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2. Inhabiting the Person and Mandate of Jesus

 


Remaining close to the person of Jesus


Remain close to Jesus and invite the Spirit to take your spirit deeper into his person.

Notice again what is happening for Jesus as you return to this passage from John 8: 1 – 11, this time in The Message.

Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him.

He sat down and taught them. The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?"They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest.

The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" "No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."

Invite the Holy Spirit to bring you close to what Jesus was experiencing in this volatile and demanding context.


Engaging with Jesus’ purposes

As Jesus engaged with . . .

. . . the temple rulers

. . . the accused woman

. . . and with you

What was Jesus seeing within these people?    [you continue]  

 

 

 

[maybe fear]

[maybe their value and beauty as children of God]

[maybe fear]

[maybe preciousness, beauty and value]

[and for you?]

[maybe preciousness, beauty and value]

What was happening in his heart as he related to them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was he feeling through his emotions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was happening in his body?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was happening in his imagination?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was being revealed to him through his deeper spiritual awareness?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In segment 1, “Being taught by the Master,” I spoke about a Master Class with Jesus. This class continues. Jesus makes profound responses to the religious rulers and to the accused woman. What have we witnessed? What has Jesus been revealing to us?

Can you identify with some of the following statements?

Yes

No

Still unsure

We have sought to see these characters through his eyes and have glimpsed the closed and resistant hearts of the men and the estrangement and sinfulness of the woman laid bare.

 

 

 

We have ventured close to his heart responses to these people and desire that our own hearts be transformed to become more like his.

 

 

 

We have noticed him use his body in a position of humility and in a way that draws the focus away from the woman, creating space for life rather than for judgement and death-making.

 

 

 

We have witnessed him express love and mercy and straddle the great breach between the institutional power and position (represented by the religious rulers), and the love, forgiveness and mercy that is required to restore an accused woman (and indeed ourselves).

 

 

 

We have imagined with him a different way of being and of relating for all involved, and the hope for redemption and restoration give freedom from our estrangement and sinful entanglements and offer us freedom for living in deeper intimacy with, and for the glory of, our God.

 

 

 

We have also journeyed with Jesus to a dangerous cusp; to where people will either respond or react. The life of an accused woman has been saved. Death-making may still be on the agenda! It is not just the external religious practices that are at stake; hearts are laid bare! 

 

 

 

Could you add your additional items to this list?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is still more to learn from our Master Teacher, much which can impact on our formation as guides and companions in his way. In our gospel account there are a particular chain of events, a particular group of characters, as well as specific movement of the Spirit. They played out in a specific time in history (even though, as you have prayerfully attended to them, they have become true in your own life and experience in the present day). They represent a specific working through of Jesus’ Messianic purposes, and in doing so, they reveal to us something of the heart of God.

Jesus’ mandate

What is extraordinary about Jesus’ responses, particularly as it involves the religious rulers who are Jewish, is that he was completely in line with the Jewish prophets. Indeed, he was fulfilling the central theme of Israel’s own scriptures, in which these religious rulers considered themselves experts. These temple men attempt to trap Jesus in a legal quandary. Part of his response is to take them deeper into their own quandary. But, as Solzhenitsyn suggests, "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."[1]

To administer the law, even on their terms, you need to have personal integrity, not just external power, position and expertise. Jesus alone had such integrity. His actions in this volatile situation were purposeful, and yet do not violate the freedoms of the characters with whom he engages. He didn’t get drawn into the religious ruler’s power game which erodes freedom by extending institutional power over others. Indeed, he was mending the breach between love and power by extending God’s mercy to the accused woman. God’s love does not impose!    

Jesus did not come to vindicate the institutional power, authority and position of these upholders of the letter of the law, or to judge and inflict punishment, but rather to inaugurate God’s kingdom of love, forgiveness and mercy. For these religious rulers, and indeed for some of the crowd, Jesus was extending mercy to the wrong people!

As you engage with Jesus’ purposes, it could be helpful to go back to what he himself said he was doing.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." (Luke 4: 18 – 19, NRSV).  

Jesus response to the question of John the Baptist as to if he was really the one: "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." (Luke 7: 22 – 23, NRSV).

