Lost Hearts - The Adulteress (Part 1) (John 8:1-11)
Actions speak so loud and reveal much about the condition of a heart. Can you imagine walking with this woman throughout her day? Can you relate to the emotional geography in her life sloping upward toward peaks of joy then crashing down into perilous gorges of pain and distress? Come... follow me.
See her wake up that day filled with a sense of anticipation. Perhaps she woke up gently and poured a cool glass of water for herself. Then, she may have begun to freshen up for her encounter with this man. She may have had a difficult few days and longed for her liaison with him. This man who seemed to fill her lost heart with joy and direction.
Joy. Sometimes we forget what it's like to be without it and we can be critical of those who struggle to find it. I'm certain this relationship wasn't God's best for her, but who helped her find God's best?
When she met her lover...you know, let's give her a name. We'll call her Sarah. Do you think that as Sarah walked down the streets, people knew where she was going? Do you think that some of the men who saw her smile and smelled her fragrance… remembered? Do you think they once sensed fulfillment in a shared past and were now bitter even jealous?
You know, I think that when she knocked on her lover's door, she waited with a sense of peace. Can you look into your heart and see; she was no different than others who desperately thirst spiritually and emotionally? A thirst so deep that she, that we, would drink water from an unclean well. Can you look into God's heart and see we've all had our fill from a well of sin. The water didn't seem to harm and it was refreshing... for the moment.
When she was caught, was there a loud bang on the door that interrupted her pleasure? Did she and her lover hear the ever-growing sound of the determined crowd? Was she suddenly gripped with the fear of being caught... or worse? In her attempt to feel love, did she suddenly imagine herself being stoned in humiliation outside the city walls? Perhaps the law she had grown up with suddenly became very... very... real.
I imagine she saw angry? Jealous? Hateful eyes that came bursting through the door, eyes that screamed for self-imposed justice. Can you picture her being grabbed by members of this small band of judges and then can you see her turn to her "lover" and remember that he didn't "love her." Would you look at her as she was being cursed at, dragged, and perhaps even thrown down onto the dusty road? Can you hear her weeping?
Close your eyes and picture the cloud of dust choking this woman as she was pushed and pulled through the alleys and streets toward the temple. Can you hear the chatter, mocking, and judgments thrown at her to further degrade and demoralize her. Will you listen to the mocking from the on-lookers as she was pushed in a direction unknown to her?
As she was presented before the God who gave Moses the Law, did she think that Holy Justice demanded satisfaction? What could she do but weep. Here was an itinerant preacher being put to the test... and she was the example. Can you imagine her heart? Just minutes ago she believed she was free, now standing before... who? Would this man have the final say? What authority could he have and how could he sway such an angry crowd of... peers?
I wonder if her fear of impending death, no... certain death, deafened her to the wisdom and mercy spoken by Jesus? Did she notice the dimming of angry voices as Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
Once she was forgiven did her heart suddenly... know a peace that "...surpassed her own understanding?" Did she walk past the same laughing merchants and bystanders smiling? Did the forgiveness of her Creator fill the emptiness that she sought to fill?
And the forgiveness found in Christ will fill our emptiness too, because we all have or have had "lost hearts."
The ABC's of the Christian Faith
Lost Hearts (Part II) - The Bystanders (John 8:1-11)
Can you imagine standing by with the people in the streets when the scribes and Pharisees forced this woman through the alleys and avenues near the temple? Can you relate to their emotional ascents and descents ranging from boredom or frustration, sloping upward toward peaks of self-righteousness, leveling off at plateaus of lethargy, and perhaps sinking into deep valleys of shame and conviction? I wonder, did they realize the condition of their own lost hearts? Come... walk with me.
Maybe it was an angry woman who first saw Sarah that day. Perhaps, Rachel, yes, perhaps the observer Rachel had been up early and her young children had been particularly difficult that morning. I was thinking that, she might have seen Sarah through the window going to the well to bring water home. She may have seen the bounce in Sarah's step, then she may have determined in her heart that Sarah… was a sinner. Rachel might have thought, "That woman, the adulteress."
