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14

 

 

Adulterous Man

How has it come to this? I’m standing here with a rock in my hand amidst all this anger. The anger is not mine, but I can feel it. It’s all around.

I didn’t see this coming as I sat at breakfast with my wife, Anna, and my two little ones. I think of myself as a good father, a good husband. I have a steady job working with the dairyman. We sell our milk from a cart near the sheep gate. I almost have enough saved to buy a few cows of my own.

But at noontime, as I sat in the square eating the lunch my Anna had packed for me, I saw her. I have known her for a few months. I say known, but not really, though our eyes have met often. The few words we have traded have been suggestive and flirtatious, but meant nothing.

When I first saw her, the words of my father rang in my ears. On my wedding day he told me I must be like Job and make a covenant with my eyes if I wanted to be faithful to my Anna. But that day, my eyes saw only my sweet bride, and I can remember thinking such evil could never tempt me.

The day I first saw this woman in the market, she caught me staring. I looked away immediately, but I felt temptation’s net, and it had me. The next time, I let my eyes linger a bit longer.

Once I saw her walking through the temple gate with a man I took to be her father. I later learned it was her husband. Not a great match for her.

Today, she walked right up to where I was eating and sat down beside me. I told her she should not sit next to me right there in the square because people would whisper.

“I just need someone to talk to,” she said, right on the edge of tears. “Where can I talk with you?”

I took her to a place I knew would be empty and quiet at that time of day, and she began to cry in earnest. She told me of her life, and at first I just listened. I told myself she needed me to listen. She needed a friend. She just needed to talk about it. I needed to be compassionate, to listen like a friend.

Soon I was holding her as she sobbed and trembled.

The rest is a blur. What started as a comforting touch became an embrace, and soon I found myself overwhelmed. Compassion became passion, and the next thing I knew, the door burst open.

A group of men broke in, some in religious robes, including my own rabbi. This rabbi had married Anna and me; he had circumcised my little Yacob. They grabbed us and started dragging us out into the square.

“Let the boy go,” my rabbi said. “I know him.”

The woman’s husband was among our intruders. “You Jezebel! You harlot!” he yelled in our wake.

I followed the angry group out into the square, where they had gathered up stones. I’d lived in Jerusalem my whole life, but I’d never seen anyone stoned in the streets. We read about it in the Law of Moses, but we never took it that far. My rabbi stood beside me. He bent down and picked up two stones. They were bigger than a man’s fist. He took my right hand and forced me to take the cold, hard lump of hatred.

I dropped it, but he reached down, picked it up, and gave it back to me.

“If you will not do this thing, you will be up there with her,” he said to me. I could hardly breathe.

Then the crowd swelled forward. One of the rabbis called out, “Jesus is in the outer court. Follow me, and let’s hear what that upstart will have us do with her.”

Soon the woman lay face down in the dust. I could still hear her sobs. Before her stood a man dressed in common robes. There was already a good-size crowd with Him before we pushed our way through.

“Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?”

It was then I realized this was not about the woman, or about her sin, or about the law. It was a test for this preacher. It was not the woman in the dirt who was on trial here. It was this Jesus. This was a test for Him. They wanted to see what He would do.

Would this so-called Son of Man side with the sinner, or would He side with the religious leaders? They hated the title He had taken. They worked so hard to be more than mere men. These priests, scribes, and Pharisees craved the esteem of men; they were anything but common.

But this Jesus, He would eat with sinners. He was not ashamed to be with them in their homes and in the streets. How would He deal with this woman? Would He take her part and defy the Lord God’s own law? Would He take up a stone with us and break faith with the people?

This had me nervous. If He took up the law, I might just be next.

As I stood, stone in hand and awaiting His judgment, I thought back to those glances that brought me to this place. I wasn’t so innocent. A place in my heart had sought out this adultery. I allowed my eyes to draw me into dissatisfaction with a life full of blessing.

Jesus positioned Himself between those of us with stones and the woman. She was still weeping with her face in the dirt. He knelt down and wrote something in the dust.

I could not see what He was writing, but, in the silence my guilt and shame were mounting. Again I heard my father’s words: “Remember son,” he would say, “Hell and destruction are never full, so man’s eyes are never satisfied.”

How had I fallen so far? How could this man expose my heart without speaking one word?

Then He stood and looked at us—at me!

The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone,” He said.

After a moment, He got back down in the dirt with the woman. As He continued to write in the dust, His finger tracing the law in my heart, I saw for the first time the wickedness of my actions.

And I was not the only one. First the elders began to back off, some dropping their stones, others taking them away as they quietly pulled back from the crowd.

As I stood there, I could hear my own voice speaking my vows to dear Anna those eight years ago. What I wanted to do was fall down and beg Him to forgive me. That’s when I had to leave. I wanted to run, but I just dropped the stone and backed away. My sin, my unfaithfulness, filled my heart. I had to be rid of it. But how? How could I be free of this guilt? I never knew this darkness of guilt and shame until I stood in the presence of such holiness, such wisdom, such purity.

Who is this man?

