Monday, June 14, 2021

Go, and Sin No More

Jesus Christ calls us each day to join him on the difficult but glorious path of freedom which is based on truth, expressed through love, and leads to eternal life.

In today’s story from the Gospel according to John (8:2-11), it’s early morning. Jesus is sitting in the Temple. People are walking to him to learn the truth.

Sadly, there are false gods abroad: gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. Each day they bully, bribe, and deceive us to join them on the wide though ignoble road of power which is based on falsehood, expressed through indifference, and ends in death.

In today’s story, religious leaders suddenly bring to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They remind Jesus that, according to the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 22:22), she should be stoned to death. They demand his opinion.

Sadly, their apparent concern about sin and the Law is false. Angry at the challenge which Jesus poses to their power, they want to get rid of him. They lay a trap. Either he upholds the Law and agrees to the stoning or he fails to the uphold the Law. Either he is punished by the Romans for getting someone executed without their permission or he disgraces himself in the eyes of the people who look to him for wisdom.

Unlike these false and indifferent religious leaders, Jesus does care about sin and the Law, about this hapless sinner and her deceived accusers. Jesus demonstrates his care by writing words of the Law in the dust with his finger. By doing so, he reminds his enemies of the time when Yahweh wrote the words of the Law on two stone tablets with his finger (Exodus 32:15, 34:1; Deuteronomy 4:13). He also reminds them of their own sins.

His enemies, still falsely believing they have Jesus in their power, press him for an answer. They want to see their trap snap shut on Jesus.

Unexpectedly, Jesus speaks to them the truth which frees them from their self-deception: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” (v. 7). Acknowledging their own solidarity with the adulteress as sinners, as well as Jesus as the right interpreter of the Law, they abandon the field.

The woman faces Jesus alone. Now what? Will he still condemn her for the capital crime she has committed? As one without sin, will he now cast the deadly stones?

Unexpectedly, Jesus pardons her. She did commit a sin deserving of death. Soon, though, Jesus himself will die on the cross in her place—and ours too. Through his sacrifice, once and for all, Jesus will fulfill the Law of Moses—and of grace.

“Go, and sin no more.” With these words, Jesus frees this woman from her destructive past and its fatal consequences to live in newness of life.

(Today’s reflection is based on Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.4, pp. 234-6.)

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