The Impact of the Cross-Part One
The Cross Makes New Life Possible
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The scene is the temple court and Jesus is having Bible study. All of the sudden, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees storm in dragging in a half clothed, frightened and humiliated woman they say they caught in the act of adultery. They bring this poor woman in and ask Jesus if she should be stoned to death.
First of all, the last time I looked up adultery in the dictionary I read that it involved two people. Where was the man? Maybe the absent man was promised some money in exchange for putting himself in an “awkward situation” with a woman who had been hand selected for this scheme. Perhaps these leaders had watched this woman for a period of time and knew her to be someone who went from relationship to relationship. They knew she’d take the bait, and so they paid some guy to help them with their little plot promising he’d be free from any consequence.
No, it’s not justice these religious leaders are interested in. They aren’t just law abiding citizens, trying to enforce what is right. If that was the case, the woman and the man involved in the adulterous relationship would both have been brought forward to the Sanhedrin and not to this itinerant preacher because that was indeed the letter of the law. No something transpired ahead of time to arrange this.
These religious leaders wanted Jesus to make a decision to execute her based on the Law of Moses because they knew that would get him in trouble with Rome. Once Roman law had taken over, the Jews weren’t allowed to make a decision regarding execution of any kind. That was now Rome’s job. So, if Jesus ruled she should be stoned, he would violate Roman authority and law. If he didn’t decide she should be stoned, he’d be seen as winking at sin, as dismissing the Law of Moses and would further validate the accusation that he was a “friend of sinners.” And if he was seen as friend of sinners, these religious leaders hoped to discredit him.
Can you imagine how scared this woman was? She knew the law. She knew what it said about what consequence was coming her way. Her disheveled appearance, her tear stained face, her racing heart, her frightened eyes, her shortness of breath, the blood red color on her cheeks from the shame, embarrassment, and fear—all were on display in the temple courts.
With all eyes on Jesus, He demonstrated what He always did. That He couldn’t be pinned in the corner. That he couldn’t be put in a box because who He was and what He came to do was so far beyond human reasoning. These religious leaders were bound to the things of this world and limited to their own little personal experience. Jesus, however, had a heavenly perspective on the whole thing. He had the cross in mind. He had some teaching to demonstrate for those gathered there, and Jesus, true to His mission, responded accordingly.
He said nothing at first, but he bent down and began to draw something in the dust. Scripture doesn’t say what He wrote, but I can suggest a couple of possibilities. Only one other time do we read about God writing something. Do you remember what He wrote? He wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger. Exodus 31:18. Perhaps as Jesus stooped down to draw in the dirt, He began to write the first line of the tenth commandment in Exodus 20, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”
If these religious leaders caught this woman “in the act of adultery,” what would they have had to be doing? They’d have to be watching through the windows at this couple “in the act” or be somehow physically present in order to catch them, right? Perhaps there had been some coveting going on just moments before.
Perhaps when Jesus stooped down, He revisited what He had said in Matthew 5:27 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Maybe Jesus was writing down the names of these religious leaders linking their names with sins of their past. Perhaps He wrote the name of a woman living in Rome. One old pious Pharisee had had an affair in Rome when he was a young fellow. His wife didn’t know about it; no one in Jerusalem knew about it; but our Lord knew. As He just wrote the name of the woman, the old Pharisee came over and saw it — and suddenly remembered that he had another appointment. Perhaps one of the scribes made regular trips to Ephesus, a great sinning place, to a certain address over there which Jesus wrote in the sand. The scribe looked at it and said, “Oh, my gracious!” He left hurriedly. Another scribe may have left a girl in Galilee who was pregnant. He didn’t marry her, and he didn’t think anyone knew. Our Lord wrote the name of the girl and the scribe’s name with it. He very well could have been writing the names and addresses of mistresses these religious leaders had been involved with so that they understood He knew about their personal situations and that they had no right to be bringing a charge against this woman for they too were guilty.
Whatever He wrote brought about a conviction in the hearts of the accusers. Somehow, Jesus called to their attention, their own sexual sin. When Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin,” cast the first stone, the wording there didn’t just mean, “If you are perfect, cast the first stone.” It literally meant, “If you are without this same sin in your life,” cast the first stone.
