The scribes and Pharisees, looking for a chance to trap Jesus thought they had found a situation that would serve their purposes perfectly. They had Jesus caught between the demands of Mosaic Law and the law of the occupying Roman forces. If Jesus responded to their question with a soft answer and pardoned the woman caught in adultery, how could he claim to be faithful to the tradition of Moses? On the other hand, if he advocated stoning her to death, he would be liable to persecution by the Romans, who had taken away the right to put anyone to dead from the Jews. There was no way they could lose in this situation.
What the Pharisees hadn’t taken into account was Jesus’ deep compassion and love for humanity. They didn’t understand he claim that “God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He was sent to save them!” (John 3:17) Jesus somehow knew that every person in the world was born with concupiscence, that is, they are not evil by nature but have a general tendency, inclination or attraction to evil. Being a human being he recognized that everyone, regardless of their outward appearances is tempted to sin and he, Jesus came to show them how to live and be able to overcome those temptations.
Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery, after all the accusers left, “I am not accusing you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore” (John 8:11) should encourage us. Our desire is often to avoid sin, but we sometimes feel powerless to reject temptation and overcome our sinful patterns of life. To know that Jesus believes that we are capable of overcoming temptation, should give us great encouragement. He knows each of us and he also knows his transforming power.
Paul’s words to the Philippians as we heard in our first reading are words to us as well and can give us hope just as it was meant to give hope to the Philippians. They define Paul’s final philosophy of life and a philosophy which each of us can follow no matter what our way of life is.
Just close your eyes and listen to those words. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Jesus the Christ my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Jesus and to know that I belong to him. I can’t make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepts me simply because of my faith in Jesus. All I want, is to know Jesus and the power that raised him to life. I have not yet reached my goal and am not perfect. But Jesus has taken hold of me. So I keep running and struggling to be granted the prize. My friends, I don’t feel I have arrived yet, but I do what I can to forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Jesus has done for each of us. He has given us the truths to live by and the example to follow.
Paul’s words express a heart set on Jesus, a heart that knows Jesus intimately and personally. That reflects a person, who has had a true conversion and desires to turn from sin, has done that, and embraces Jesus and the life he offers. When these qualities are reflected in our hearts, we too will be strengthened in our attempt to overcome sin by the power of God in us.
Let’s open our hearts to Jesus so that we might know him more intimately, love him more fully and follow him more faithfully, as we have heard in the play Godspell. We will find, that the same power that freed Jesus from the grave will strengthen and free us from our sinful patterns and enable us to walk faithfully with him.
(Reference: The Word Among Us Devotional Commentary on John pages 94 & 95)