THE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AND THE JESUS FACTOR
The time appears to be early morning. Jesus was calmly having his discourse at the temple after his usual regime of early morning prayer at the Mount of Olives. Suddenly a commotion broke out in front of the temple. People began to turn their heads towards it. Then it was that the religious, legal, law abiding, holy and righteous sect of the traditionally accepted leaders had a problem with a, probably naked or half naked, lone lady. The case was that the particular lady was caught in an adulterous act: allegedly IN THE VERY ACT. And that’s quite a catch!
Applying the legal, rational and just law on that lone lady implies stoning her to death as per the law of Moses – the code of conduct for the Jewish people of that day. There was no escape for her now! It was an outrageous breaching of societal, cultural and legal norms of that day. She was a shame for the society, a bad example; and letting her go unpunished would be setting a bad precedence for the community, more so, a miscarriage of justice. And that must be the reason why the people who apprehended her were very passionate about DOING GOOD for the society and giving her what she deserved – death.
She was brought to Jesus. She hung her head in shame. She knew that she was guilty. She doesn’t dare to open her mouth to put forth her case. None was there to stood up for her. Her families have probably abandoned her. She was doomed and damned. As the righteous and holy leaders of the community surrounded her, she remained silent. The hands of the people surrounding her were itching to stone her. They were grabbing the biggest stones in that Palestinian temple court. Justice was about to be met! The society was about to be pruned of its EVIL. Thank God! People still have a sense of justice! We were still alright. God has not abandoned us yet, they must have mused.
Then Jesus stooped down to write something on the ground, where the stones were picked to bring her to justice, and stood up again. Everybody remained silent and waited for the ultimate JUSTICE from the great Rabbi. All were expecting the holiest and most righteous justice to be proclaimed; for He was the peerless teacher of His time. Meanwhile, her heart was beating fast. She knew that there was no escape for her. No rule or law of man could saved her, which she knew it well. Then to everybody’s astonishment, Jesus pronounced, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again.
Then the stones began to feel big and heavy upon each hand. The tight grips of the hands were loosened and the stones began to fall away again from their hands, one after the other, making a faint rumbling sound as each stones fall from their hands to the ground. The people were probably reminded of the discreet crime and the filthy thoughts that pestered their lives by that sharp verdict of Jesus. The verdict penetrated through the soul of each self styled judges of this societal abomination. None was there to stone her after a brief moment of time.
There was an eerie silence. The woman waited for her well deserved punishment, still hung her head and waited for the inevitable justice – to be stoned to death. Jesus looked up, none was there. The woman peeked shyly below her frazzled hair, and saw Jesus alone. He stood up again and asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” And she trembled and replied, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said to the trembling and sinful woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Letting go of an adulterous woman without punishment? That’s outrageous! Immoral! Unacceptable! Immorality is immorality! Jesus has gone crazy and biased. He is against tradition, illegal and unconstitutional in his justice. He sounds lunatic to let go an adulterer scot free! Jesus has to be ex-communicated from the very temple where he taught in that same morning! Justice has to be met.
Hey wait now! Is a woman capable of committing adultery by herself? Absolutely not! Doesn’t the law of Moses have a verdict for the partner of an adulterous woman? Definitely yes! Aww, didn’t they say that they have apprehended her IN THE VERY ACT? Oh, yes! With whom? Of course, not with a stone, absolutely a man. Didn’t he deserve to face the law as well? Definitely! Did he face it? No, not at all! So, why is he not brought to justice? That’s a miscarriage of justice!
The prosecutors were the prominent leaders of those days. They were the team of leaders who considered themselves above everybody else - righteous, just, holy and unpolluted. They were the cream of the society, the privilege sections; they held and sway power in their hands. And whatever they did was considered conventional and just. Nobody dared to question them. They were the decision makers of what ought to be right and they were the absolute authority. But their claim of holiness, righteousness and justice was betrayed when they failed to book the equally guilty crime partner. It was unclear as to why they had done this, except for some instinctive assumptions.
The man – the partner in the crime – was probably one among them. He possibly was a person of influence. Bringing him to justice would mean at the stake of becoming an outcast, sidelined and ostracized by his loyalists. Or he was a rich man and he bribed his way out on the spot. Does that sound familiar? Ok, we move on. The woman was probably from a more modest background. She was at the lower rung of the societal hierarchy. She must have been gripped by her lust or she did it to earn her living. Or worse still, she was forced into the situation by circumstances. Or we can almost be sure that she was a victim of conspiracy in that instance. And these must be the reason why he had gone scot free and she was humiliated. Doesn’t it get more real now?
Jesus could have easily led her out meekly and protect her from the crowd. Probably counseled her on the tenets of redemption and ask her to leave her life of sin. Which, I believe, she would be doing it gladly. But why doesn’t he do that? He knew quite too well that a private faith was all she need to be saved. Now, imagine a scenario, Jesus led her to safety. She was counseled and was saved by her faith. The next day she began to live her normal life. The stain of her conscience and her normal regard for people as extra holy than herself would be swooping down on her like the witches' black smoke into her still trembling soul. Did she really have a place in the society that condemned her to be killed? Yes, no, maybe. Will the stigma of the society on her be removed? Or will she be able to find a foothold there?
Here’s another scenario, Jesus, the famously unpopular figure, was taking on the much powerful leaders of those days. Asking those “holier than thou” band of leaders to stone her “if no sin was present in them” was an insult for them already, for an elite group who thought that they were fit to deliver justice. Was Jesus comparing them with the sinful woman? Yes, in a way. Was Jesus questioning their righteousness and integrity? That too, in public, amidst people who almost worship them the like gods. Wasn’t Jesus simply provoking them? Yes, they would surely be provoked. Wasn't Jesus putting himself at risk of being stoned himself? Yes, Jesus was very much at risk of being stoned alongwith the sinful woman for his insensitive, needless and insulting question. But he still did that. He had chosen to take on the most powerful group of the community in public. Why?
He could have saved that sinful woman without the need to confront them. That would be VERY CHRISTLIKE and MISSION MINDED for Jesus to do – being compassionate and saving souls. But, Jesus, in doing so, he not only saved the soul of that woman, but also freed her from the systemic social injustice, publicly. She became a real life witness to the sinfulness of those who condemned her, and she probably was the first to witnessed so. Jesus exposed the hypocrisy and superficiality of those self righteous leaders. Removed the social stigma for the sinful woman. Gives back her dignity. That’s where justice and grace met to vindicate. He restored and redeemed her in the fullest sense. That’s the Jesus factor to remedy the miscarriage of justice.
And that’s the Jesus written in the Bible. That's the Jesus we claimed to follow. He demands our soul, mind and body to follow him; he commands our love for our neighbors as well. There are businesses to do within the four walls of the church; there are much to do outside as well. Discipleship does not end with the halleluiah’s, the amen’s, the private prayers and the meditations. Nor our mission ends with the soul; it rather is the beginning. Christianity is not a Sunday only affair or serving Christ in the pulpit alone, or only in being a church committee member. Christianity also means taking a stand for the most holy faith that we have, oftentimes, in unlikely places and circumstances. We can be a mute spectator and let the world pass by, while thousands of “the adulterous woman” are meted with systemic injustice - enslaving the soul and the body. They too needed redemption! You may choose to join the crowd and chant justice the world’s way; or join Christ, speak grace and deliver justice the heaven’s way.
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
~ Micah 6:6-8