Passionate Spirituality – Act One
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but he shall find for himself the light of life.” John 8:12
Suddenly, the door burst open and a blinding shaft of light entered the darkened room. A group of men flooded into the room and where once there was quiet, a cacophony of noise drowned out her ability to think.
The woman realized in a moment what was happening. She knew she would soon be dead. Several of the men grabbed her by the legs and feet dragging her from the bed and slamming her head to the floor. Clothing was thrown at her as she was slammed into the center of the shouting gang of men. There was no doubt as to the intent of this group as they yanked and shoved their captive through the streets. Today they would capture two birds with one stone!
In the first century, women were mostly held in contempt and viewed as having absolutely no value. It was widely known they lacked the intelligence of men. They were considered objects to be owned and used, subjected to attitudes we should find unpalatable in our society and culture.
A crowd pressed around them increasing the volume of noise and the words of hatred hurled at the woman as the men dragged her through the streets. As they neared their destination it was as if some restraint were suddenly placed on the noisy group. The mob slowed when they realized where they were headed. Quiet consumed those waiting to see how the teacher would react when the woman was flung at his feet in the courtyard of the Temple.
“They said to him, Teacher, this woman was caught openly in the act of adultery. Now in the law of Moses it is commanded that women such as these should be stoned; but what do you say?” John 8:4,5 Ancient Eastern Text
Consider there are now four different groups involved in this scene:
- teachers of the law, scribes, and Pharisees;
- those drawn into this drama by the actions of the men who involved themselves in an action meant to embarrass the Teacher;
- the woman they had treated with absolute disrespect;
- and those who had come to the Temple to worship and be taught by the One they knew was making a difference in their lives.
Those in each group had varied expectations and desires while they waited to see how the Teacher would respond to the woman now trembling at His feet. She, of course, knew that at any moment she would be stoned to death since that was the requirement of the law for the act of adultery. The crowd knew and expected the same outcome, especially those who had set the trap for the Teacher. Isn’t it interesting that the man with whom she had been was nowhere to be found! The Law required that both offenders be brought to judgement and receive the same fate.
Then came the biggest surprise of all, something no one could have seen coming. The Teacher began writing in the dirt; line by line He wrote. What He wrote we don’t know. But as each word appeared in the dust, the crowd began to disperse and slowly dissolved until no one was left. When Jesus looked up, only He and the woman remained.
“Where are those who condemned you?” Jesus asked the woman. In reply, she said they had all gone. “Then neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
There are times when the words we hear are too good to be true or even feel real. I am convinced this was the case with this young woman. The move from facing certain death to receiving a full reprieve with the chance for a new and better life must have been overwhelming for her. And Jesus gave her a goal, a purpose in recognizing she was worth more than she had believed. With His words, He sent the woman off with the understanding that from this time forward life held more for her than the life she had been living.
Passionate spirituality always builds people up. A counterfeit passionate spirituality always seeks to tear down. Wherever God provides truth the enemy brings a lie, a counterfeit that has the sole purpose of confusing humanity.
Those of us who choose to be disciples of Jesus need to notice how He demonstrates what true passionate spirituality looks like. First, Jesus didn’t condemn the woman even though she was guilty of the crime of adultery. Second, Jesus didn’t announce to all those assembled their crimes against the very law they were demanding be carried out. Third, Jesus gave the woman a sense of value and worth by placing before her a new life in Him.
Passionate spirituality leads us and others into the grace and mercy and new life to be found in a personal relationship with our Creator. Passionate spirituality demands we experience a paradigm shift in our desires for others and ourselves.
“Isn’t that how insecurity and fears are? Coming at us when we least expect it, slamming into our hearts and shadowing our minds before we even know what hit us? But God answers, every time. And He says: ‘I see you. I notice every little thing about you. I made you. You are wonderful. I love you.’” Mary Carver: Giving Up On Perfect