Monday, December 01, 2008

Forgiving the Adulteress?

Every once in a while an epiphany hits you that's been staring in your face for thirty years.

In John 8, Jesus did not forgive the woman who was caught in adultery. Rather, he maneuvered her accusers into dropping their charges against her. Different thing entirely.

With no eyewitnesses to testify against her, there was no case, and she was acquitted (or rather, pardoned - she was guilty, after all).

Yet Jesus perceived that she really was guilty, so he did the only thing left for him to do: he told her to "Go, and sin no more."

The story wasn't about her being forgiven by God; it was about saving her life in the culture's legal environment. Jesus wasn't asking the accusers to forgive her; he was asking them to cool off enough from the mob mentality to make sure they really wanted to testify in a case that would lead to the death of a fellow human being who in retrospect wasn't any more sinful than they themselves were.

1 comment:

Kent West said...

It's my understanding that the Romans had outlawed executions by the Jews (cf John 18:31). It seems that the trap (8:6) was that if Jesus approved, or initiated, the execution of this woman, the scribes/Pharisees would then be able to hand him over to the Roman authorities, and thereby be done with him.

But Jesus slipped out of that noose, by calling on the "righteous" person in the crowd to initiate the execution of the unrighteous woman. None of these "righteous" folks were willing to risk arrest and perhaps crucifixion for murder, so they backed out of the deal, one by one.