Her bitterness was a difficult weed to root out; especially when she nurtured its growth. You see, she was reminded of her lack of "freedom" and frustration that had slowly choked out much of her joy in her unique, God-given life. Her feelings grew especially well, when she tended to other people's business. Unfortunately, the sweet joy of her own family was drying up like a grape in the sun. Her plant of bitterness was bearing its lifeless fruit: raiSINs.
Sometimes people forget what a blessing their lives are and seem to grow into this state of frustration with circumstances and vent by judging others.
Perhaps later that morning Rachel heard Sarah crying, pleading for... mercy. I wonder, did Rachel have any to give?
When Andrew, the metalworker, saw Sarah walk down the dusty road, did he remember that same smile on her face from the last winter? Could he see in his minds eye the bottle of the scent she now wore? Did these thoughts water his seed of bitterness? Maybe, he quickly turned to his wife as she mended a torn garment; perhaps he smiled, then turned and continued to work while his heart wept from guilt. Did he desire forgiveness? I wonder if he thought that the woman's accusers later that day... could have been his?
When Philip the scribe saw Sarah enter her lovers door, did he consider gently walking up to her? Would this learned man have thought to remind Sarah that God's best is found through Him, not in using the gifts from Him? Or perhaps the condition of his heart was unknown to him and he raced off to speak with other teachers. I wonder, did he find "peace" in his heart? Did he find comfort in using God's law to justify the condition of his heart? Yikes.
Look... there, across the street from where Sarah was traveling further down the path of sin. Can you see in the shadows behind the baskets? There, yes, now you see. The lovely woman with tired eyes and a weary heart, her name is Ruth and... she is a prostitute. Sarah and Ruth have been struggling together. Both lost. Both desiring to have their emptiness filled with love, only to be searching on shelves of lust.
Ruth knew why the group of leaders was knocking on the door and she knew why they were shouting and demanding. She had seen others get caught and suffer a violent death. Sorrow had gripped her, but Fear kept her looking. Fear paralyzed her, because she saw that her own lie had been seen. Her lost heart wept for something... someone... that would save her friend... and herself.
Then there was Ventura the Roman soldier. When he looked to those who called themselves "People of God" what did he see? Violence? Condemnation? Groups of believers of the same God thinking each right and the other wrong? The same things he saw from Rome? Perhaps, he had seen all the judgment he could stand.
Why would he, why should he believe in anything other than dominance, the ‘survival if the fittest’, brought about by the heavy hand of Caesar or any other victor? He bowed his head in frustration as he considered what he had seen. "Wretched land. Is there no hope for those seeking some solace in this conquered people? Is there no understanding that Rome allows their culture to exist even though they were defeated?" His own heart tightened as his desire to see hope faded with the growing anger from the band of religious leaders. How, he thought, could a people, with such a wondrous past, be so stubborn? How could this people whose God has poured out His mercy on them by letting them still exist, fail to see their own need to share that new mercy each morning; a compassion that keeps Caesar at bay?
Lastly, there was young Joseph. He stood near Jesus listening to Him as He taught a crowd. Can you see him look up and see the scene in front of him? Stern, angry faces shouting, cursing at... someone one in the center of the approaching crowd. He knew what he was seeing and he had witnessed the certain outcome before. What would this Jesus do? Why was He writing on the ground after the lawgivers asked Him a question? Sin? Stone? Why are they leaving? What authority did this Jesus have that would make these men of God walk away with their heads... bowed?
What other bystanders were there? What were they thinking as they considered this woman’s situation? What would you and I have thought? I can tell you that we would have been tempted. Tempted by our own "lost hearts." Because, "No temptation has touched you accept that which is common to men..." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The ABC's of the Christian Faith
Lost Hearts (Part III) - The Adulterer (John 8:1-11)
I was thinking, who did this man know, that he was somehow overlooked? What favor did he have with the religious leaders that seemed to release him from his guilt? Do you think that the leaders overlooked his infidelity? Whatever the case, I think his side is worth looking into because we have all been guilty of something, and for some unknown reason, not been accused. Come… walk with me.
We don't know what his motives were, but he must have been a lost heart. You know, he may have been single and discovered that Sarah was a lonely, lost heart too. Or he may have been in a strained marriage. Lost hearts don't necessarily go looking for each other, but they don't want to be lost. And often, they are willing to stay lost, as long as they’re not alone. Hmm.
