Who Was Caught? -Part 4

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Now we know that the unnamed woman this month, the woman caught in the act of adultery. I named her Aphiema (Ah-fee-mah) and gave a possible enhancement of the story. (See “Gone Astray – Part 1“, “A Trap envisioned – Part 2“, and “The Trap Is set – Part 3“.)

 Let’s look at the incident straight from the Scripture.

At dawn, he [Jesusappeared again in the Temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 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. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

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. John 8:2-9

One by one, the accusers drop their stones and finally Mark’s partners leave. Mark looks over at Apheima. Her hair is disheveled, a tear steaks down her cheek. For the first time, Mark is deeply aware of his own sin. It seems that both Aphiema and he have been caught.

It is just as the teacher said, I held lust in my heart and acted upon it. When she used me and I used her, I didn’t feel shame; I felt anger. My anger turned to hate, my hate to rage and revenge. Had Jesus said the word, I would have committed murder that day.

Apheima is aware that only one accuser is left. She glances up to meet Mark’s glazed eyes. He turns his head, drops his stone and walks away. As he leaves, he hears Jesus say,

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one,” she said. Then neither do I accuse you. Go and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11

Note that while Jesus did not condemn her, neither did he condone her act of sin. He urged her to leave that life.

Oh, what lessons we learn from this scene. We’ll look at some of those lessons next week. My hope is that she confessed her sin and ended up becoming a follower of Jesus. If so, she would live up to the Greek word I named her. Apheima means “forgiven.”

~ Joyce ~ 

The Trap Is Set – Part 3

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Our ongoing character, Mark, has been spurned and now conceives a plan to trap Apheima. (See “Gone Astray – Part 1” and “A Trap Envisioned – Part 2“)

He shares the details of his plan with one of the more vocal, angry Pharisees.

“So you see,” Mark concludes, “If the teacher says to stone her, we can let the Romans take care of him. They, of course, will not allow us to carry out death sentences, but we can blame him. And if he says that we should not stone her, we can say that he is going against the Law of Moses.”

“Excellent!” cries the Pharisee. “But how are we to set up such a scene?”

“Just leave that to me.”

And so, Mark proceeds with his diabolical plot. With a sly grin, he marches off to find a strapping young man who might like to have an exciting evening. Now I will give the Pharisees a counter attack, and at the same time, have a satisfying revenge of my own.

Mark has been watching for the last few days to see that the teacher gathers listeners in the same place at the Temple court. Mark knows the owner of a house nearby and asks if he might use his house that night. The friend agrees.

Mark has also been bating a young man with suggestions that Apheima has had her eye on him. The plan is to have the passionate young man meet her at this conveniently positioned house for the evening.

At dawn the next morning, the people have already begun to gather once again to listen to Jesus. He sits and continues to teach them.

Meanwhile, two assigned Pharisees break into the designated house and grab Apheima. (Of course, two witnesses are needed to make it legal.) They drag her out the door, down the street, and shove her in front of Jesus.

Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say? John 8:4-5

Apheima stands there shivering in the morning dew with only a blanket wrapped around her. She stares at the ground, ashamed to look at anyone for she feels the daggers of their stares. Several Pharisees gather around with stones in hand.

Jesus pauses a moment then slowly stands to look at each Pharisee, one by one. He bends to the ground to to write with his finger. Mark stretches his head around the men in front of him to see what’s happening.

“What is he doing?” he whispers to his partner in crime.

“I don’t know.”

Finally, one toward the front asks again, “What do you say? Stone her or let her go?”

How will Jesus answer? Have they finally trapped him? Well, you probably know the rest of the story now as you’ve discovered who our unnamed woman is.

Next week, the rest of the story.

~ Joyce ~

 

A Trap Envisioned – Part 2

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As we read Scripture, we don’t always think about all the people involved. Last week, (Gone Astray – Part 1) we left Mark making excuses to his wife and meeting, yet again, with a former lover. After their romantic evening, he was about to leave for home.

“Our time together should be worth something, don’t you think?” Apheima hinted.

Puzzled, Mark frowned. “Worth something?”

