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The Space Between the Notes by Kim Reisman

Scripture Focus:
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at
the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was
speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a woman they had
caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The
law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but
Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an
answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, stone her. But let those who have
never sinned throw the first stones!”

John 8:1-7 (NLT)


Years ago I heard someone draw a parallel between the Bible and jazz. I love music so
I immediately fell in love with that metaphor. Many of the people I know who like jazz
say the coolest thing is that it’s not as much about the notes as it is about what happens
between the notes. That’s where the parallel between the Bible and jazz is so vivid. The
Bible is like jazz, because it’s not just about the verses; it’s about being in tune to what
God is saying between the verses.

The story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 illustrates this idea.
Jesus was teaching in the temple when the religious leaders brought a woman to him.
These folks were very aware of the verses in Scripture. But even knowing the verses,
they were not in sync with God; they did not have a sense of the jazz of God’s word.
Knowing that the law demanded that she be stoned to death, they asked Jesus what
should be done.

Jesus understood the jazz aspect of Scripture. He was in sync with God, could feel the
heart and pulse of God. He took his time in responding. The religious leaders, who were
so intent on the verse, continued to demand an answer from him. Finally, he said, “All
right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones.” (v. 7) The
crowd was stunned. What kind of answer was that! Slowly the group began to leave,
and the woman was left standing before Jesus.

But that’s not where the story ends. That’s not the “jazz” part, the part between the
verses. The jazz part occurs when Jesus says, “where are your accusers? Didn’t even
one of them condemn you?” The woman replies, “No, Lord” and then Jesus says, “Then
neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

When we read the Bible, we open ourselves to the movement of God’s Spirit, the breath
of God. We listen for God’s voice between the verses. We strive not to be people of the
verse, as the Pharisees were; but people of the breath, as Jesus was.

At a church I served there was a policy and procedure manual for the Education
ministries. It was very thorough with important policies to safeguard children who
participated in our ministries. However, as valuable as it was, in one section there was a
policy prohibiting persons who were divorced from teaching Sunday school. Granted,
divorce is a tragic event in the life of any family, wreaking havoc on adults and children
alike. It’s not a choice the church needs to advocate or endorse. And yet, in this
particular policy, more attention was paid to the “verse” than to the breath of God
between the verses. It was as if those who drafted that severe policy knew the verse but
didn’t understand the jazz – that nothing can separate us from the love of God or
exclude us from total and complete forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Better if our policy had been to recognize that we are all fallen creatures, sinful and in
need of mercy. Better to have recognized that through repentance and grace, the Holy
Spirit works in us to enable us to “go and sin no more.” Better to have become people
who hear the jazz of Scripture, recognizing our own need for God’s forgiveness and
healing power, and then offering that same forgiveness and healing to others, and
support them as they seek to go and sin no more.

Applying God’s teaching to our daily lives can be a difficult thing. And it will be even
more difficult if we read God’s word without any connection to the movement of the Holy
Spirit. Each time we open the Bible we should be praying for illumination – that the
same Holy Spirit that moved the writer would move us as well. We will remain persons
of the verse unless we take the time necessary to hear the jazz of Scripture – God
speaking between the verses.

So many issues clamor for our attention. Moral ambiguity surrounds us more than ever.
In times like these it can be easier to be a person of the verse rather than seeking to
hear God’s voice speaking between the verses. As you pray and fast this month, my
prayer is that you would become more and more in sync with the heart and pulse of
God, not only understanding the verses in Scripture, but the jazz as well.

*Adapted from Knowing God: Making God the Main Thing in my Life, Kimberly Dunnam Reisman
(Nashville: Abindgon Press, 2003) p26-28.