What Do We Learn?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

So what do we learn from the four-part story we’ve had of the unnamed woman caught in the act of adultery?

I named her Aphiema (forgiven) and gave an enhancement of her story.

We don’t know that there was such a character as Mark, who indulged in promiscuity, was spurned, and set a trap, but it stands to reason that the scene was conveniently set up in some way. It would be unlikely that these Pharisees just happened upon a couple in the act of adultery.

This is one of many times the religious leaders sought to trap Jesus, only to be caught in their trap. (Hmm, maybe another series—Setting Traps for Jesus.) Does this incident show that Jesus thinks adultery is okay? Absolutely not! He urged her to leave her life of sin. Is he saying they no longer need to follow the Mosaic laws? No. He said,

“Do not think I have to destroy the law or the Prophets. I have come not to destroy them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

He took it a step further.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ But I tell you anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27

I believe Jesus’ mission in this incident was not to dilute the sin of adultery, but to show the leaders their own sin, the sin of judging.

It’s always been a puzzle as to what Jesus was doing when he “wrote on the ground with his finger.” Was he just biding his time while they thought about his question? Some have offered that he might have been writing some of their sins in the dirt—pride, gossip, lust, rage, etc. 

“If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

You may remember that adultery was what Joseph assumed about Mary when he learned she was “with child.” He cared about her and didn’t want her to have the penalty of stoning. Before the angel assured him that the Spirit of God had brought this to pass, he already had decided to sign divorce papers, but not have her judged publicly and stoned.

Stoning was in the Mosaic law. Was Jesus putting an end to stoning? There’s no record of Christ followers stoning.

Sin is rampant in this story. The sin of the woman and the sin of the unseen man; the sinful desire of the religious leaders to trap Jesus and the way they used the woman. As always their sense of judgment always overpowered any sense of mercy and grace. Another lesson for us.

Oh Lord, help us to accurately identify sin that we tend to overlook in our society today. “Tolerance” often sets the stage for increased sin. At the same time, let us temper harsh judgmental attitudes with mercy and grace as you taught us.

~ 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 ~