“Well, you wouldn’t want your wife to know about these little get-togethers, now would you? Three denarii should take care of things.”

“Why, you little slut…”

“Uh, uh, let’s be careful. Your precious elders at the Temple would be very disappointed in you.”

Mark’s temper flared, but he could see that he had been trapped. He juggled some coins from his money pouch and threw them on the floor as he stormed out.

How dark the night felt as he shuffled his way home—dark as the sin that hung on his shoulders. But more than shame, he felt anger. How dare her trick me in such a way. She will regret this. His mind raced as he tried to think of forms of retaliation, but his thoughts were merely a jumble of revenge with no clear action.

The days wore on. Mark made it a point not to see Apheima again. The money may have taken care of the threats but not his bitterness.

Two weeks later, as Mark came near the Temple, several Pharisees were discussing the preacher from Galilee who had gained quite a following with the people. The leaders had questioned him on numerous occasions, but every time the religious leaders set up a verbal trap, this Jesus caught them instead, making them appear weak and incompetent.

The next day, Mark observed the teachings of this intruder to the city.

Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them… You have heard it said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement… You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:17, 21-22, 27- 28

The intent of Jesus’ teaching went right over Mark’s head. Instead, the wheels began spinning in his mind until he had concocted a perfect plan.

Hmm, what is the plan? Stayed tuned next week for the plot to thicken! 

~ Joyce ~

 

Gone Astray – Part 1

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In our series of unnamed woman in Scripture, we will revisit one I wrote about about four years ago. Our lady has a male suitor. We’ll name him Mark and her, Aphiema (Ah fee’ muh).

Mark lives in Jerusalem and works among the elite of the city. His handsome features attract many female admirers, so one ill-fated night, he finds himself with his arms wrapped around one of the liberal ladies-of-the-night, which launches both he and his lover, Aphiema, on a path of promiscuity.

A few elders take him under wing. Their plan is to draw him away from his waywardness into the life of a scribe. Certainly one who handles the ancient Scriptures would cease to indulge in such sinful ways.

Indeed, he studies well, has remarkable penmanship, and finds prestige and power in his new position. He marries the girl chosen for him by his parents and appears content with his life.

Eventually though, it seems that any slight affection he has for his wife wanes. She grumbles about her childless condition and nags constantly about this and that. In addition, he becomes bored with his prestigious position as a scribe.

One day, as Mark passes the market, he spots Aphiema over by the fruit stand. She is as beautiful as ever. Old desires well up inside of him and he is drawn to her side.

“Hmm, this fruit looks quite delicious,” he says, not taking his sensuous eyes off her.

She cocks her head with an alluring smile and whispers, “Enticing, wouldn’t you say?”

“Perhaps we could partake of its sweetness this evening.”

In no time, they had set a time and place for a renewed rendezvous.

That evening, Mark contains his lurid thoughts while he makes excuses to his wife as to where he must be for the evening.

His heart beats with excitement as he prances through the dark streets of Jerusalem with youthful energy in spite of his advancing years. Night after night, he is enticed by this sensuous woman. Sometimes they meet in the daytime rather than the evening so as not to alert his wife. One must be careful when in high positions.  

Well, lest you think I’ve gone from spiritual reflections to sensual smut, let me assure you that I’m merely setting up a scenario for the rest of the story. We will get to the Scripture. Stay tuned!

~ Joyce ~

Victory in Jesus

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we saw Martha, our lady who suffered fatigue from her years of dealing with a blood disease. (See “Worn-out Lady“)

She has gathered her strength and is determined to touch Jesus’ cloak, convinced that even a touch will heal her.

Unfortunately, the crowd is particularly heavy this day. The synagogue ruler has just come to beg Jesus to go to his daughter who lies dying at his house. As Jesus walks that way, the crowd presses in close to him.

This could be her opportunity to reach in and touch him unnoticed, but does she have the strength to push through? She weaves her small, weak frame in and around the people, struggling to keep up.

At last, she sees an opening and thrusts her hand forward to touch the back of his cloak. She stumbles and almost falls, but someone lifts her up and away. Martha can feel an unfamiliar strength, surge through her body. The fatigue has left her. She feels energy she has not known in twelve years!

