Sometimes, in fact oftentimes, we humans operate out of such breathtaking blindness it beggars belief. How many times do you read about a politician whose job it is to oversee a particular policy, themselves falling foul of that exact policy? Do you work with someone who is obsessed with your time keeping, but often overruns in meetings?
Listen to some people talk about themselves and it is clear that they have little perspective on how they actually come across. This, of course, includes you and even me!
What is it that blinds us so much that we become incapable of seeing ourselves and others with a degree of accuracy?
Allow me to make some suggestions. You become blind when you elevate rules, laws and regulations higher than people. When the punctuality of a meeting is more important than the person you are meeting, you risk developing a blind spot.
When obeying a rule becomes more important than building a team, you run a risk.
When your ethical viewpoint drives you to condemn others who don’t conform, you will not see the others at all. The more complex and comprehensive your moral, ethical, principal or social codes are, then the greater the potential for seeing only your codes and not reality.
Second suggestion. Scapegoating. Each one of you wants to choose someone to blame. It is a universal human trait. Romans blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. Nazis blamed the Jews for financial downturns. Whites blame blacks, blacks blame whites. Christians blame Muslims, Muslims blame infidels. Villages blame witches. Companies blame whistleblowers. Everybody blames the economy.
You will want to find a focus for your energy of blame, which resides in your soul, but desires to be addressed towards someone else.
Now we are ready to open our eyes and look at such a legalistic, scapegoating moment in John’s gospel, which we are constantly arguing was a gospel heavily influenced by Mary, the mother of Jesus.
We arrive at a moment which would have made Mary profoundly proud of her son.
The cameo is set in the religious, legal, political centre of life, known as the temple courts. A large crowd surrounds the Son of Man and he sits to speak. Suddenly, a gang of men pushes a terrified woman in front of the seated teacher. She, they say, has been caught in adultery. The law of Moses states she should be stoned. And then they ask an ancient modern question ‘What would Jesus do?’
Pause the film and spot the utter lunacy of the moment. How do you catch someone in adultery? Only if you have prior knowledge. Second, unless I’m mistaken, adultery is an act that involves two people. Why is the woman brought only? Third, what a barbaric proposition to suggest they pick up rocks and smash them into her body.
Rules, laws, regulations had been twisted and then blinded them. The woman was irrelevant to them, just a pawn in their dirty game. She was the victim on a sting and they didn’t care about her wellbeing.
They wanted to throw stones into her body just to prove a point. Behind it was not an honest quest for learning from the teacher, but hatred of a man who would not be controlled by their petty rules. He broke their view of the law and they hated him for it.
So they vent their hatred on the scapegoated woman who stands invisible to them.
Jesus says no word. He rarely speaks back to such blindness. Herod would experience this silence as well.
Bending down from his seated position, he writes in the dust. We can only guess what he wrote, because John does not tell us. What we are told, is that he ignored their trick questions and subsequent repeats.
Then comes the flash of light, which pierces even the blinded eyes. Straightening up, Jesus says ‘Let anyone who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her’. Back to writing.
The older ones, who were at least aware of some of their sins a bit more than the others, moved away first. The younger, more aggressive ones took a little longer. Finally the whole crowd had gone, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. It is now a tender moment, in which she is seen by eyes of acceptance and calm.
‘I do not condemn you – leave your life of sin’.
If that was the end of the story, you would still have an amazing, eye-opening word kit to help you see how to treat other people. When you are tempted to lob a stone of criticism, judgement or condemnation at anyone, check out your own track record – it will not be clean. When someone breaks your laws, check out your obedience quota. You will not pass your own tests.
Jesus, however, moves from diagnosis to challenge. He launches into challenging their system of testimony as twisted and applied to him, he challenges their smug assumption about their own heritage and their naïve assumptions about his origins.
It’s as if he is saying ‘If you want to throw the law of Moses at anyone, throw it at me. If you want to persist in scapegoating, scapegoat me. If you want to boast about your heritage, compare it with mine.’
The episode closes with them being so mad, they actually pick up the stones this time – but he moved away – it was not his time.
So what do you want to do – throw stones at a colleague, a politician, a religion, a nation, because they have broken your laws? Do you want to throw stones at the economy, the bankers, the men, the women, the blacks, the whites?
Or do you want to grow up and see your own darkness and redundancy? It is challenging, isn’t it?
Jesus turns your eyes to see him claiming I am the witness to the truth, I am from the Father, I am the truth that can set you free from the lies. I am the scapegoat and, what really made them mad, I am!
Not long from this time they would get him and hang him up to die. They would smash his body, thinking they had got rid of the problem. Wrong again. Missed the point again. Blindness, hatred again. But he will always slip away, even from a tomb. He will not obey the rules. Let him write his name in your dust.
So what do you want – throw or grow?
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
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