Friday, February 6, 2009

Comments on John 8 and Daniel 5

I'm going backwards I know...but I wanted to record my thoughts about John chapter 8 because I've heard people talk about what they think Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger... and some time ago, I came up with a theory of my own and I'm almost sure I'm right...haha.

As Jesus was teaching early in the morning at the temple, the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery....I imagine her in a bedsheet...humiliated, and in order to test Jesus, they ask him what should be done with her because the Law of Moses states that she should be stoned. They must have suspected that Jesus wouldn't agree with that...hence the test. This idea is interesting in itself, because we see Jesus at varience with the application of the Law.

Jesus wisely suggests that the one without sin should be the first to throw a stone. And He bends down and starts writing in the dust on the ground with His finger. I notice that the phrase "with his finger" is repeated v. 6 and again in v. 8 and and I find myself wondering why that little detail....and why the repetition? I've heard the suggestion that He wrote down the 10 commandments....or the particular sins that he knew applied to the potential stone throwers... but the whole "finger" thing got my mind working in another direction.

It reminded me of another writing in Daniel 5:5. So I decided to read that story again and see if there were any parallels between what happened in Daniel 5 and what was happening here in John 8. Here is what I found... that convinced me that the words Jesus wrote with His finger in the dust could very well have been, "mene mene tekel epharsin."

The occasion in Daniel was the feast of Belshazzar, where the king had taken the sacred vessels from the temple to use as wine goblets...showing his contempt for the things of God and his pride in his own majesty. A hand appears and writes a cryptic message on the wall. While the Chaldean wise men might have understood the words themselves...the letter...they were not able to understand the meaning of the message...the spirit. The words were, "mene, mene, tekel upharsin" and they mean "numbered, numbered, weighed, divisions," so it is easy to see why Belshazzar needed help with understanding the implications. The meaning of the message was given by Daniel in verse 26-28:

Mene - God has numbered the days of your kingship and brought them to an end
Tekel - You are weighted in the balances and are found wanting
Peres - the singular of Upharsin - Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians

It was natural for me to think that perhaps Jesus was giving this same message to the religious elite of His day. I noticed that according to Daniel, the very night this interpretation was given to Belshazzar...he was slain....and Darius the Mede took the kingdom.

I think that if Jesus had written these words in the sand, they would not have been without significant meaning to these scholarly Jews. I believe they would have recognized the import immediately...that Jesus was declaring an end to their rule and the beginning of a new regime. v. 9 states that they began going out conscience stricken, one by one till there was no one left but Jesus and the woman.....and then he said those beautiful words, "I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more."

From then on though, Jesus preaches about a new government, opening with the words, "I am the light of the world." I think this story indicates the end of Temple worship and the establishment of the KINGDOM OF GOD.

I notice in the preceeding chapter (7) two references to the religious elite....v. 26 and v. 48-49. Both speak of the religious rulers being looked to in order to validate or discredit Jesus. I thought that it is significant that the question is asked (v48) "Has any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in Him?" and contempt is shown for the laity by the leaders in (v49) when they say "As for this multitude (rabble) that does not know the Law, they are contemptible and doomed and accursed!"

On the contrary, Jesus has said to the unfortunate woman, who is undeniably guilty of sin, "I do not condemn you either..." but later (v26) he says of the religious elite, "I have much to say about you and to judge and condemn..."

This is only the first part of this chapter, but it causes me to reflect on the pedestal we have tended to put the religious elite even in our day..... and to wonder sometimes if the writing is not on the wall for some contemporary kingdoms.

1 comment:

mamazee said...

love this one, mama - i read it awhile ago with a little one on my lap so i couldn't comment - but i've always wondered what Jesus was doing with the writing - i remember a sermon at Evangel (was it Pastor Fred?) who suggested maybe Jesus was writing their own secret sins in the dirt, too - but i love this idea, too - and it seems very likely to me. On the momys list that i'm on there is a huge "law observance" push and while i think i want to support my Jewish brothers and sisters and i am so grateful to them for being the birthnation of Jesus - i don't want to be trapped into a modern day version of what Jesus was setting people free from. It's hard to see the line sometimes of which things are absolutes and stil applicable and which things Jesus has transformed, done away with, or expanded - but i believe that God doesn't always give us every piece of the puzzle, just what we need to do His will in our lives...
I love reading your thoughts...