Saturday, March 18, 2017

Daily Devotion for Lent 2017 - Day 16, Saturday

Today's Reading: John 7:53-8:20 (NRSV)

It is interesting that one of the most beloved stories about Jesus may be apocryphal - along the lines of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.  The footnotes about 7:53 through 8:11 show us that this story was likely added by an editor to the original manuscript of John.  

It feels more like a story from one of the synoptic gospels in that this is the only place in John where we see the group "scribes" noted.  In Mark, they appear all the time.  Of course, the story could very likely have come from a different oral tradition about Jesus and was inserted by an editor because he or she didn't want this important story to fade into obscurity.  

It does have many of the likely things we would find in a story about Jesus.  

He is set up to be trapped in a test.  He deftly maneuvers out of the trap.  He offers grace to one on the margins that would normally be ignored by the religious authorities of the time.

Of course, the trap comes from Jewish law versus Roman law.  Which is the true law? Jewish law condemns the woman to death.  But Roman law would say that you no longer have the authority to commit this kind of punishment.  It would be similar today in the United States if a church killed a woman caught in adultery.  The people in charge of this church would be arrested and sentenced for murder.

This passage has Jesus writing on the ground.  The footnotes also show that other manuscripts have him writing the sins of each of the accusers in the dirt.  

To be accused by another is a common
human occurrence.  It is amusing in the photo
but is there any real difference for adults?
Can you imagine if Jesus began writing down things like blasphemy, stealing, and honoring your parents?  I wonder if he saved "bearing false witness" for last?  While their setup of the woman may not technically qualify, their intent was not to punish her but to trap Jesus.  These who claimed to be closer to God than anyone had put someone's life at risk in order to get someone else in trouble.  

As their true intent is exposed, they all leave the scene.  

This is a wonderful example preceding the statement, "I am the light of the world."  Light exposes things hidden in the darkness.  So whether this was originally inserted by John or not seems immaterial at this point.  It is a part of the Christian story and shapes us in important ways.

After all, we could all use a little more light in our lives.

Prayer for the day:

Light of the world!
Shine in my heart.  Shine in my life.
When, through my actions, I forget that you are constantly shining, forgive me.
May no one be left to accuse me and may I seek to accuse no one.
And the way that I go will be your way.  Amen.

Photo by Steve Baker via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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