Have you ever wondered why the woman caught in adultery is never named?
If you haven’t, it’s ok. I haven’t either.
Not until this morning. Really, I wasn’t thinking about her until I was wondering about the effect that grace has on our definitions. And it’s an odd choice of the authorship of the Gospels that this woman is never named. While it’s probably wise those thousands of years ago to help her keep her anonymity. She was likely still alive when the first gospel accounts began to circulate throughout Israel.
There is some deeper goodness to her not having a name. In my post on betrayal, I mentioned Bathsheba and David. These are two people caught in adultery, at least in the eye of history and a few trusted advisors, if not as publicly as the woman thrown at Jesus’s feet.
David would not go on to be known as the king caught in adultery and murder.
Bathsheba would not be called “The queen who started off super wrong.”
David was the man after God’s heart. He was ancestor to Christ. He was the vision for what the crown was supposed to aim toward emulating.
Bathsheba would go on to give birth to a future king. Conceivably, she was instrumental in raising up such a wise and sensitive son.
So why not name the woman caught in adultery.
It might be as simple as an examination of the power of names. I don’t mean that our actual name creates our destiny. I mean that what we are called is reflective of a few things.
1. It reflects how we see ourselves. Look at Abraham. He let God called him Abraham, which basically means “great father.” He let Yaweh call him that before he had children. Abraham was God’s chosen man because he refused to deal in bitterness with an unfulfilled promise. So when God promised him an inheritance of children and a future name, Abraham believed Him over the course of decades. He let God rename Him in honor of that promise. He saw his fatherhood and embraced it in his name.
2. It reflects what party we empower to define us. Jacob, the heel grabber and trickster of fame, desirous of a life he had not stolen demanded that the angel with whom he wrestled all night give him a blessing. The angel gave him a new name. Israel. “The one who does business directly with God.”
I think we call the woman caught in adultery exactly that because it is us.
We are caught.
We are guilty.
There is so much time spent on trying to cover up guilt that we fail to see that the real problem is not our guilt, but our definition after the guilty plea. There in the synagogue, where Jesus taught, Heaven and Hell stood on either side of the woman and made two separate claims on her eternity. It wasn’t just on her life. It wasn’t just on how many rocks should be thrown at her to kill her. It was about whether or not a life finally found out to be filled with sin deserved the cosmic mercy of Heaven to direct her definition from “sinner” to “mine.”
Heaven and Hell looked on that holy ground as a place to recruit.
Hell would, through the act of murder by law, begin to wrap itself like a constricting snake around the hearts of those who killed her. They would fail to sleep knowing their guilt. Their guilt would take them down a dark road to commit more sinister acts.
Heaven would call attention to the sin of all gathered that they might actually have a moment of clarity in consideration of their own paths.
The woman caught in adultery is suspended in eternity as a picture of me in my guilt. Sinner, but set free because there is only One who gets to define me.
In a college class I recently found out through an emotional IQ test that I need to calm down my “self talk.” It cracked me up because that is legitimately the source for most of my suffering lately. The funny thing is that the negative self-talk I do is not my own voice, but the voices of those who have used my flaws as a means for abuse, control, and manipulation.
The two values for the formula stated above is essential here, then. When the negative self-talk begins, I have to bring it back to a couple of major points.
1. How do I see myself?
2. Who is authorized to define me?
Whom the Son sets free, oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God, yes I am.
In my Father’s house, there’s a place for me
I’m a child of God, yes I am. – Hillsong
We must sing about God’s greatness. We must sing to remind one another of what He has done. On occasion, the work we must recognize is the miracle that lives actually within us. I don’t mean to turn the worship of God into a narcissist thing. I mean that if we are going to praise God for creating stars, mountains, and bird song, what on earth are we doing ignoring His greatest miracle: love.
He deserves our worship for that as well as for His immutable greatness.
Who knows where the woman caught in adultery wound up. Perhaps she pulled her life together and cleaned up her act. Maybe not. That’s not what mercy and love are about. We don’t wield them to force a difference to happen. We wield love in our lives so that we might reflect the great love exercised on our behalf.
He wielded that great love not to force change but because He loves us and invites us to enjoy that love.
We are free to reject that love. We are free to accept it and then later experience the great forgetfulness to which we are prone and once again accept the title of “woman caught in adultery.” We are free to accept that love and then hold tight to its promise, and its new name for us.