Just then, Jesus stops and those around him slow to a pause.

At once, Jesus turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched me?” You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you asked, ‘Who touched me?'” Mark 5:30-31

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Luke 8:46 

As far as I know, this is the only place in Scripture where we read of Jesus saying that power has gone out of him. No doubt, that was often the case when He healed. 

Well now, Martha is in a pickle! She is thrilled with her healing but frightened to have been caught.

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:47-48

Oh, my friends, that’s what He wants to do in times when we feel frazzled and weak, in our times of overworked busyness and fatigue. Go to Him in concentrated prayer, seek His presence, reach out and touch the hem of his garment and then, bask in the renewed spiritual energy that He gives, that you may… Go in peace.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Worn-Out Lady

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Do you ever feel worn to a frazzle? Coming and going with way too much activity. Or responsibilities reaching mountainous heights?

I think back to when I was younger. I would grab my little girl by the hand and hoist my eighteen-month old on my hip and out the door we’d go to some activity at church.

I taught the youth on Sunday night and directed the children’s choir on Wednesday night, while supporting my Minister of Music husband in a myriad of other activities. Of course, there’s groceries, meals, cleaning, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’re into raising older children, working outside the home, plus community, church and home responsibilities.

Or you may be where I am now—old! Dealing with health issues for myself and for an aging mother and still, after all these years, trying to reduce added activities—all worthy—but asking, Lord, what’s the ones YOU want me to do?

Maybe you’re caring for a loved one and having caregiver fatigue.

This week, our unnamed woman, is probably a young. I’m guessing 24-ish. She’s likely single and definitely suffering from the fatigue of caring for her own physical needs. Her disease causes non-stop bleeding.

One week a month is do-able, but ongoing for years is quite another thing. Even worse is the fact that she would be considered religiously unclean. According to the Mosaic law, others could not lie on a bed where she has been or sit where she sat or touch anything she has touched. She is unclean. Almost like a leper!

She’s spent what money she has on seeing many doctors through the years, but instead of improving, she’s getting worse.

Without a name, we call her “the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Let’s name her Martha. Martha means lady. This woman was more “lady” than she wanted to be.

…[she] had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Mark 5:25

Therefore, no one wanted to be around her. It seems she’s been abandoned by her own family. Perhaps the only reason she can manage to move through this crowd is because they don’t know her.

She’s obviously heard of Jesus and the miraculous way he has healed many people. “Martha” figures…

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:28

Jesus can heal us in many ways. It may not be a bleeding disease, but if we suffer from fatigue of any kind, we can seek our Lord’s healing power. We must pursue Him with diligence as Martha did. Reaching out, seeking His will, touching His presence. May it be so for us all.

Next week—the results.

~ Joyce ~

A “Pleasant” Shocker!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we met The Widow. Perhaps you already guessed that this was the widow of Nain, a town south of Nazareth. Nain means “pleasant” or delightful. Unfortunately, things were not so pleasant in “Pleasantville.”

To help personalize this unnamed widow, I suggested the name, Hannah (which means “honor.”) Her son had died and now men were carrying his open coffin toward a burial cave.

About that time, Jesus entered the town along with his disciples and a large crowd who had been following him. 

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. Luke 7:12

What timing! Coincidence, you say? How many times in your life has the Lord been there just when you needed him most?

I love the next verse when we see Jesus’ compassionate heart. He did not do his acts of healing for sensationalism; he did them because he saw a need and had a caring heart.

When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Luke 7:13

Now hold your breath as we view what happened next. 

Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and begin to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:14-15

Wouldn’t you love to know what the son said? And see his mother’s reaction? It certainly became a delightful, pleasant day in Nain. Our Hannah has been honored to have her son back once again.

What a happy day for all. Let’s check in with the crowd.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. Luke 7:16-17

“God has come,” they said. They had experienced Immanuel—God with us.

We have two other accounts in Scripture of Jesus raising someone from the dead. It seldom happens in our day, but we do see injured persons and those with dreadful diseases come through it with life—miracles in our midst.

