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RETROSPECTION AND REPENTANCE

Read­ing Time: 11 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Isa 43:16–21; Phil 3:8–14; John 8:1–11)

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, begin­ning with the older ones; and Jesus was left alone with the woman stand­ing before him” (John 8:7.9).

Introduction

This Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent, and the Church presents to us a beau­ti­ful pas­sage from the Gos­pel accord­ing to John. It is a story that clearly mani­fests the say­ing of Jesus found in Mat­thew 7:3 why do you see the speck of saw­dust in your brother’s eye while you do not notice, see or pay atten­tion to the plank in your own eye?” Last Sunday, we saw how the young­er son of the man in the par­able came to his senses and from thence, began his pro­cess of repent­ance and return to the source of life (Luke 15:17). In the Gos­pel read­ing of this Sunday, we have the Scribes and the Phar­isees, who have refused to come to their senses. They reject ret­ro­spec­tion and there­fore, find it dif­fi­cult to repent. Repent­ance demands that we look into ourselves.

Jesus con­tin­ues to teach and edu­cate the people. As usu­al, the Scribes and the Phar­isees inter­rupt him with anoth­er of their traps. Of course, John stated it clearly that their reas­on for com­ing to Jesus with this par­tic­u­lar case was to test him to find some­thing against him (cf. John 8:6). Instead of sit­ting down like oth­er people and listen­ing to Jesus’ teach­ing, they were ser­i­ous stress­ing them­selves look­ing for charges against him. Jesus shamed them with his clas­sic­al and super­i­or intel­li­gence, the intel­li­gence of the Son of Man who is guided by the wis­dom and spir­it of God.

The story con­tin­ues the teach­ing about the mercy of God and for­give­ness. Last Sunday we heard the Par­able of the Prod­ig­al and repent­ant son from the Gos­pel accord­ing to Luke. This Sunday, we hear not a par­able, but the report from the Gos­pel accord­ing to John, of an encounter among Jesus, the Scribes and the Phar­isees, and a woman caught in adultery.

Observations

Con­cern­ing John 8:1–11, I have the fol­low­ing obser­va­tions to make:

  1. The Jew­ish author­it­ies were spir­itu­ally blind because they saw in Jesus an enemy who must be elim­in­ated. Hence, every occa­sion was seen as an oppor­tun­ity to trap him down. The Romans did not allow the Jews to carry out death sen­tences (cf. John 18:31). There­fore, if Jesus had accep­ted ston­ing the woman, he could have been in con­flict with the Romans. On the oth­er hand, if he had objec­ted to the ston­ing, he would have been accused of not obey­ing the law (cf. also Mark 12:13–17). This was the trap. People with such men­tal­ity abound in our vari­ous envir­on­ments. Such people are men­tally sick and empty inside. Why should some people set traps for oth­ers because they refuse to be and behave like them? What is the gain in try­ing to pull anoth­er per­son down? The Chris­ti­an Churches and com­munit­ies are filled with these ugly and inhu­man attitudes.
  2. When the teach­ers of the law (Scribes) and the Phar­isees claimed Moses ordered them to stone a woman caught in adul­tery, they were not present­ing the law cor­rectly. They altered it to suit their evil plan. Again, this atti­tude has not ceased today. How often do people alter the truth just for their selfish­ness? The man­ner of the exe­cu­tion of a woman caught in adul­tery was not pre­scribed by law except the woman in ques­tion was betrothed to a man (cf. Deut 22:23–24). They just wanted to implic­ate Jesus. Is there any gain in try­ing to implic­ate anoth­er per­son simply because you do not like the per­son? People have the right to express their opin­ion and dis­agree with some people. Why should this be a prob­lem? Why harm anoth­er per­son because he or she sees things dif­fer­ently from you? Why so much intol­er­ance espe­cially among those who claim to be fol­low­ers of Christ?
  3. Even in the case of a proven adul­tery, the law requires the exe­cu­tion of the man and the woman (cf. Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). Since the Scribes and the Phar­isees knew this law, why then did they bring only the woman? Why was the man not brought before Jesus as well? This is pure injustice. Often, we manip­u­late the truth to suit our evil desires and plans. We hide our wrong­do­ings and shout out that of oth­er people. When the proph­et Nath­an vis­ited Dav­id and nar­rated to him how a rich man who lived in the same city with a poor man went and col­lec­ted the only little ewe of the poor man and killed it for his vis­it­ors, while he the rich man had vast flocks and herds but pre­ferred the only anim­al belong­ing to the poor man. When Dav­id heard it he shouted as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die. Nath­an then told him that he Dav­id is the man. He had many wives and con­cu­bines but he killed Uriyah and took his wife (cf. 2Sam 12:). At this point, Dav­id went on his knees and implored God to have mercy on him (cf. Ps 50). Look at that! If it is anoth­er per­son, then, that per­son deserves to die. But since he Dav­id was the per­son, God should have mercy on him. This bizarre beha­viour and men­tal­ity has not ceased in our day. In fact, it has worsened. Many people pray that God bless and grant them suc­cess, good health, joy and fin­an­cial pro­gress, but wish that evil befall oth­ers. Too bad!

What have you to say?

The Scribes and the Phar­isees brought a woman who had been caught in adul­tery; and mak­ing her stand before all of them, they said to him, teach­er, this woman was caught in the very act of com­mit­ting adul­tery. Now in the law Moses com­manded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:3–5). In John 8:1–2, we read that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now, at day­break, he appeared again in the Temple Court, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down and star­ted teach­ing them. It was at this point that the Torah-teach­ers (the Scribes) and the P’rushim (the Phar­isees) appeared with the woman. As I said in the intro­duc­tion, while oth­ers were clus­ter­ing around Jesus to listen to his teach­ings, the Jew­ish author­ity was busy look­ing for where to find fault. This is a sign of psy­cho­lo­gic­al defect. And we have many of them in our vari­ous com­munit­ies. To prove the Scribes and the Phar­isees had evil inten­tion con­cern­ing Jesus, John says they asked Jesus his opin­ion to trap him. That is, so they might have ground for bring­ing charges against him (cf. John 8:6).

Hav­ing presen­ted the case to Jesus, they now wanted to know his opin­ion. As usu­al, Jesus sur­prised them. After their ques­tion, he bent down and began writ­ing in the dust with his fin­ger. The idea of writ­ing must have thrown them off. They must have wandered what he was writ­ing. Jesus was not actu­ally writ­ing. The form of the Greek verb[1] (katagraphō) used indic­ates he may have been doing some draw­ings on the ground as a way of ignor­ing them, since they were biased. In fact, their insist­ence on know­ing his mind forced him to look up and say to them: He that is sin­less (inno­cent) among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her (cf. John 8:7). After say­ing this, he con­tin­ued what he was doing before. John care­fully notes that when they heard it[2], they star­ted with­draw­ing one after the oth­er begin­ning with the old­est till the last per­son, prob­ably, the young­est giv­en the order of the with­draw­al (cf. John 8:9).

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