“Judge Not” — Those Awesome Words (Part B)


As the Judge used to say, “Circumstances Alter Cases”

In John 8:3-11 we see the scribes and Pharisees shoving a woman along toward the Teacher, this man who talked so much about the mercy of God. Now what would he say about this case? They grabbed up stones as they went. There was only one thing he could say and they wanted to hear it.

Hold this thought for a moment. Let’s consider some other wanton women from our Bible stories. Potiphar’s wife, for example, that lustful lady who tempted and pestered Joseph daily. “Come lie with me.” Genesis 39:7-20

Jump the gap with me: let’s say she’d been the one caught in another adulterous relationship and brought before Jesus for judgement. What words would He have spoken to her? Would she have squirmed, hoping He didn’t know about that business with Joseph?

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well He told her “Thou hast had five husbands.” Given the social setting of the time, it isn’t likely she divorced five husbands; it’s more apt to be that five husbands divorced her. Why? Was she a shrew, a waster, a chatterbox, a lousy housekeeper? Did she have some physical problem? Was she barren? Did some of them inherit her according to the Mosaic law, and not want her?

No personal details are recorded, but Jesus understood her whole history when He met her that day and He didn’t label her as a sinner. He rather offered her Living Water.

One thing the Bible does reveal: she had some hope that things could be better. “When Messiah comes, He’ll teach us all things.”

And Jesus told her, “I am He.”

Religious rulers begged Jesus, “Stop playing games with us. If you’re the Christ, tell us plainly.” No response. Yet here He tells this insignificant, wrong-side-of-the-tracks woman that He’s the Messiah. She believes Him and tells everyone she meets. Not just folks who happen by. She went out and shouted it in the streets: “I met this Man…”

Some would have scoffed. “Ha! What else is new?” Others came to see if what she said was true, that He really was the Messiah.

One thing I see from the life of Jesus: He dealt with every person as an individual. Every word and touch was designed for the person who received it, for their situation, their need. Every act was designed to draw people back to the Father.

I see that I need to follow Him in this: I can’t make blanket rules based on one example or another. Scripture records enough of His sermons and examples to paint a complete picture; as I read it all I can come to a balanced conclusion about God’s will.

Back to our opening story:
Folks often speak of Jesus’ gentle response when the “woman taken in adultery” stood before Him. He pardoned her, though she didn’t wail and beg for forgiveness. Jesus wasn’t interested in dramatics, anyway. I believe He sensed the repentance in her heart; He also was fully aware of the circumstances of her life that brought her before Him that day.

We have no idea if she was a babe who carried on clandestine relations with this and that one, if she was targeted by some Casanova, if her husband was spending time with other women, or if she was perhaps the wife of a man like Nabal, churlish and impossible to please. (I Samuel 25:3) Was he even standing in that crowd, stone in hand, enjoying the role of the wronged party?

I think the way Jesus dealt with her took all those things into account – and even more. I’ve concluded from reading this account that adultery wasn’t the issue here. (After all, they didn’t bring both guilty parties.)  She was the test case but she wasn’t really the one on trial at this point. Jesus was.

His relation to the law of Moses was on trial before the scribes and Pharisees, who were looking for some excuse to cast stones at Him. Or her. Either way Jesus would lose, they thought. There seems no other reason they would have brought this matter to Him when it was so clear-cut they could have easily judged it themselves.

We love to focus on His words of absolution, “Neither do I condemn thee.” Such beautiful words! “Go and sin no more.”

But what about the others present, those men who held the stones? Their experience with Jesus was quite opposite: they came as innocents and went away guilty.

They didn’t ask for, and Jesus didn’t seem to offer them, any pardon. From what I read, they didn’t go away feeling absolved and relieved. Rather their consciences were fully awakened – maybe for the first time ever.

How many of them got a handle on His message and left their self-righteousness at His feet that day, together with their stones? I believe this is the lesson Jesus wants me to take from this story: not that He grants a nonchalant pardon to adulterers but that self-righteousness is an equally grave sin.

Great News:
Jesus loves me – and you, too. He wants us in Heaven with Him someday. He wants to help us get there. He’ll show us the safe way. And when we lose the way, He’ll remind us. Forgiveness, freedom, guidance. This good news once rocked the world.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ: do I rock people with it — or just stone them?

Even saints fall big time now and then. We’re all guilty, the churched and the unchurched; we all need to own up to our sins and forsake them. I John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Christians must present a dual message of Mercy and Truth: there is pardon for the repentant soul; there will be judgment for persistent transgressors. Some non-Christians will judge us for judging. They’ll say we’re harsh and critical because we talk about sin and they don’t want to see their actions as wrong in God’s eyes. But we stand on the Bible as our Truth; if God says it’s sin, it’s sin.

So we encourage people to seek forgiveness from Jesus and deliverance from the power of temptation. Then, once a person has repented of their wrongs and returned to the Lord, once his sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, we should forgive and forget totally.

Justice has been done. The penalty’s been paid. Case dismissed. Now let’s walk together in THE WAY.

“So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” II Corinthians 2:7


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