It was serious business to bring a charge against someone according to Jewish law. More than one witness had to bring the charge, and those who did, had to become the executioners. They had to cast the first stone. According to Deuteronomy 17:6 and 7, those who brought the charges had to begin the execution because the witnesses had to feel the responsibility for the death of the person they were accusing. If they were falsely accusing someone, they were going to have to live with the guilt of murdering an innocent person. And if it was found out that you falsely accused someone, the same kind of execution would be their fate.
The religious leaders didn’t get what they asked for. Jesus didn’t give a judgment about the woman’s sin. He simply told them if they weren’t also guilty of the same sin, they could begin the execution. The Scripture says one by one, the accusers began to leave, beginning with the older ones first. Their departure was a confession of their own sin; their own unworthiness to make a judgment on this woman.
I suggest to you this morning that Jesus’ actions in this story accomplished at least two things in light of the coming crucifixion:
He prepared people to understand the purpose of the cross.
Many of us have memorized John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The verse that follows is just as powerful: 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
When Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin, you go ahead and throw the first stone” he knew no one would qualify. There was only one person in that circle who qualified, and that was Jesus, the sinless, perfect Son of God. And what He had every right to do, He chose not to do.
These religious leaders wanted Jesus to do something contrary to His mission. He didn’t come to condemn the world but to demonstrate God’s love by dying for us so that we could be saved instead of condemned.
Why could Jesus let her go without invoking the OT penalty of death? Because he was looking ahead to the cross. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23 We’re all sinners at birth because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Death is the logical consequence of sin. There is a physical death and a spiritual death. After this encounter, Jesus continued his life of perfection without sin and was murdered. He looked toward the exchange on the cross as He dealt with this woman. He looked toward being the ransom for that scandalous moment in that woman’s life and in every sinful moment of her life. Jesus looked ahead to His death that would forever make the difference for that woman who was, as we all are, caught. Jesus went on and died for her sin, your sin and mine.
For every time you have been unfaithful to your spouse, for every time you have lied or cheated, for every time you have viewed pornography or spoke profanity, for every time you have mistreated someone, Christ paid the penalty in your place. And He who could level you in an instant because of what you have done was hanging on the cross suffering, bleeding, broken and dying. And He was hanging there for the woman who had gone to bed with another man. He was hanging there because we have made choices, each one of us, that have violated God’s commands.
The placement of this story in the book of John is very interesting to me. Following this encounter Jesus goes on to say He is the “Light of the world.” Rather than condemn, He comes to shine a light on the dark places of our lives in order to point us to our need for the cross. It’s the same point that follows John 3:16 and 17 that says,
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
The law only reminds us that we can’t measure up. We’ll never be good enough. The law only points to the consequence of death. But Jesus, who is called the “Light” hangs on a cross so that His sacrifice is spotlighted. Literally, the Light of the World, was on display on the cross so that they could see and we could see where the answer lies. It lies at the foot of the cross where Light, Love, and Truth were raised up high. The purpose of the cross is so that on judgment day when God asks us, “Where are your accusers, there will be no one left to condemn us, not even God. Because when we accept what Jesus did on the cross, we are justified before God. That means we are forgiven, and we’re in right standing before God. He doesn’t see us as sinners, but as perfect through the blood of Christ. Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? So that there would be no one left to condemn us, not even God the Father.
He pronounced a new life and identity for her.
I suppose you could read this story and could conclude that Jesus was soft on sin. He wasn’t. He didn’t say, “Honey, I know you’re an innocent victim.” “Honey, I know this was a set up. You’re not really to blame.” He didn’t excuse her behavior just because her accusers had ulterior motives or left guilty.
What He said was completely in line with His mission. He said, “I don’t condemn you,” but He didn’t stop there. He prompted her to choose something different than she had been choosing. He said, “Go and leave your life of sin.” Go and leave the pattern of your life. You get the impression that this wasn’t a one-time incident in this woman’s life. This was a way of life, a pattern of adultery. She had been chosen for the set up by the religious leaders because they knew she would sin, but she willingly chose to do what she did. Jesus is telling her to leave that pattern. Maybe she never considered that she could leave. Maybe she thought, once an adulterer always an adulterer. Maybe she had felt trapped by her own poor choices, and for the first time ever the hope that the vicious cycle could be broken entered her life.
