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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Jesus and Logic: John 8:3-11

This is my first entry to the "Jesus as Logician" project (but see Jeremy Pierce's objection to the title of the project). It is taken from John 8:3-11.

When the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in adultery before Jesus, they intended to entrap Him in a moral connundrum. The Law of Moses, they said, required that such a woman be stoned to death. They were hoping to force Jesus to have to either advocate killing the woman or to be accused of breaking the Law by letting the woman go.

Jesus' response threw them for a loop,

"He who is without sin cast the first stone."

Rather than be caught in a
false dilemma, Jesus demonstrated that there isn't just the choice of carrying out or ignoring what the Law of Moses demanded.

He demonstrated that the Law of Moses is not simply a legal document that one consults concerning the rightness and wrongness of actions, meting out punishment by the execution of "blind justice".

Jesus demonstrated that contrary to the Pharisees' understanding (and that of many Christians and students of the Old Testament today) the Mosaic Law is first and foremost based on the grace and mercy of God (as demonstrated, for instance, in the Day of Atonement - see Leviticus 16), and rooted in a vital and dynamic relationship with God (as demonstrated in the Preamble to the giving of the Mosaic Law in Exodus 20:2, Deut. 6:1-4).

By inviting the first person who is without sin to cast the first stone, Jesus not only underscores the relational priority of the Law, He also exposed the hyprocrisy that belies the Pharisees' accusations. He also showed that the Law was given not for condemnation but for empowerment and freedom (Isaiah 61:1-3).

They were more interested in condemning the woman who was caught in the act of adultery than they were in offering God's grace and mercy towards a person desperately in need of divine intervention.

Jesus' next words showed that the logic of the Law is undergirded by the grace and mercy of God.

"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No, Lord."

"Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin."

Law, Jesus shows, is to be understood in the context of relationship. And the basis of this relationship is the proactive love of God who came to first love us and to give us His Son to repair the brokenness and to fill the emptiness in our lives.

Note: For further meditations in this passage, see my previous post on the implications of those powerful words, "Neither do I condemn you."