Righteousness in the Light

Kootenai county Chaplain

The sun, just rising, cast a pink glow over the Kidron Valley. Quickly fading into golden sun light, the Temple’s white walls reflected the brilliant light. Birds chirped happily and people rose from their slumber to begin the day. The city was slowly coming alive.
Blurry-eyed men headed to the temple for morning prayers. Jesus, after spending the night on the Mount of Olives, calmly and peacefully entered the temple courts. He had already caused quite a stir among the Jewish elders and some of the people because of his previous teachings, yet he was undaunted by their doubts and disbelief. He faithfully carried on with the mission to teach about the kingdom of heaven and the ways of God. His words were sometimes hard to take in. He spoke of hard things to understand, things of the Spirit, eternal life, living water. Many stopped listening to him after he told them he was the bread from heaven. He performed miraculous deeds, like healing sick people who had been ill for many years, turning water into wine, feeding thousands of people with just a couple loaves of bread and a few tiny fish, walking on water, and even raising a dead man to life! Probably what disturbed the religious leaders more than any of these, was that Jesus did things not customary, things not part of the Jewish traditions. He seemed to disregard the teachings passed down from generation to generation. He did many of these acts on the Sabbath.
Yet with all this negative publicity, people still listened to his teaching because, upon seeing him there, a crowd gathered around him. Humbly, yet boldly, Jesus sat down and taught them. In John 8:1-12, we find the story of Jesus’ teaching interrupted by the Pharisees and scribes. They vehemently despised Jesus’ and his teachings and sought opportunity to discredit him among the people. While he was teaching, his words flowed over the crowd like running water over the pebbles in a brook. They marveled at the way this man taught. He spoke with an authority and a knowledge not seen in any other. So captured by his words, they were jolted by the sound of a door crashing open and a commotion. Roughly and rudely escorted to the midst of the crowd by a band of Pharisees and scribes, a woman, barely dressed with just a bed sheet wrapped around her, was shoved to the ground in front of Jesus. Her heavily made-up smeared eyes cast down to the ground. She sobbed.
“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?”
This was a trap, something with which to discredit Jesus with. Jesus knew the wickedness in their heart and so he acted as if he did not hear. He calmly bent toward the ground and began writing with his finger. Now it is here, in this part of our story that we use a bit of deduction. John 8:6 does not say what Jesus wrote, but we think we have a possible idea based on the other encounters Jesus had with the Jewish leaders. On several occasions, they tried to trip Jesus up with the Law, and each time, he reminded them of their own disobedience to the commandments. In addition, when God talked with Moses on the mountain, God concluded their conversation by giving Moses the two stone tablets engraved by His own finger. God physically wrote the Ten Commandments on these two stones. Since Jesus Christ is God, he is the same yesterday, today and forever, we see a correlation in John 8:1-12 and Exodus 31:18.
As though he did not hear them, Jesus calmly bent toward the ground and began writing with his finger. Annoyed at this evident slight, with gritted teeth and obvious annoyance, they asked him again, “What is your answer?”
Rising slowly, he stood up, towering over them. He looked at them, one by one, stopping to examine each man’s eyes, and he said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the stone at her first.”
Again, he kneeled down and continued writing as the accusers leaned in closer. They could see the words “Honor your father and mother”.
Clearly written for all to read were the Ten Commandments. Jesus knew the Jews’ extreme obedience to the first four. However, the rest of the commandments, they were not as diligent to follow. They created ways to get around these laws. In order to have an excuse from helping their parents, they would pronounce “Corban” over their belongings. By doing this, they declared their material goods reserved for the Lord, thereby excusing them from giving financial assistance to their elderly parents.
Similarly, in modern times, we see a practice called Granny Dumping. An elderly parent/grandparent has Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and the family dumps them off at the front door of some hospital or nursing home. The poor person cannot say where they come from or to whom they belong to, so they are left there. The family neglects their responsibility to their own elderly.
At this, the oldest men, deflated and dejected, turned from the crowd and departed. Then, one by one, the others followed, and left the woman standing there before Jesus.
“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
The kindness of his voice filled her spirit with peace and hope. With a sigh of relief, she answered him, “No one, Lord.” She felt a stirring deep down in her heart and looked at him with thankfulness.
Looking back at her with his kind and compassionate eyes, he encouraged her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
No one could condemn her because there was no one without sin. They broke Commandments 5 through ten and Jesus had pointed this out to them. They felt conviction, but sought ways to justify their behavior.
Then with authority and power he spoke to the crowd saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Here the story ends. Jesus lays the foundation for revelation that he fulfills the prophecy for being the savior of the world using light as a spiritual allegory representing his person, his word, and his righteousness. The prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus in Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Also, in Isaiah 60:19c, “The Lord will be to you an everlasting light.”
If Jesus wrote the Ten Commandments, what would be the point? To show the Jewish leaders that their pride and selfish desires had blinded them. They dutifully upheld the traditions of men, but neglected the will of God. Their self-righteousness had replaced God’s way of righteousness. Their prophet Isaiah said it would be so in Isaiah 29:13, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”. Human traditions had become more important than the Word of the Lord. In addition, it was impossible to obey 613 laws with perfection. Jesus was stating that righteousness does not come from the Law. A Poem by Jeff Schoengarth, an inmate in Kootenai County Jail

I have a demon inside me that wants to steal my soul.
He wants me to tear myself apart so I can never become whole.
I am ashamed of all the sins I have committed, all the bad that I have done.
But I believe God had planned my life out before my life had even begun.
I also believe in angels that they are always hovering near
Whispering words of love and encouragement whenever clouds appear.
But when you are high or drunk you cannot hear their voice
All you hear is static and your inner evil noise.
I have accepted the Lord as my savior and my old life is done.
I have confessed my sins and my new life has just begun.
I am a sinner and an addict but I am no longer lost
Because I have accepted Jesus who rose on the third day after dying on the cross.
I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
I believe in Christ’s love and this I cherish most.
So the next time you are feeling lost, scared, or torn apart,
I pray you turn to God and hold Him close to your heart.

Testimony of why he reads the Good News Newspaper: I read “The Good News” because in jail or prison, you hear many testimonies of others in the same situation of being “locked up”, but the “Good News” shares stories of people who are out of prison and have held onto their faith. I find this truly inspirational.
Jeff Schoengarth

Additional Testimonies
Travis Anderson: “I like the Good News because it is uplifting, and has inspirational stories.”

Samuel Davis: “I look forward to the uplifting stories that help me get through tough times.”

Dave Fredrickson: “I love the variety of testimonies, based on true life stories.”