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 ~

 

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 ~

 

Salvation 2 – Wages of Sin

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we began a process of how we might share the gospel with a non-believer. (Salvation 1 – Who Is Worthy?) We established that we all sin and this sinful nature separates us from God. 

You drew a figure something like this—

In your Bible, you underlined Romans 3:23 and put a star beside the verse.

Turn to this passage again, and go to the bottom of of the page and write “Romans 6:23.” When you turn to that verse, underline it and put a star beside it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

We don’t use the word “wages” much anymore, but we understand that it means something like a salary. You do work, you get paid. It is something you earn. We think of it as a good thing.

But we can also “earn” something negative. You commit a crime; you earn punishment. You fail to turn in your homework; you earn a bad grade.

In this case, the Bible tells us that what you earn from sin is death. Eventually, we’re all going to die physically, but the death in this verse refers to spiritual death, a hefty penalty, because it is an eternal death.

Oh, but there is good news! God has a gift for us. A gift is something you have not earned. It is given out of love. The gift comes through Jesus Christ who wants to be Lord of our lives. The gift is not eternal death, but eternal life.

Under your “two-mountain” drawing, you might want to draw a $10 bill with the word “death” above it and a gift box with “life” above it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So what did Jesus do to give this gift?

Next week—The Price He paid.

 ~ Joyce ~

 

  

Salvation 1 – Who Is Worthy?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

For the next four weeks, we will consider the path to salvation.

Is it hard for you to share that message with people? Do you feel bum-fumbled with what to say? Perhaps these thoughts will give you a concrete plan. You’ll need your Bible, paper, and a pen.

Let’s envision two mountains. Draw two on your paper something like this picture.

Write the word “Me” on top of the short mountain and “God” on top of the tall one.

Inside of all of us is a need for God, a vacuum only He can fill. But how do we get to God? We can’t jump to the other mountain; it’s too far. We can’t climb up the mountain; it’s too steep. Besides there’s a great valley in between.

This valley is filled with mire and muck and we can’t get through it. It contains pride, hatred, selfishness, lying, adultery, murder, cheating, gossip, and a whole slew of other unrighteous acts. Actually, it’s anything that separates us from God. Label it “Valley of Sin.”   

 

We certainly can’t claim righteousness or know the glory of God with all this mess. No matter who we are, we’re not worthy to enter God’s Holy presence. Find Romans 3:23. Underline the verse and put a star by it in your Bible.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

All means Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, your pastor, Billy Graham, Miley Cyrus (or some celebrity your friend would know), you and me—all have sinned. We may not have committed murder, but we have likely been self-centered or prideful and certainly not holy.

We all fall short of entering the glorious presence of our holy God.

Still, we cannot know eternal peace without Him. No matter if we have the notoriety of Bill Gates, the prestige of Abe, the honor of Mr. Graham, the lavish clothes and houses of Miley, or the comforts of our own routines and friends, nothing can totally satisfy the deep longings of our hearts like the one who created us.

Read the verse again. None of us is worthy. 

Then what are we to do? Stay tuned next week for part two.

~ Joyce ~