The cross, a symbol of death and torture became a symbol of new life because Jesus triumphed over his death on a cross. Why? Because when Jesus cried, “It is finished,” the power of sin was forever broken! Satan was crushed. Colossians 2:13 says, “13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
The powers of seduction, the powers of addiction, the powers of anger, the powers of lust and pride, these powers that have a choke hold on your life have to take their hands off when you accept Christ’s work for you on the cross. You can choose a different life because of the cross.
By Chuck McConkey
I’m a new creation; I’m a brand new man. If you were to ask me who I was in the Fall of 1977, I would have told you, “I am a husband, I am a factory representative, I am the owner of a collector’s car…” Just 6 months later in the spring of 1978; if you would have asked me who I was, I would have told you, “I am divorced, I am changing jobs, I am dealing with my dad’s death, I am struggling with my sexuality, I am a failure!”
I had been told all my life that I was a failure. I believed I wasn’t much of a son, I wasn’t much of a husband. I believed I wasn’t much of a man. Confusion would be an understatement to describe my life at that point. I needed answers. I discovered that alcohol could smooth out the rough edges. I decided to go back to the church I had attended while I was married. However, before I could say much, the pastor told me that there was no place for “the likes of me” in church. At the age of 12 I had known I was loved by God. But from this pastor’s dialogue, I left that day feeling that there was no hope for me from the church or God. I knew this pastor didn’t love me, and I believed that God didn’t either. So booze became my friend and comforter. During this time, I continued to seek love and affirmation through sexual encounters with other men. This continued for over 2 years, until on St. Patrick’s Day in 1980. I remember sitting on a bar stool getting drunk after being off the bottle for over 3 months. I couldn’t help myself and I remember feeling double doomed. I was a drunk and I was “homosexual.” That was the most lonely day I had ever lived.
For two more years I continued to drink and go from one sexual encounter to another seeking some sort of hope. Then on March 14, 1982, I put the cork in the bottle. I was an alcoholic, yet I had also discovered God By going to a 12 step program for over 3 years, I began to get better and feel responsible. I had a job and some friends. But there was a void in my heart that just kept getting bigger and bigger until one time I gave in and went with another fellow from the 12 step program to a “church.” My friend told me about this “church” where I would feel accepted and safe. The “church” was the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). I continued in my homosexual lifestyle and was accepted there, as a homosexual. I was even ordained and began ministry as a homosexual. Yet I was miserable.
Up until this point, I didn’t know I could get out of the homosexual lifestyle I was living! However, I kept feeling a sort of tugging in my soul, that something was terribly wrong. Holiness and homosexuality do not go hand and hand. As I hungered more for Jesus, I gave up more of myself and I received more of Jesus. I felt very uncomfortable in the old life, but I still didn’t know I had a choice, until a friend felt led to leave me some pamphlets from this ministry, Restoration Outreach. I took one look at them and tossed them away. I was afraid of being let down again. At this time, I went into serious prayer and fasting. I asked God to give me something concrete to hang on to. I wanted a billboard. I remembered Restoration Outreach’s phone number. I called and while I was prepared to have to wait a long time for an appointment, God flung open the doors! My whole life changed direction as I heard Wanda Harris say, “Isn’t it wonderful you have a choice.” And the door to my Exodus has remained open.
You see the real Church, gave me something the MCC can’t give, A CHOICE. The real Church says, “Jesus Christ delivers.” He is still in the delivery business! The real Church said, “I love you brother, you are in trouble. However, you do not have to stay there.” The real body of Christ showed me that Jesus really does heal, and how to keep that healing. It was the love of Christ that compelled me. Christ’s members showed me that I now have a new identity, and have taught me to become a new man. The man that GOD intended me to be! The new man Christ set me free to be. You, the real Church of Jesus Christ gave me a choice, hope, and freedom.
The steps out of homosexuality have not been easy or instant. It has been a process which has taught me that Abba Father is indeed my Father and my source. I have learned that God’s Word is the standard, that my “lifestyle” must fit it, and not the other way around. I have been transformed by renewing my mind. I have been taught to dream again, and that those dreams can be a reality; change can occur if I want it and work at it using God’s strength, power and His Word. Change has occurred and I have hope again!