And what joy we have when someone who was horribly dead in sin is brought into eternal life.

Thank you, Father, that you see our needs, whatever they may be, and minister to us in loving ways. Open our eyes to even small ways from day to day that you are Immanuel, God with us. 

~ Joyce ~

The Widow

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Our woman of the week, like many women in the Bible was unnamed. To help move her story along, let’s give her the name, Hannah, which means honor.

We know that “Hannah” had a son. Let’s call him Josiah, meaning may Yahweh give. Since Hannah had a son, she also had a husband, of course, a husband who could provide for his family. 

Unfortunately, Hannah’s husband died and she is now a widow, a scary place to be in that day and time. Women had very little means to provide for themselves.

Fortunately, she has Josiah who is perhaps old enough to work and provide for the two of them. Hannah must make many adjustments, but she keeps her faith in God to help her.

She worries however, because Josiah has been limping. “Why do you limp so, Josiah?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “I have pain in my hip. If I limp, I don’t feel the pain as much.”

Hannah prepares remedies that might ease the pain, but instead helping, the pain seems to be getting worse. Hannah sits in her bed at night, bending over in earnest prayer for his healing.

Soon, Josiah is only capable of working a few hours each day, then a few hours each week. Their food supply is dwindling, and Josiah’s pain increases. Neighbors help all they can, but many of them are poor as well.

The dreadful day comes when a neighbor runs down the road to Hannah when she is in the garden. “Hannah, Hannah! It’s Josiah. He’s fallen and we can’t get him up.” Hannah drops her basket and runs down the road with the neighbor.

Josiah lays absolutely still beside the road. Hannah falls to her knees and embraces her only son, but his arms are heavy and lifeless; he has no breath left in him. Hannah cries out in agony as she rocks him in her arms. “My son, my son. Oh Josiah, my son.”

Finally, two women help Hannah back to her house. The men borrow a cart from another neighbor and lift Josiah up and on to the cart. Many friends gather to comfort and mourn with Hannah. The body rests at the house where a few women perform the ritual of cleansing.

It is almost more than Hannah can bear. Her husband gone and now her son. What will she do?

Next week—Jesus comes to town.

~ Joyce ~

 

Moses’ Mother

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we discovered that Moses’ mother was Jochebed. (See “Who Was Jochebed?”)

We found her to be quite the innovator by hiding baby Moses from the hand of Pharaoh’s soldiers for three months, then devising a little basket boat in which to hide him in the Nile.

We last found the boat under the watchful of of his sister, Miriam. Perhaps Miriam played along the bank, gathering reeds to make a bracelet or hair band. She kept moving farther and farther away from their house, but still the basket floated among the reeds safely.

To her surprise she heard voices by the bank’s edge. Who were they? Would they see the basket? She looked up and realized she was near the Pharoah’s palace. Imagine her shock to spy the princess!

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Yikes! What should Miriam do now? And how did the princess know it was a Hebrew baby? Ah, yes, remember the Hebrew blanket inside the basket?

Miriam was as imaginative as her mother. She made her appearance and said,

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7

“Yes, go,” the princess told her. Of course Miriam went to get her own mother. Imagine Jochebed’s thoughts as she raced to the bathing area. What will she do with my baby? What will she do with me? God give me guidance. To her surprise, the princess said,

“Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” Exodus 2:9

Can you believe that? Not only would her baby be protected, but she would get paid for it!

No doubt Jochebed cared for this special child with dedication. Perhaps she made sure Hebrew songs were implanted in his head along with prayers to their Holy God.

Evidently the agreement included returning the baby after he had been weaned. 

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10 (“Moses” sounds like the Hebrew word for “draw out.”)

It isn’t until Exodus 6:20 that we learn Jochebed’s name and her husband, Amram in the listing of family names, but these few verses in Exodus 2 say much about her creativity and her dedication to her child along with the sacrifice she made.

Oh, that we might be creative and take advantage of the time we’re given with our children and grandchildren, our church children and other young lives we touch.

~ Joyce ~