What must I do to be saved from this condemnation that fills my heart?

~~~

To read the original story, see John 8:1-11.

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If you find yourself asking these same questions check out this post - What Peace? - where I lay out God's plan in simple terms.

 

Copyright - 2015 -  Benjamin Nelson

This story comes from my book "Encounters With Jesus. Forty days in the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched." You can get yours today at Amazon.com.

If you've read Encounters it would be a huge blessing to me if you would write a review, and tell a friend about it.

If you would be interested in buying more than one copy, email me for bulk rates.

BenHeadshotThanks for coming by.

We'll talk again soon.

Ben

7

My friend Pattie from work asked a great question about our maiden and the opposition she faced in from the guards and watchmen.

The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
They struck me and wounded me;
The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.

Song of Songs 5:6-7 NASB

Pattie asked whether this picture of our maiden could be a foreshadowing of Mary Magdalene.

We don’t know for sure, but there is a good chance it was Mary who was caught in adultery and faced stoning by the religious leaders in John 8, where Jesus told them

He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. - John 8:7 NASB

After they all left – considering their own shame, He looked to (we’ll call her) Mary and said –

Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?

Mary: No one, Lord."

Jesus: I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.

From John 8:10-11 NASB

Later we see her washing His feet:

I like the account in Luke 7 of this, and though it seems out of sequence and Mary is not named here, I suspect this is the same woman from John 8 (today we call her Mary.)

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. - Luke 7:37-38 NASB

Jesus dinner host – the Pharisee – is incensed to have this woman in his house making this spectacle during his dinner party.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." - Luke 7:39 NASB

So here is the connection

Mary gives her life into the hands of Jesus – her master.

His forgiveness was demonstrated in the street.

His instruction follows – Go and sin no more.

Now she is tested by the hatred of those who do not forget her past, but lock her in it by their memory – by their on going abuse.

Who are you to join with those of us who have always been righteous?

How can you think that because a simple encounter with Christ in the marketplace you are clean?

We know who you are?

We know what you’ve done?

Get back in your place. We don’t have any problem with you as a whore in the street – but don’t pretend to have a relationship with God.

O Church – It’s time for us to believe the power of God to transform a life, and learn from this woman:

1)    No one is beyond the touch of Jesus Love.

2)    Anyone can be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into a child of the Living God.

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for coming by today.

Thanks for the question Pattie.

See you again soon.

Ben

That is honestly what I thought when I got to this part of Matthew 5. I am trying to work my way through the sermon on the mount, and teach it from my heart. And now this!

And it was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’, but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matt 5:31-32 NASB)

I know from George Barna’s article New Marriage and Divorce Statistics Released 30% of American Adults who have been married, one third have been divorced at least once.

I know from this same study that fully 26% of Evangelical Christians have been divorced at least once.

I know the Church has done more harm that good for decades, in the lives of those who have been impacted by divorce.

I also know that I am unwilling to mitigate the words of Jesus just because they are uncomfortable.

So I have been agonizing over this post for over a week, asking the Lord for light that would be true to the word, and edifying to the body of Christ.

OK- here goes:

The phrase that really strikes me here (at least today) is “everyone who divorces his wife,  makes her commit adultery.” How can an action take by a man (ejecting his wife) put guilt on her?

He is speaking into a society that is very male centric, and in fact demeans women at every turn. A woman as I understand it, would not work outside the home. She would be a daughter until she became a wife. This may be an oversimplification, but in essence once married, she would carry out the household duties prescribed to her.

The only legit grounds for divorce that made sense here would be unchastity – so if a man were to divorce his wife, it is like sewing that big read “A” right on her blouse, even if it was not true. The chatter would be, “What did she do to deserve this? She must be…”

So my thinking here is that what she receives is SHAME without GUILT. The two may feel the same, and often go hand in hand. But in this case – the guilt is not her's but his, and the shame is undeserved, but as real as if she was the one Jesus rescued from the center of the square in John 8. [Tweet This]

Now – speaking of John 8, just for the record, Jesus makes it clear that this is not the unforgivable sin.

So here is the deal. If you (man or woman) act in any relationship in such a way as to imply shame upon others, STOP IT NOW! (really – I mean it!)

If you (woman or man) are carrying shame because of something someone else did, take a deep breath and hear the words of Jesus. “Where are your accusers? Go and sin no more."

Let me just say a couple more things here about divorce. May I? (if you answered no here – you should stop reading and just go to the bottom and click “like” – otherwise read on)

First – hear this – divorce is not the unforgivable sin. (Yes - it bears repeating) If you have been through a divorce, don’t let that become your identity. Repent if necessary, reconcile to whatever level it is possible, and be free of that stigma. God forgives us for our sins when we confess and forsake them. And the Word tells us that he cleanses us from all unrighteousness. That means it is as though you never sinned.

Next - If you are in a marriage, and it is rough, I would say to you, God has the power to heal all those wounds. The ones you have inflicted, and the ones you have borne. Fast and pray and seek the face of God. There is nothing more beneficial to a relationship with another human, than a relationship with God. Work at your marriage. Talk to your spouse. Be honest. Get a good Christian counselor involved.

Finally - Remember this about marriage. God loved us, and reconciled himself to us in that He did not hold our trespasses against us. If we can step into giving that same kind of love to our spouses, we can make this work. The only love that works is agape love, and agape love is always a choice, not a feeling. We must choose to love our mates.

Thanks for reading today. I really appreciate that you take the time.

Ben

Ring photo credit: ZeRo`SKiLL via photopin cc

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