Day 29—The lesson from Susanna* today may be the most egregious example of wicked chauvinism to be found in the OT/Apocryphal literature. Two elders catch Susanna in a private garden bathing. They threaten her, either let us sexually exploit you or we are
going to say we caught you in here with some unknown man committing adultery and you will be executed. Susanna would rather accept the false accusation than submit to the ravaging by these two villainous miscreants. Indeed, she is found guilty of adultery with some unknown assailant and is carted off for execution. A young lad named Daniel, filled with the spirit of God, shouts out he has no desire to get the blood of this woman on his hands. Momentarily puzzled, the people wonder what Daniel knows. He knows she is not guilty, that the two elders lied, and he can prove it (No spoiler here, you will have to read the lesson to find out how Daniel spoils the day for the two nefarious elders). Susanna lived.
In John 8, a woman found in adultery is brought to Jesus for judgement. Her accusers are not so much interested in her action as they are in testing Jesus (it is worth noting that they bring only the woman and not the man). Jesus defers judgement and, instead, scratches in the sand. Persisting in their desire for judgement, Jesus straightens up and says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Failing in there attempt to trap Jesus, the accusers disperse, leaving Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus sends her on her way without condemnation and instructs her to sin no more.
Both of these lessons depict actions of disingenuous persons who want what they want and are willing to sacrifice others in order to get what they want. The way of God is merciful, selfless, and serving not condemning, selfish, and self-serving. Let these final days of Lent find us rooting out the vestiges of our selfish and self-serving ways and recommitting to the Way of God, the way of selflessness and serving others—a way that is merciful.
*Of local KCMO interest: Thomas Hart Benton painted “Susanna and the Elders” in 1938. Since 1940, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has owned this painting. As is the case with all of Benton’s work, it is very American in characterization. As the beautiful, young, early 20th century Susanna lowers herself into the wooded stream, the two leering elders are in the trees, hatching their plan. At the center top of the painting is the “country church.” Will it judge or protect young Susanna? As far as I can tell, Benton’s Susanna has not been exhibited since 1952, when it was hosted by the Joslyn in Omaha. Here is a link: https://art.famsf.org/thomas-hart-benton/susanna-and-elders-1940104