Notice how Jesus’ mandate—his Messianic and kingdom purposes—are enacted right in the midst of this story. As you spend time prayerfully pondering the purposefulness and integrity of his words and actions, be open to how, in your guiding and companioning formation, Jesus is inviting you to join him in his redeeming and restorative work.

See if you can note down in your journal something of Jesus’ personal invitation to you to participate in his kingdom purposes—even in helping him mend the breach between love and power (a breach demonstrated between Jesus’ kingdom life and the attitudes and actions of the religious scholars and Pharisees).

Praying the passage – praying the experience!

This final prayer segment will involve setting aside another time (about 30 minutes) when you can come back to conclude Session 11 with prayer. Because you have entered so deeply into this passage from John 8: 2 – 11, you can return to it so as to pray the passage and pray through what has been revealed to you. Here are some suggestions to guide you through this time of prayer.

  1. Have the passage in front of you and bring to memory the words and phrases that drew your attention.
  2. Begin your prayer with your own words.
  3. Then bring some of the words and phrases that deeply resonated with you into your prayer. This will come naturally and spontaneously from your identification with the characters and with the words and responses of Jesus which are now part of your story.
  4. Then move into a time of thanksgiving; thanksgiving and deep gratitude for all that has been revealed to you.
  5. Continue in an attitude of humility as you make your response to God for what has been revealed to you. We might acknowledge the inspiration that the Spirit has given to our spirit. We have welcomed the Spirit to pray in us and consent to all that has been enlivened within us. We have opened ourselves to the Infinite and hence to infinite possibilities.[2]
  6. With such new possibilities—including wonderful possibilities for your formation as companions in the way of Jesus—don’t be anxious but rather, with anticipation and thanksgiving, shape any of your concerns into petitions and requests to God.[3] 
  7. Then, remembering that Jesus, through the Spirit, has opened the doorway for you into God’s presence, you might enter the house of the Lord with the woman who has experienced mercy and been afforded freedom from her sin and entanglements allowing her freedom for living for the glory of her Redeemer. Spend time abiding with her in God’s unfailing love with an open and grateful heart and without the need for thought or words. 
  8. Then in an acknowledgement that significant aspects of your private and self-made world have come to an end, and that the newness of kingdom life appears within and around you, with the impossible becoming an everyday experience, give this your consent with your “let it be so!” [4]
  9. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”[5]
  10.  Amen.                                                                                                                           

 

Bibliography

Brown, Christopher. Reflected Love: Companioning in the Way of Jesus. Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2012.

Casey, Michael. Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina. Missouri: Liguori/Triumph, 1996.

 Hide, Kerrie. Silence Enflamed: John of the Cross and Prayer. Australian eJournal of Theology 17, December 2010. Accessed:  http://aejt.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/301042/3.AEJT10.15_Hide_SilenceEnflamed_Formatted2.pdf

John of the Cross. “The Living Flame of Love.” In Centred on Love: The Poems of St John of the Cross. Translated by Marjorie Flower OCD. Varroville: Carmelite Nuns, 2002.

Keating, Thomas. Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimensions of The Gospel. Brisbane: Element, 1992.

Nicholson, Daniel Howard Sinclair & Lee, Arthur Hugh Evelyn. Editors. The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, 1917.

Nouwen, Henri. The Wounded healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. New York: Doubleday, 1970.

O’Connell, Séamus. The Way of Lectio: Concept and Presentation. Maynooth College, 2011. http://www.maynoothcollege.ie/scripture/documents/Sunday32A.pdf 

Sampson, John. Editor. The Poems of William Blake. London: Senate, 1912.  

Solzhenitsyn,  Aleksandr. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One). Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 1998 (edit).

Vanier, Jean. Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. Australia: Garratt, 2004.

Wordsworth, William. Poetical Works. Oxford: Oxford University, 1904.


Notes:

[1] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One). Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 1998 (edition), 168.
[2] Thomas Keating. Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimensions of The Gospel. Brisbane: Element, 1992, 13.
[3] Philippians 4: 6.
[4] Keating, Open Mind, 13. 
[5] Philippians 4: 7, NRSV