My name is Chuck McConkey. I am a new creation, a brand new man. Today I live with my beautiful wife and two boys in the Tulsa area, where we minister to those in homosexuality, to God be all the GLORY!
II Corinthians 5:17 “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Jesus knew that what He was about to do on the cross would forever make possible this woman’s new life. She could choose it because He was choosing the cross. No one can go back and make a brand new beginning, but Jesus was saying she could create a new ending by leaving a life of sin.
It’s interesting that the passage doesn’t say that the woman had anything to say. She didn’t try to defend herself because she knew she was guilty. After all, she had been “caught in the act . . .” Have you ever been “caught in the act” of sin? When was the last time you got a speeding ticket? While you may have wanted to, you probably didn’t argue with the officer. When you are caught in the act, when there is evidence of wrongdoing, there is no point in arguing. No need to try to blame someone else. The guilt is yours.
Did you all know that the 45 miles an hour on Teays Valley Rd. changes to 35 miles an hour at the Post Office? I was courteously reminded of that very point just a few months ago by someone wearing a grey outfit and a shiny badge. Did you know that the fact that something is law overrides the fact that you may not be aware of it? Why even though I had lived here for almost two years, I was sure I had never seen the sign that changed the speed limit. While the officer was kind enough to give me a warning (and Montena was kind enough to see me and assume my car was broken down because she was SURE the pastor would never be pulled over for speeding) I was reminded that I needed to make a change in my driving for my safety and for the safety of others.
Jesus was telling the woman in this passage that she needed to make a change in her life. She needed to move away from the pattern of her old life and live in a different way. He knew that what He was about to do on the cross would make that invitation and that opportunity permanent.
Do you remember how this whole process started for this woman? It started when she had her sin dragged into the open. Listen, we’ve got to drag our sins out into the open before God. We’ve got to stop trying to cover up our sins. We need to confess who we really are so that we can hear Jesus say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and live a new life. Go and sin no more.”
You and I can take a man, clean him up and put him in a new suit. But, God is the only one who can take a suit and put in it a new man. You can change the outward man by changing your hairstyle or by wearing new clothes. You can have a new attitude. You can get a makeover. You can learn how to make friends and influence enemies. But only Jesus can make all things new and give you a second chance.
Your future is not determined by your past. Your future is not determined by what you used to be. Your future is not determined by what you used to do, but your future and my future is determined by who Jesus Christ is and what he can and will do and by the invitation to “Go and sin no more.”
How did Jesus speak to the woman in this encounter? He didn’t call her a slut, a prostitute, or a homewrecker. He called her “woman.” It’s the same term in John 2 he used to refer to his own mom. He spoke with dignity, respect, honor, grace, and love. He was basically saying, “Go live like a woman, a dignified, forgiven, cleansed woman. Go live that life.” She hears a tone of love, perhaps for the first time in a long time or for the first time ever.
She could live this new life with her head held high. When sin is exposed in the light, it no longer has any power over you. In fact, it has power for you and for others who need to hear that once I was an adulterer, but now I am a dignified, forgiven, cleansed woman. Once I was an alcoholic, but now I am a dignified, forgiven, cleansed man. Once I was out of control with anger, but now I am a dignified, cleansed, forgiven, gentle and kind person.
You see, The cross makes it possible for the past to stay in our past!
Romans 8:1 says, “ 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Although Jesus was the best teacher that ever walked this earth the main thing that He came to do was not to teach. Although Jesus did some incredible miracles, he didn’t center what He came to do around those miracles. Although the largest, fastest growing religion resulted from Jesus’ time on earth, he did not come to start a new religion.
Jesus came to die on a cross so that He could change peoples’ lives. He came to die on a cross to give freedom to people who felt trapped. He was crucified to give forgiveness to those of us who feel guilty and to give a future to those of us who feel hopeless.
Jesus came to demonstrate what the cross was all about from the beginning of His ministry. As we journey to the cross this Lent and Easter season, let’s realize that we are making a journey toward that which has given us all an opportunity to choose a new life.