You know where we get the expression
It has its origins in Scotland—
around the 15th century.
Given how it was first used—
the phrase “red hand” referred to
people caught with blood on their hands
from poaching an animal—
or from murder.
The blood on their hands is
the proof of their crime.
Have you ever been caught “red-handed”?
Caught in the very act of doing something you
shouldn’t have been doing?
Caught stealing a little something from the office—
or caught in a lie—
or maybe cheating on a test—
or someone walking in the room as
you tell your friends how crappy
the person is who just
walked into the room.
When those blue light go on—
and you get that sinking feeling
in your stomach.
I’ve been caught.
I sure have—
I know that feeling.
That feeling of no escape—
That feeling of guilt—
That feeling of this is going to cost me. . .
Or even worse—
Please not driving school!!!
But strangely enough—
when the trooper walks up beside the car—
I try to think of just the right words—
Not insisting on my innocence—
That certainly wouldn’t work—
And it would be a lie—
But some words where you hope
That will soften up the trooper’s heart—
And let you off on this one.
If I feel so horrible after a speeding ticket—
Can you imagine how the
woman in today’s Gospel felt?
Caught “red-handed” in sin.
And then drug in front of group of pious acting men—
wanting to shame her even more—
certainly not wanting the best for her.
All alone with no advocate to plead her cause.
She had been turned into the scribes and Pharisees—
The moral and legal authorities—
known for their strict adherence to the Law.
She knew that the penalty was severe.
She knew that she’d be ostracized by
her friends and her family—
if she survived at all.
She was caught “Red-handed”—
She had nowhere to turn.
But before she is dragged off to court
For her serious crime—
The authorities want to use her for their own purposes.
They want to discredit Jesus among the Jews—
Or get him in trouble with the Roman authorities—
By asking him what to do this woman caught red-handed.
If Jesus says she should not be stoned—
He doesn’t take the law of Moses serious enough.
If he says stone her—
He’ll have the Romans to deal with.
One thing’s for sure—
The authorities don’t care about the woman—
About the sinner—
They not only want her punished for her crime—
And to use her for their own purposes.
You can imagine the scene.
All of them—
All but Jesus—
Looking down on her
with eyes of self-righteous judgement.
Hardened faces with hardened hearts.
Superior and smug.
Pride and condescension.
That’s what self-righteousness looks like.
Maybe we know what that feels like too.
Part of fallen human condition is a judging—
a condescending nature about us.
“Thanks be to God, I’m not like that.”
as we put down those we don’t particularly care for.
And as we put others down—
it puffs us up.
Why do you think we talk about people
behind their backs so much—
it puffs us up—
makes us feel better about ourselves.
I’ve used this before but there’s such truth in it.
I had a New Testament professor who say—
“Where two or three are gathered in my name”—
“I am there among them.”
But “Where two or three are gathered in my name—
Look for a victim.”
Maybe we know that feeling too.
But you know—
Jesus is different.
First let’s see how Jesus deals with the prideful.
He challenges them—
To their face—
Not behind their backs.
He stands up to them.
The Gospel says that as they continued to
ask him what he would do with the woman—
He stood up—
He stood up to them—
And said, “Let the one among you who
is without sin be the first to
throw a stone at her.”
And what could they say with this direct challenge?
So they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
There are many, many times in the
Gospel when Jesus isn’t so nice—
He’s very challenging—
And very direct.
And if you’ll notice it’s always with
the prideful and the self-righteous.
With the hardened and condemning hearts.
Jesus is challenging and direct to
the prideful and self-righteous because
He knows that’s the only hope of
getting through to them.
That approach is the only hope of success—
Success in softening their hard hearts.
Jesus is always wanting to convert our hearts—
Because it’s from a soft and merciful and loving heart
that right actions flow from.
He’s direct and challenging
because He loves them so much.
Even when direct and challenging he
speaks with a loving heart
But to the humble—
To the humble—
He acts in a very—
very different way.
So imagine the legal and moral authorities—
Placing the woman caught “red-handed”
in the middle of all of them—
And looking down on her
With their hardened faces—
with their hardened hearts.
And what does Jesus do—
What posture does Jesus take.
He kneels down—
He kneels down to write
something on the ground.
What He writes we don’t know—
But if I make to heaven,
I’m certainly going to ask him.
But by Him kneeling down—
He says so much.
He’s not looking down on the sinner.
He places himself below her—
So in hanging her head in shame—
she can see Him—
see his eyes of love and mercy.
The Ultimate Judge—
The Ultimate Authority—
Doesn’t look down on the humble sinner as
their head hangs in shame—
He looks up at the sinner—
Looks up with eyes of mercy and love.
And so, instead of condemning her—
he forgives her.
He restores her freedom and her dignity.
And calls her to be who she was meant to be—
“Go and sin no more.”
Imagine how grateful she must have felt—
Her worst sins had been exposed for all to see—
and because of her humility—
her judge has forgiven her.
He’s given her another chance.
God’s justice looks so much different than our justice.
And this give me so much hope for myself—
As I too—
In my sinfulness—
In me being caught red-handed in my sins—
Hang my head in shame.
I pray that I may be a man of humility.
And with my head hanging in shame—
Jesus will bend down—
And I will see his eyes of mercy and love.
And he’ll say—
I do not condemn you—
Go and sin no more.
Holy Spirit 04/06-07/2019