And a certain man was there who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. Jesus, when he saw this one lying there and knew that he had been sick a long time already, said to him, “Do you want to become well?” The one who was sick answered him, “Sir, I do not have anyone that, whenever the water is stirred up, could put me into the pool. But while I am coming, another goes down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” And immediately the man became well and picked up his mat and began to walk.
After these things Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “Look, you have become well! Sin no longer, lest something worse happen to you.” John 5
Now the scribes and the Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery. And standing her in their midst, they said to him, testing him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery! Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (Now they were saying this to test him, so that they would have an occasion to bring charges against him.) But Jesus, bending down, began to write with his finger on the ground, taking no notice. And when they persisted in asking him, straightening up he said to them, “The one of you without sin, let him throw the first stone at her!” And bending down again, he wrote on the ground. Now when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, they began to depart, one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone—and the woman who was in their midst. So Jesus, straightening up and seeing no one except the woman, said to her, “Where are those accusers of yours? Does no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” So Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” John 8
These passages used to bother me. Not the healing and the mercy. Those are great. True What-Would-Jesus-Do? moments. i fully expect the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and ushers in the Kingdom of God to heal the sick and save a sinner from a self-righteous lynch mob. (Stone mob? Rock mob? hmm.) No, it’s not the miracle or the prickly teaching, it’s that tag line he tosses in at the end.
Go and sin no more.
i don’t know about you, but i grew up in churches where this wasn’t a problematic line at all. It made perfect sense to the adults who taught me. It tied in neatly with the Ten Commandments. With the blessings and curses of Gerizim and Ebal of Deuteronomy. Pick up your mat. Gerizim. Sin no longer. Ebal. Neither do I condemn you. Gerizim. Go, and sin no more. Ebal. Keep your room clean, don’t lie, eat your vegetables, be nice to your brother and God will love you. Gerizim. Go play down by the lake, steal that kid’s cool pencil holder, say a bad word and God will smite thee down with great vengeance and furious anger! Give your change to that dirty guy outside the coffee shop. Eat vitamins. Raise your kids to go to college and be productive citizens. Pay your taxes and God will welcome you into his glorious rest. Get a divorce. Have an abortion. Struggle with addiction or sexual immorality, whether visible or not and it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you on that day.
It wasn’t until i was older that i realized why that thinking created nothing in me but either self-righteousness or anxiety. If i think i’m doing well, then I AM doing well. If i slip up, i’m just another one of those old people who say, “well, i HOPE God will let me in. i HOPE i’ve been good enough.” That’s not salvation. That’s not Psalms. That’s not Jesus not losing one of his sheep that the Father had given him. That’s not, “do not be afraid!” “Fear not!” That’s not glorious or Easter or Peace on Earth on whom His favor rests. It’s certainly not love from before the foundation of the world, before I formed you, I knew you.
It’s karma. Law. Works salvation. So why the Tartarus does Jesus say it??
What do these two instances have in common other than this one line? Look at them again. Do you see it? Were either of these people coming to Jesus? Did they seek him? Did they cry out to him? Did they fall at his feet and beg for mercy? No.
Jesus came to them. He found them in their misery. Or they were dragged to his feet in their guilt and shame. We see nothing in either story to show they knew who he was at all. The lame guy didn’t even know who he was AFTER he healed him!
Jesus is the greatest expert on what sin is and isn’t. He who knew the scriptures certainly knew Joshua 24, Psalms 14 and 53 and Isaiah 64. And we who know him and love him know them too. You don’t have to tell someone who loves Jesus not to sin, they don’t want to. But they will. We will still struggle with greed and anger and fear and sex and belonging and hope and joy. We won’t want to but we will. It’s why we needed a savior in the first place. This is not what Jesus is talking about. What is he talking about then, mr. knowitall?
Lord willing, i’ll tell ya tomorrow.