You know, it's not hard to find a lost heart. You've seen them; perhaps you've been one. Maybe, you are a lost heart today. But, let's talk about the man.
When he got up that day did he wait for Sarah with anticipation, or was this a common occurrence for him? His motives may have been predatory or maybe he was a man with no understanding of his actions. Did he simply seek to kill, steal, and destroy her soul? Maybe not, but he was in the process, because he was listening to Satan. In fact, the Devil's existence is defined by his deceptions. Perhaps his actions with Sarah... and others defined this man’s life.
Do you remember from "Lost Hearts I" when Sarah looked back to this man when she was caught? Do you remember how she may have realized that he was a "lover" and that he didn't "love her?" That lie permeates our world today and it doesn't hold true for just one sex. The human spirit is lifeless for all people. But back to... let's call him Samuel.
I was wondering what Samuel thought as he sat down at his table and chair and realized what had just happened. Did he consider that no matter what his feelings for Sarah were, he had been guilty of her sin too? Did he realize that he was willfully part of her condemnation... and he not judged? At least, not by men. Could he have set down at that table and cleaned up, "washing his hands" so to speak of the whole affair. Or perhaps, and this is frightening, perhaps he joined the crowd. You know what? It happens every day. But... back to Samuel.
I wonder what other things he got away with? Perhaps he had gotten away with theft. Perhaps the person he was in with was caught and not Samuel? Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be guilty and not be found? Well... back to Samuel. Then again, maybe we shouldn't look at Samuel. I wonder, shouldn't we be looking at ourselves? Isn't that what Jesus had the angry crowd do? Hmm.
The truth is, Samuel and the rest of us are all guilty of something, guilty before God. Guilty, that is, until we go to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and confess our guilt.
I hope at some point, Samuel sought forgiveness. Perhaps he was one of the three thousand that Peter spoke to in the book of Acts. Perhaps when he had seen Sarah the next time he asked her how she was set free from the crowd? I hope so. But more than that, my prayer would be that each of us would present ourselves to God as the sinners that we are and... have been. Then we can walk away with peace and a clean heart. A lost heart that has that has been found when it heard what Christ said to Sarah, "...neither do I accuse you, but go and sin no more."
The ABC's of the Christian Faith
Lost Hearts (Part IV) - The Crowd (John 8:1-11)
What is it about a crowd that attracts others to it?
Is it... curiosity?
Perhaps, it's just human nature to want to be around others who think, act, and are... like us.
You see it's important to recognize man's tendency and reasons for getting together. Perhaps as important, is the need to understand our own motives, because they're not always... pure.
No, pure is not the right word because we can gather as a group for purely good or bad reasons. Perhaps a better word is "righteous." Hmmm, I don't think that'll work either because those in the crowd, who were ushering this woman before Christ, were certainly righteous in their own eyes. I wonder if it's better to say, that man unites with others to strengthen a position, whatever it may be.
Let's put this into terms we might relate to now by asking ourselves some questions of groups we may join or be part of...
- Why has this group been formed??
- Who are the individuals that make up the leadership and followers?
- What is their intent?
- When will their purpose be initiated?
- Where is the group meeting?
- How do I fit in?
- Lastly, whether or not you can answer "how," try to answer it when asked like this: Why do I fit in? Our answers may surprise us. I venture to guess that on any given day, we meet with others for unknown reasons and the group, without realizing it turns into, well... I know, I'm guilty too.
David said in Psalm 1, "BLESSED is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers..." Hmm. Do you think there were sinners and scoffers in the crowd that stood before Jesus... besides the woman? Some crowds I join... Hmmm.
Can you imagine what this gathering of leaders might have been like if they would have understood Christ's message of forgiveness? Sit back for a minute and imagine in light of what Jesus did, how the crowd could have approached the situation differently. Less anger? More understanding? Not tolerance, but love? There is a difference. A recognition that there was more to the law... than letters? That when people choose sin and spiritual death over spiritual life, there's still hope?
Could we ask the same questions today?
Should we, ask the same questions today?
Would we, ask the same questions today?
Wait! Before you answer that, I need get rid of this stone.
My target is in the mirror.