If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Deuteronomy 22:22 (NRSV)
The ancient books of law are not always an easy, inspirational read. I like it, however, when I come across something that provides a layer of context and color to other stories in God’s Message. Today is a good example. The law of the ancient Hebrews was that when a man and woman committed adultery they were both guilty and were to be punished by being stoned to death.
In John’s biography of Jesus there is the story of a woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders brought the woman before Jesus, stones in hand, asking Jesus to render judgment whether they should stone her to death. But, according to the law we read into today’s chapter, both the man and woman were to be stoned. So, where was the man?
The context helps provide evidence of why Jesus was so angry with the religious leaders of that day who liked to use the letter of the law when it worked to their own advantage, while they conveniently ignored the parts that weren’t. Jesus deftly handles the situation by telling the religious leaders that whichever one of them is without sin could cast the first stone. The religious leaders split and Jesus forgave the woman and sent her on her way.
Today, I’m thinking about my own heart and life. Who do I most resemble in the story? The religious hypocrite using God’s Message for my own advantage? The disgraced sinner doomed to die? Or am I like Jesus, extending grace and mercy to the condemned? As I sit here in the morning quiet I must admit that I am a mixture of all three. Today, I want to be more the latter and less the former.
featured image by Rembrandt van Rijn (wikipedia)