Summary: Some say that religion is merely moral rules to control behavior, Jesus transcends religious rules to address a deeper spiritual need.
Some people have said that religion is the development of myths and stories to provide moral principles to control human behavior…to create moral rules in order to control social behavior. There are certainly some destructive tendencies that social groups would want to contain. I believe that there is certainly truth to such a perspective.
> However today, as we continue our series, A Journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John….. we are reminded that it is exactly in this way that Jesus transcends any such religion or religious ideas. He has engaged us in the very intersection of human history… and what he brings to bear is that which confronts the mere human use of rules to control people… he transcends religious rules for the sake of a deeper spiritual need.
John 8:1-11 (NIV)
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
I find this to be one of the most defining moments not only in the life and ministry of Jesus… but a defining moment for us all, as it speaks to the very essence of our lives.
It’s an encounter that we may play more than one role in… we may fear the stones that could be raised at us… and if we are honest, we have probably held some stones ourselves. We would never think of actually throwing stones at other people but our culture makes throwing verbal stones an art. We may be as quick to judge the religious leaders as they were to judge this woman.
At the heart of this encounter lies a power that is at work in every one involved.. the power of shame… and how it is dealt with.
The feelings begins with those dramatic words… ‘caught in the act of adultery.’
As Max Lucado describes…
"Caught in the act of adultery." The words alone are enough to make you blush. Doors slammed open. Covers jerked back. "In the act." In the arms. In the moment. In the embrace. "Caught." In an instant she is yanked from private passion to public spectacle. Heads poke out of windows as the posse pushes her through the streets. Dogs bark. Neighbors turn. The city sees. Clutching a thin robe around her shoulders, she hides her nakedness. But nothing can hide her shame.
Shame. We all feel the sense of exposure that’s at hand… and exposure that reflects her shame.
Shame is described as the sense that we have failed to live up to acceptability. We stand exposed, bound and condemned.
Shame alien¬ates us from those at hand, makes us acutely aware of ourselves as ‘deficiency incarnate.’ When we are ashamed, we bow our heads - not to pray but to hide. Letting someone look us in the eye is especially painful because their gaze seems to pierce to the soul - the deepest and real self now fears to be seen.
(Adapted from Rodney Clapp, Christianity Today, March 11,1991)
Sometimes our shame is private… we know someone treated us in impure ways… or we have been rather impure with what we have looked at or seen. Private viewing… private cheating.. private thoughts. Even on this Father’s Day some may feel they really failed as a father… or some may feel that as children they failed their fathers. No one else knows. But you know. And that’s enough.
Sometimes our shame is public. An untimely pregnancy that speaks for itself.. Branded by a divorce you never imagined.
Whether private or public, shame is always painful.