Sunday, November 6, 2011

The sin of malicious prosecution

This is the third, and last, Sunday post on the story in the Bible about the woman caught in adultery. (Not meant to be a "trinity" of postings, but kinda spiritual, doncha' think?)

If you've been following along, you'll recall that Prescott attorney Jay R. Eaton specifically asked for this in his Cease & Desist letter to our blogger. (Does anyone have a link for the law firm of O'Leary Eaton, P.L.L.C.? We can't find one.)

At issue was Mr. Eaton's incorrect understanding of Jesus' instructions to the lawyers and Pharisees of Jesus' day who tried to trap Jesus with a legal question.

Not much has changed with lawyers today, has it? This is one reason our blogger believes the Bible. It rings so true when it comes to reporting the hearts of unsaved man. So were we, until we repented and were born again.

Most people, even those who don't read the Bible, know a bit of the story about the woman caught in adultery. But, as is often said, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So that you know the whole (short) story, here it is:
. . . but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Typically, at this point, everyone wonders what it was Jesus wrote on the ground. But don't lose focus, focusing on the minutia. It doesn't matter what Jesus wrote. (Or God would have told us.) We can speculate, and later we will, but first, there are serious sin issues in the facts we have before us.

Now, unless you've read the Bible for yourself, you might not catch one of the glaring (legal) errors of the lawyers and the Pharisees here when they brought the woman caught in adultery. Actually, it's a common sense thing. You don't have to know Old Testament law to spot the error. Can you figure it out? This is a case of malicious prosecution.

See, in this setting with Jesus, the Jews were still under the Old Testament law. Of sorts. A long time before, they had rejected God as their King and began a slow decay away from a Theocracy. As an expression of God's wrath, they were suffering their punishment under someone else's rule. (As God forewarned.) At the time, they were under the law of Rome. We'll come back to that shortly.

Now, hopefully you know the 10 Commandments. (If you don't, you had better ask yourself if you're really a Christian.) The 7th Commandment is . . . anyone? Bueller?

"You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14) And what was the penalty for this?

The law that the lawyers and the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus with was probably Leviticus 20:10. "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death."

So WHERE WAS THE MAN who committed adultery with the woman? As is said, "It takes two to tango."

Also, as a side note, neither God nor Moses said you had to stone them. While that was the punishment prescribed for some violations of the Commandments, it's not the norm for adultery. There is one specific case where stoning for adultery is called for, which involved a virgin pledged to be married. Maybe she was young and naive and smitten by a young lawyer?

Not terribly important - Jesus didn't dispute the sentence with the lawyers and Pharisees. There were other, more important violations of the law to deal with which would make this moot.

Now look, the lawyers and the Pharisees didn't really care about the Mosaic law or Justice and whether the woman had committed adultery or not. As Jesus said, they were hypocrites. Had they had cared about God's law, they would have simply killed the man and the woman pursuant to Moses without bothering Jesus.

No, this was one of their typical traps, as John says in the passage. The whole thing with the woman was a set up. After all, how, exactly, do you catch a woman in the very act of adultery? Don't the catchers have to be tipped off? And what happened to the man committing the very act? Maybe it was one of them? If it wasn't one of them, maybe they paid someone she knew to lure her into sin? This wouldn't be in the class of willful sin as with Brian's wife (if not others).

What was the specific legal trap? Well, as then and now, it was to trap to catch Jesus between "church and state."

You see, on one hand, Jesus, who claimed to be God (and is), was expected to uphold the Mosaic Law. Which, in fact, He did. Ultimately, He told the lawyers and the Pharisees to stone the woman. But if He hadn't, they would say He wasn't God because He failed to uphold His own Law.

On the other hand, now that they were under Roman law, it was illegal for the Jews to execute anyone. That was a power Rome reserved for itself. The Jews acknowledged this when they handed their Messiah over to Pilate to be murdered.
Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. (John 18:31)
Although, whenever it was convenient, the Jews often stoned Christians to death. Again, not much has changed today, except it's christians attacking true Christians. A sign of the end times.

If Jesus told them to execute the woman, they, like Melody Thomas-Morgan, would have run to the authorities telling them Jesus made a death threat. And/or that He was telling the Jews to take the law into their own hands, which would made Jesus guilty of insurrection against Rome. (The penalty being death.)

They thought they had Jesus. Whichever way He ruled, He would be wrong. So this singular case was a sham, distinguished (as lawyers say) as a case of malicious prosecution. As today, the lawyers and Pharisees weren't interested in right or wrong. They were just (mis)using the law for their own purposes. (Did we say how the Bible rings true?) Therefore, it does not set a new precedent that we are never to throw stones or carry out Justice. As we said before, if Mr. Eaton really believed that, then he ought to get out of the legal system and no judge could ever judge someone in court. (And we know a few judges who shouldn't!)

In the end, Jesus told the lawyers and the Pharisees to stone the woman. But it was they who decided to dismiss the charges after He wrote something in the ground.

So what did Jesus write? We don't know. We speculate it could have been the names of the all the women the lawyers and Pharisees had committed adultery with. Or, a favorite theory of ours, since Jesus always used Scripture to battle the devil, He might have quoted the law about stoning both adulterers (above) along with Deuteronomy 19:16-19, the command about what to do with false witnesses. (Oh, if only we obeyed this law today.)

UPDATE: Upon re-reading the prophet Hosea, it may be that the first thing Jesus wrote was Hosea 5:14. "I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes--" Then, the second time He wrote, he may have written the names of the women the lawyers and Pharisees had committed adultery with.

When no one was left, Jesus was within the Law to not condemn the woman to death because elsewhere in Mosaic Law, He (Jesus) required that there be "two or three witnesses" to execute anyone.

Being God, He could have killed her on the spot. As He could kill us when we sin. ("For the wages of sin is death.") But He knew she had been trapped by the same lawyers and Pharisees who tried to trap Him. So He was merciful to her at the time. As the Spirit says in the Book of James, "Mercy triumphs over judgment."

So, in answer to Mr. Eaton: Can we throw stones? Yes. As we explained in our last post, God commanded us to. But you must first test to see if you have clean hands before you cast a stone.

How do you know if your hands are clean? Well, you better not be committing the same sin your executing for, or else you're a hypocrite. Then, test your attitude. While you should be happy that justice is being served, you should be sad it has to be served. As God says, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Neither should you.

Finally, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, "Go now and leave your life of sin."

We pray that Mr. Eaton heeds Jesus' command. There will be hell to pay if he doesn't. (Oops. Can we say that? Or is that Harassment?)

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