Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Two Cases of Adultery 

In today’s readings we have two cases of adultery, one concerning an actual case and the other a phony one. The circumstances are quite different in each one, but there is a commonality between them.

From the reading in John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery. The charges against her were true:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”   (John 8:3–5)

The scribes and the Pharisees were up to their usual tricks. This was an attempt to trap Jesus. But as usual they fell into their own trap when Jesus said to them:

“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   (John 8:7)

Jesus forced them into a corner where they found themselves, grudgingly, showing mercy on the woman. Even though the woman had not asked him, Jesus demonstrated the mercy of God. He told the woman to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

In the case of Susanna, the charges against her were false:

Then the two elders stood up before the people and laid their hands on her head. Through her tears she looked up towards Heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord. The elders said, “While we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. Then a young man, who was hiding there, came to her and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. Although we saw them embracing, we could not hold the man, because he was stronger than we are, and he opened the doors and got away. We did, however, seize this woman and asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us. These things we testify.”

Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned Susanna to death.   (Susanna 34–41)

We have the trickery of the scribes and Pharisees and, in the case of Susanna, the falsehood of the elders, driven by impure motives. And then we have the motive of God which is to show mercy. Susanna looked up to heaven and put her trust in God. God then exposed the two elders:

Then the whole assembly raised a great shout and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. And they took action against the two elders, because out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbour. Acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was spared that day.(Susanna 60–62)

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Filed under Jesus, lectionary, Lent, Lenten daily readings, Lenten study, Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

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