The Weeks before Jerusalem

In the weeks before Jerusalem and The Cross, we follow Jesus through a challenging series of events: none more so than his encounter with the woman about to be stoned. It sets the scene for the crucifixion.

When the Pharisees bring the woman to Jesus, it is to trap him. Instead, Jesus traps the Pharisees in their own deceitfulness by asking the one of them without sin to cast the first stone. Boy, if He had asked that of many modern-day politicians, the poor woman would have disappeared in a flash beneath a mound of stones.

The Pharisees are representative of pietistic leaders throughout the ages. Their psychological dopplegangers dot the pages of history: those who know that they are the "chosen" ones of their age.

With this encounter, Jesus sets the stage for endless encounters between the faith which will bear his name and those who "know-that-they-know" through the ages. The encounter of a Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Nazism, the bold stance of an Oscar Romero against the tyranny of his own country, El Salvador, the bold stance of our own Southern Law and Poverty Center against hatred and biggotry in our own present day here in this nation,
the boldness of those four undocumented Hispanic students walking for immigration reform as they face the biggotry of the religious right. The list is endless.

Most of all, however, Jesus confronts the darkness of our own hearts. He confronts the judgement toward others who fall beneath our standards, the sly glance toward a person we feel "lesser" than ourselves, the dash to judge before we understand. We are all, at some point, the Pharisees.

So, in many ways, it is me Jesus stands before and writes in the sand. It is me he calls to cast the first stone. It is me...for I am a sinner.

Lent is the time when we are called to stand before Jesus as he writes in the sand. As I do so, I watch the words he writes. The first is a name...mine.

As I watch him write my name, the majesty of his sacrifice and the depth of his love overwhelm me. The stone falls from my hand, and I fall beside the woman on my knees. She and I are the same.

Curtis Rivers


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