No free pass at Lent – Monday, 5th week in Lent – Daniel 13:41-62/ John8:1-11

We tend to repeat our sins because we commit them behind closed doors. No one has seen what we have done and so the shame of our sin eludes us. But if we were caught in the act of sin, we would wish the earth would open and swallow us so that we would not have to face the shame of what we have done.

A woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. The Bible is sensitive, her name is not mentioned unlike the unmerciful on WhatsApp today.  For this woman, this was not just a matter of shame it was a death sentence. The law of Moses mandated death for adultery; such was the gravity of the sin and the desire to protect the sanctity of the institution of marriage. Today, infidelity would at the most, cause an eyebrow to be raised not a head to be chopped off.

We know from Chapter 7 of the Gospel of John that Jesus has come to the temple for the third time. It was the feast of Tabernacles. The religious authority made their hate for Jesus quite clear and they had murderous thoughts that they wished to inflict on Jesus.

Today’s text tells us that Our Lord has spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This must have been his go-to place when he came to Jerusalem. It is here that he spent his last night before his passion and death. Judas knew Jesus’ go-to place in Jerusalem. He had no problem finding Jesus when he betrayed him. To get there Jesus would have left Jerusalem by one of the Eastern gates and crossed the Kidron valley. We are told that he returns to the temple early the next morning where he teaches in the temple.

They bring him a woman (it could be a man; it could be you or me) caught in the act of committing adultery. Public shame and a religiously sanctioned death now await her. Ironically, even though she was caught in the act of committing adultery her partner in sin seemed to have conveniently disappeared. Now she is paraded before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees with a clear intent to ‘trap him.’

They want to know what Jesus thinks of the law of Moses that ‘permitted them to stone her to death.’ The law of Moses did sanction death for adultery, but it never sanctioned the manner of death that they claim Moses gave them. In any case, this was a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-dont situation. The religious sanction of death had been suspended by the Romans and appropriated as a civil right that could be enforced only by the Romans. If Jesus fell in line with the law of Moses, he would have broken Roman law and if he condoned the woman’s sin to any lesser penalty then the accusation of the Jews, that Jesus had come to change the law and the prophets, would ring true. The author of life is being asked to sanction death.

“Let he who is without sin, be the first to cast a stone” is not just a clever answer that helped Jesus get out of a rock and a hard place. Our Lord is addressing both, the frailty of life that succumbs to sin and even more, the reality of religious arrogance that points fingers knowing that their very lives are sinful. We are told that Jesus, bent over and writing on the ground, straightens up to straighten the self-righteous religious leaders.  The Pharisees and the scribes walk away. It’s a walk of shame led by the elders.

Jesus is left with the woman. The circle of shame that surrounded her has disappeared. This was her opportunity to make ‘her case,’ and defend her sinful action; she was tricked by the man, this was her first time, and this happened by mistake. Yet she says none of this. She stands in her shame before one who has not shamed her but saved her.

Scripture tells us that Jesus who has still been writing in the ground straightens up again but this time not to straighten her but to look at her straight in the eye. He offers her forgiveness but not a free pass. She is to sin no more.

Lent is that time when the circle of shame is lifted and you stand face to face with Jesus but Lent is not a time when we get a free pass. Like the woman, we are to sin no more.

If you read this far then you are more than a fan…leave a comment, please.

Spread the love ♥
Continue Reading