Summary: The fourth sermon in the 2007 Lenten Series
(Slide 1) A public reading of Luke 13:10-17 followed by a dramatic reading entitled ‘Christ on Trial: Witness: An Adulterous Woman’ written by Elsa L. Clark, Peter Mead, Arden Mead and Mark Zimmermann. © 2007 Creative Communications for the Parish.
(Slide 2) What is Jesus being accused of this morning?
(2a) If we would have been here the first Sunday of Lent, we would have heard from Matthew, a tax collector, to whom Jesus simply said, ‘Follow me.’ We would have heard the charge from the prosecuting attorney of ‘befriending sinners.’
(2b) Two weeks ago we heard from a woman who had been seriously ill and was miraculously healed by Jesus in a synagogue one Sabbath day. The charge from the prosecuting attorney after her testimony was ‘ignoring religious custom and the Law.’
(2c) Last week we heard from Nicodemus and in light of his testimony, Jesus was accused of being ‘delusional.’ However, what about this morning? What is Jesus being accused of?
(2d) It seems that Jesus is now being accused of judging people and forgiving sins because He has done two things: 1. He said to Pharisees, ‘…let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” 2. He said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”… “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Why is this a problem? Why is Jesus being accused of judging people, people for whom faith was a way of life and who were held in high regard by many people (just remember how the crowd came to the defense of the Pharisees and the Law when Pilate tried to release Jesus). These people were educated and powerful people. They were the pastors and the teachers of the faith. Why judge them as being sinful?
Then there is this woman, whom we are shown in our dramatic introduction from a different perspective than just a shameless woman. She is in a tough spot. She has been caught (supposedly) in the act of adultery, a capital offense in that day, and she is headed (supposedly) for a meeting with those who will decide her fate. But they bring her to Jesus as bait to trap Him as John says, ‘into saying something they could use against him…’
So this woman, already publicly shamed and humiliated, is now being used as a pawn by ‘religious’ people for the purpose of getting some dirt on Jesus. Nevertheless, there is one thing that exposes their tactic and causes Jesus to out flank them. He knew the Law (and their hearts) better than they did and they failed to bring another person along with this woman as part of their case for stoning her.
(Slide 3) (3A) in Leviticus 20:10 we read, ‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death.’
(3B) Then over in Deuteronomy 22:22 we read, ‘If a man is discovered committing adultery, both he and the other man’s wife must be killed.’
(3C) WHERE’S THE MAN?
Don’t know! Maybe there wasn’t a man and this woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe she was being abused by her husband who had more rights than she did. So she was dragged, perhaps kicking and screaming at first, into this crowd and dumped at Jesus’ feet. Or maybe she was guilty and the man… dare I say it… was one of them!
Jesus’ response was interesting… Writes John in verse 6, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. And we have always been fascinated with what He wrote.
Let me suggest this morning that perhaps He wrote one of these two verses in the dust and it took the wind out of their sails because they had not brought the guilty male to the party. Therefore, Jesus says, “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!”
Jesus did not say, ‘let those who have never committed adultery throw the first stones.’ He said, ‘let those who have never sinned throw the first stones.’ His blanket statement about their sinfulness causes them to stop, think, and finally admit in their walking away that they are not sinless. Maybe that is what He started writing in the dust – their sins.
But then late last week, as I met with a colleague for our Thursday morning coffee, he pointed out to me a passage in Jeremiah 17 which says this in my translation:
(Slide 4) O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who turn away from you will be disgraced and shamed. They will be buried in a dry and dusty grave, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.
But in the New International Version it says (Slide 5), ‘O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of the living water.’