December 16th … 9 NIGHTS TIL CHRISTMAS




“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” [Luke 2:34]


When Jesus was talking about the prodigal son, he was certainly talking about individuals like you and me, but he was also talking about Israel as a nation. We’ll talk about Israel tomorrow, and about you and me today.

As individuals we are all prone to fall. A couple of years ago I picked a man up off the street here in Oshawa and brought him home to stay with us. I worked with him for months and got to know him personally. He was  distressed  about his prodigal lifestyle— drugs, alcohol, lots of partying — but more distressed because of his family. His family had turned their back on him, because he was such a “black sheep.”

I encouraged him to go home to see his old dad, whom he hadn’t seen in years. Several days after finally taking my advice and meeting again with his dad, he went into a diabetic coma and was hospitalized. While he was in the hospital, members of the family came to see him. But he never came out of his coma. He died a few days later. He died without ever receiving their love and forgiveness.

While he was alive, he was too ashamed of himself to come home. And they were too ashamed to reach out, seek him out, forgive him ,  and accept him back into the family.

What is truly amazing is how our daily lives are filled images and stories  enticing us to indulge in sex, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, pornography, wealth at all costs (greed), etc— and yet when individuals fall to these vices we tend to back away from them, as if they are fallen only by their own fault. It never ceases to amaze me how that  the media can parade an endless stream of temptations in front of us all, and then when people fall to them, expose them on the front pages as if they are monsters, or degenerates.

It’s almost as if the sin nature is the best kept secret on the planet. On the one hand we encourage it, and on the other hand we castigate those who fall victim to it. Culturally we act as if people are not sinners, and provide a million temptations to entice them, and then when they fall we are quick to condemn them. In Christ’s day, the Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jerusalem, and they were always quick to condemn.  One day they brought a woman to Jesus, demanding his opinion: “ Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:3 )

They were demanding to have her stoned, and wanted Christ to agree with them.  So what did Jesus do?

You would have thought he would have said without hesitation, “Stone her, because  clearly  she’s guilty!”

This is what they still do in Islam!  Women in the Middle East caught in adultery are stoned to death!

So who is right here? Are the Pharisees wrong for wanting her stoned? Are Muslims wrong for stoning an adulteress?

We have here a major moral dilemma. After all, God himself passed the law in  Exodus 20:14 “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  The Pharisees knew this. If Jesus said not to stone her, he was in effect obstructing justice.

The Pharisees were trying to catch Jesus breaking the law. “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.” (John 8:6a) They wanted to accuse him of teaching men and women to ignore the demands of the law.

It’s odd that Jesus would permit this apparent   “breech of ethics”.  It’s also odd that Jesus didn’t immediately explain himself. “But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not”. [John 8:6b] What was he writing?

Perhaps the clue is in the next line. Jesus looked up from his writing in the sand and said to the crowd: “He that is without sin among you, let him cast [the first] stone at her.” [John 8:8] Why did he say this? I think he was stirring up their consciences. When you doodle in the sand and not answer somebody, you are silently saying, “the ball is in your court— it’s your turn to think about your own involvement in this situation.”

There is no mention here of the man who was also caught in the act.  There had to be a man, the woman could not have been committing adultery on her own. It seems the Pharisees were not concerned about the man committing adultery, just the woman. That’s odd. If they were interested in justice, they should have brought the man too.

Speaking of justice, the Old Testament law required that no man (or woman) be condemned to death without the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.” [Deuteronomy 17:6] The crowd of Pharisees had supposedly been witnesses, because they said they had “caught her in the act”— and yet they didn’t bring the man that had also been caught in the act.

So who in this crowd  cast the first stone?  NOBODY!  “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last:  and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” [John 8:9] What was it they were convicted about? They were all convicted of the sin of hypocrisy! Here they were being so zealous of the law, demanding justice to be done, and yet they all knew there should have been a man brought to justice also. Why wasn’t there a man? Is it because the men who had arrested her, and the men in the crowd, didn’t consider a man’s sexual indiscretions sinful? In that culture as well in ours, I guess it was considered normal for a man to “sow his wild oats”.  I guess  both cultures—theirs and ours—although they contain the idea of a “fallen women”  do not contain the idea of a “fallen man”!

Does that tell you anything?  It tells me that certain sins are acceptable. And these acceptable sins are paraded all around in films and magazines, to the point that in our day the average age for a person to start watching hard-core pornography on the internet is 12. (TWELVE YEARS OLD!)

If adultery in the Old Testament was considered punishable by death, why are we building an appetite for adultery in our young people? Jesus taught that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  [Matthew 5:28]

But more to the point of this passage today— why do we as a culture entice young men and women out into the excitement of this world…and wink at them when they indulge… and then turn away from them and lock them out of lives when they fall?

Is there a prodigal son or daughter of yours out there somewhere in the world longing to come home, but who is afraid they will never be accepted back into the family because they have fallen too far? It’s precisely because of what we are celebrating— the birth of Jesus Christ, who would grow up to die for our sins— that we can open our hearts and our homes this Christmas to our  “lost” loved ones.