“Word for Today” – John 8 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 26, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

percent-sign-1I ran across a statistic the other day that caught my attention and hurt my heart.  In a recent study, the National Center for Health Services found that a full 40 percent of children are now born out of wedlock in the United States.  Compare this to statistics just 55 years ago, and you find a 700 percent increase in children born to unmarried parents.  This is certainly frightening.  And it is certainly against God’s Word and will.  However, before some merely decry the demise of our society and condemn the transgression of our culture, we should perhaps reflect on how to considerately, gracefully, and thoughtfully gage a response.  For although such a statistic does indeed call for a response, any response, in light of the gravity of this foreboding fact, should be a carefully crafted one.

In our reading for today from John 8, Jesus is drawn into what must have seemed to him to be a tragic situation.  “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery” to Jesus (verse 3).  Now, although I do not have the statistics for first century Jewish women who engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, I feel fairly confident that they were significantly lower than 40 percent.  For in first century Jewish culture, to have a woman participate in this kind of sexual immorality earned her what would have been better than the equivalent of a scarlet letter.  For the punishment for such an immoral act was stoning.  Thus, the religious leaders say 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” (verses 4-5)?

Before proceeding with the story, we must note a peculiarity concerning this woman’s charge.  “This woman was caught in the act of adultery,” the religious leaders arrogantly announce.  With whom?  After all, this sin is a two person transgression.  And the Mosaic Law, to which the religious leaders so smugly refer, clearly mandates, “Both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).  However, the intentions of the religious leaders do not center on upholding the integrity of Biblical Law.  Rather, their intentions are more sinister.  “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Jesus” (verse 6).  For stoning this woman would break Roman Law, the secular law of their land.  But refusing to carry out a death penalty would break Mosaic Law, the very law of God.  The religious leaders are hoping to trap Jesus between the Law of God and the Law of Rome.

Jesus, however, is not so easily cornered.  “If any one of you is without sin,” he replies, “let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (verse 7).  Facing a relatively rare, at least in the first century, statistical anomaly of a Jewish woman caught in adultery, Jesus responds with another statistic:  that of those who sin.  And that statistic, whether it’s in the first century or the 21st century, has always hovered right at 100 percent.  Well, 99.99999999999 percent (with some more 9’s in there as well).  For there was one person who did not fall prey to this somber statistic.  And he was the one who quoted it.  Jesus, however, does not use his perfection to condemn this woman, but to forgive her:  “Has no one condemned you?” Jesus asks. “No one sir,” the woman replies.  “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now and leave your life of sin” (verse 11).

I’ve never really liked this translation of Jesus’ final words to this woman.  “Go now and leave your life of sin,” although it’s eloquent, doesn’t really capture the sense and significance of the Greek.  A more wooden translation would read:  “Go from the now and stop sinning.”  Even if this translation may seem a bit awkward, I don’t think its profundity can be overstated.  Jesus says, in response to this woman’s sin, “Go from the now.”  In other words, Jesus is telling this woman, “The way things are now are not the way they have to be.  You can leave your present life mired in sin and brokenness.  You can go from it.  Your statistic of sin need not be permanent.  It can change.”  And here is the hope of this passage.  It is hope for the 40 percent of unwed parents who live in this country and hope for the 100 percent of sinners who live in this country.  Your sin need not enslave you, trap you, or rule you.  The way things are now are not the way things have to be.  For you can go from your “now.”  You can go from your now and walk into freedom:  freedom that is in Christ and through the cross.  So, whatever sinful statistic is suffocating your spirit today, walk away from it.  Go from your now.  And remember, Jesus will be leading you the whole way.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 7 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 9 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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