New perspectives on scripture.

June 23, 2014.

I was talking with a friend last night and we got on the topic of seeing bible stories in a different context in the accepted “this is the way it happened” attitude. I think this way of thinking is both good and bad, depending on the situation. There is definitely something to be said about looking at a story from a new perspective or having some speculation about what happens that isn’t written that can bring a new light to the story. However, to go beyond the words and state what you think happened as fact is also dangerous.

There is one story in particular that I have heard a different perspective on that I really like. Now, there is no way to really prove speculation, but that doesn’t mean it did or did not happen. And this speculation simply adds to the lesson that is being taught already, so I do not think it changes what is being said, but reinforces it. When speculation can do that, I believe it is a useful tool, so long as you make it clear what is speculation and what is from the word of God. Let me show you what I mean.

In John’s gospel, there is an story where the Jewish leaders are trying to catch Jesus in a trap to make him loose favor with the people or to make him go against the Law so that they can have a real reason to accuse him. They come up wit a plan to bring a woman caught in adultery to him and ask what they should do, since the Law says she should be stoned. Surely they have him trapped, because if he says they shouldn’t stone her, then he violates the Law; but if he tells them to stone her, then the people would not like him as much. It seemed to be a win-win for the opponents of Jesus.

“This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But 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. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
(John 8:6-11)

You can see how the story ends with Jesus giving them an answer that leaves them speechless, neither breaking the Law nor losing favor. So what is the different perspective? Have you ever wondered what Jesus was writing on the ground? I have wondered this before and wondered why John wrote it in his gospel if he wasn’t going to tell us what Jesus wrote. One day, I was either discussing this story with some people or listening to a sermon (I can’t remember who told me this) and someone proposed what Jesus might have written. What if Jesus bent down and started to write each of the accuser’s sins on the ground as they were standing there trying to get him to fail. This brings a whole new light to when Jesus stood up and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” This silenced the crowd, possibly because they realized why he had written “lying,” or “jealousy” or “pride.” Or perhaps he was even more specific, detailing sinful situations or pairing sins with names. I don’t know, but I like to think that this is actually what happened, though I can’t be sure it is. I like to think so because it brings out the point Jesus is making here.

What is the point? The point is that we all sin. To choose someone at random and exploit their sin before the Almighty (and not even bring the man with whom she was committing adultery… it takes two) is to bring judgement upon yourself. This is the whole idea behind “judge not, that you be not judged.” The point there is not that we can’t see something as wrong and talk to the person about it. The point is that we shouldn’t be so harsh on other people’s sins because we will be judged ourselves with the same strictness. Listen to the words of our Lord:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:1-5)

Do you see what he says at the end? First take the log out of your eye, and then go help your brother! Not just, get the log out of you eye and be quiet. But this is what is often taught when we say “don’t judge me.” Further examination on who and what we are supposed to judge or not judge is needed, but suffice it to say for this point that we all have sin in our lives and we need not overreact at other’s sin while forgetting about our own.

So does Jesus writing the sins of the people on the ground add to this lesson? I think so. The leaders were so blind to their own sins and so observant of other’s that they were willing to put this woman to death for the reason of catching Jesus in a trap. That is sad. Notice that Jesus is not subverting the Law here as he is not advocating sin. He says “go and sin no more.” As we discussed in yesterday’s post, the Law was given for a reason, not to destroy but to teach and to guide. The Jewish leaders were no longer using the Law for it’s purpose, so Jesus shed light on their true motives.

Perhaps this makes this story a little bit more interesting, to the point where it will cause you to read and study more on your own. If that is what new perspectives do, then I believe they are being used well. Just be sure you know what is actually written and do not bind beyond what the bible binds, nor loose where it does not loose. Study well.

Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 7, Luke 6-7, John 8.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

-Walter

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