TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus spoke to them again saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'" John 8:12
The scribes and Pharisess who brought the adulterous woman to Jesus figure largely in many incidents in the gospels. My Thompson Chain Bible (NKJV) gives a simple description of them:
"Scribes: Writers or secretaries who copied the Scriptures.
Pharisees: A party among the Jews of Jesus' time that laid great stress upon the observance of rites and ceremonies. They made a pretense of superior piety and separated themselves from the common people. They were believers in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body and the existence of angels and spirits" (p. 1939).
Most people of that day held the scribes and Pharisees in awe because of their showy saintliness. But not Jesus. And not the Gospel writers. Matthew, for example shows the Pharisees and scribes as:
- Not righteousness enough to get into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20).
- Murderous (Matthew 12:14).
- Insincere when they pretended to be on the verge of following Jesus if He would give them just one more sign (Matthew 12:38).
- Hypocritical when they tried to entrap others over transgressing the fine points of the law (like hand-washing) while they themselves transgressed the big points (like failing to honor parents) (Matthew 15:1-9).
- Conniving as they attempted to trap Jesus into saying or doing something they considered wrong (Matthew 19:3).
Today's story from John 8 shows them in just such a scheming mode. And though there was no question that the woman they hauled before Jesus was a sinner, He was masterful in staying out of their trap. When they insisted that she be stoned:
"He raised Himself up and said, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' Then He bent down and went on writing on the ground with His finger" - John 8:7-8.
Surprise of surprises, instead of picking up stones and getting to work they began, one by one, to leave. Why? Obviously each one was convicted of his own sin.
Some say that the source of their sin-conviction was what Jesus was writing on the ground — that he was listing their sins right in front of their eyes. But I believe it was His simple presence. For in my Bible, verse 12 — Jesus' declaration of being the light of the world — follows the narrative as if it's the lesson or point of the story. Their slinking away showed that in the light of Him, each one became painfully aware of his own sin and knew he could not be the one to start the stoning.
Like the self-righteous Pharisees we too find it easy to categorize sin and stand in judgment over those whose sin is, in our eyes, worse than our own. Until, that is, we come into the presence of Jesus, the light, and see our own soiled selves.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please keep me from being pharisaical and judgmental. Help me to view myself realistically and to treat fellow travelers with the same grace that I need. Amen.
"This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is." John 3:19-21 (Message).