (in the worst sense of the word) and political (in the actual sense of that word) and selfish. They want to trap Christ so they can accuse him of preaching against Moses or turn him in to the government for advocating murder. They all knew in that day that Roman law forbad any of the Jews to carry out capital punishments. Jesus takes his time, but He has an answer for them:
Verse 7- "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
Christ is slow to speak here and reflective. Jesus thinks first, and He perceives that the sin of these pious Pharisees is foremost.
Verse 8-11- "And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
This is real love in action. Talk about love is cheap. Real love requires an investment of time, thought, and energy. And of all the people around Jerusalem that day, Jesus took the time to love this woman who was in the wrong.
Just at the end of this incident Jesus makes a startling announcement:
Verse 12- "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Jesus KNEW Who He was. But who are we, beloved? A parent, a son, a daughter, a spouse; somebody's boss, a baker or a banker? Who are you, really? Jesus KNEW Who He was. You and I are more than what others say we are. You and I need to know who we really are, too.
Would you, if you could claim to be "the light of the world" choose to proclaim it right after publicly befriending an adulteress? That's exactly what Jesus is doing. And it's not happenstance. It's because Christ knows that His light shines the brightest when He's loving the neediest! That is why the Church MUST evangelize today. We must not become self-absorbed like the Pharisees. Listen to their audacity and their rightful condemnation:
Verse 13-19- "The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also."
Jesus wasn't self-absorbed, but He knew Who He was and Whose He was! When was the last time the Father bore witness of who you are? I think I can tell you. It was when you took time to love the needy and the neediest around you. What made Christ's light shine will make our light shine also. We're no better than Him. We must not become Pharisees, lazy in heart, hasty of mind, and living and "judging after the flesh."
Do you think I am exaggerating? Is all this stuff just for Jesus? That's not what He said. Do you think Christ is the only light in this world? If you're a believer you should not think that way. If you BELIEVE, then this kind of Love in action is your identity too. It's your light. Read Matt 5:14 along with me as Christ speaks DIRECTLY to all who believe:
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid."
That's who we are, beloved. Let's remember the neediest around us and take OUR place in the Kingdom!