John 8:1-11 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.”
Imagine this morning, if religious leaders in our community disrupted this preaching moment by dragging someone in here to expose their sin and to try to have that person publicly condemned. That is basically what happened in this story. Of course, the religious leaders had no regard for the woman. Their goal was to try to get Jesus to say something that would get Him in trouble with the Roman authorities or would get His followers to desert Him.
Who knows what kind of shape the woman was in physically and emotionally when she got to Jesus? If she had been “caught in the act” of adultery, I’m guessing she wasn’t exactly in the kind of clothes she might otherwise wear to the Temple if she was a Temple-going person. Who knows what had been said to her along the way. There would have been some distance to walk from wherever she had been “caught” to where she would be taken. How many people saw her? She would have endured the stares and brutal comments of those who would watch her taking the “walk of shame.”
What kinds of threats did these religious leaders make to her as she was being taken to the Temple? Did she hear them say, “You know what the law says about what you have been doing. You are going to die!” What names was she called? What kind of shame was she exposed to? I am certain she cried and pleaded for mercy the whole way there. Who knows how gently she was being “brought?” I assume she tried to get away? I’m guessing at the least there was a man who had her by the arm to make sure she actually traveled with the religious entourage. Perhaps there was a man on each side of her pulling or pushing her along.
Everything was happening so fast for this woman, and everything would have caused her to fear for her very life. I wonder if she was a mother. I wonder if her mind went to children at home who would have to grow up without her. I guess she was married since she had been committing adultery it stands to reason she was. Did her husband know she had stepped outside the marriage? How would he deal with having his wife stoned to death? How could she die without having the chance to tell her side of the story to her family, without getting to say goodbye? Death by stoning was going to be horrific. The horror of the scene would have been beyond description.
Verse 3 says the religious leaders made her stand there in front of the group. She was on trial in the Temple and they “threw the book at her,” the book of the Law. But Jesus didn’t address the woman at first. He actually said nothing. Instead of speaking, He began writing in the dust. Who knows what He wrote? Perhaps it was the Ten Commandments which were actually written by the “finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Maybe in stooping to write with His finger in the dirt Jesus wanted them to understand He had special spiritual authority. Maybe He just wrote, “Where’s the guy?” I mean, it takes two to commit adultery, so where was the guy? Were they only concerned about the woman’s sin? I mean, Leviticus 20:10 said both the man AND the woman should be stoned to death. Maybe He wrote Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The law in Deuteronomy 17:7 actually said that the accusers would have to cast the first stone. What the religious leaders tried to put on Jesus, He put back on them. And when He put it back on them, He took it to the next level by saying, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” “If any one of you is without sin?” Jesus wasn’t just talking about any sin, He was actually referring to the particular sin of the woman. She had engaged in sexual sin, and Jesus was asking the religious leaders if they were sexually pure when He said, “If any of you is without having committed sexual sin, I invite you to start the execution.” Their departure said it all, didn’t it? They were guilty of the same, whether in action or in the impurity of their hearts.
Her accusers left the scene until the only one immediately surrounding the woman was Jesus. I say “immediately surrounding” because this was a public scene in the Temple courts and others would have still been present. The mob, however, was gone.
I want to offer three comments about Jesus’ interaction with the woman in this story. First of all,
When Jesus speaks, fear is dispelled.
The woman had to have been terrified. Because of her actions, because of her bad choices, because of her sin, her life was going to be over or at least that is what she believed. But Jesus wasn’t looking to have her executed. He sought to give her an opportunity to evaluate her life in light of His grace. It became obvious that the tone of the trial quickly became the tone of love and compassion. Quickly the woman felt the heat of the moment come off of her as the spotlight was going to be placed first on her accusers. The harsh words she had heard as she was dragged to the Temple Courts were replaced with slow, deliberate and thoughtful words from Jesus.
We read in John 3:17 that Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through His loving sacrifice. His method of operation is still the same. His tone is still the same. God isn’t looking to punish us, but to free us to live a different kind of life than the life of sin. Jesus removed the fear of death from the woman that day.
Listen, we need a fresh revelation of Jesus. We need a correct view of Jesus because the larger our view of Jesus is the smaller our fears will become.
Often we allow our failures to define us and rather than confess them, we hide them because the fear of being found out, the fear of everyone knowing what we have done is just too much. And the idea of being found out in the Temple, in the church-house, why that was probably the epitome of the worst possible scenario. But Jesus is Someone we should never fear getting close to.
Look at 1 John 4:18-There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Do you see the phrase that says, “fear has to do with punishment?” It isn’t Jesus’ goal to punish us, but to perfect us in and through a loving relationship with Him. He isn’t looking to trap us or make us pay for our sin. Jesus has already paid it all! Sin has natural consequences, of course, because Jesus isn’t the only one we are in a relationship with. When we hurt others with our choices, we will have some things to work through, but we should never fear coming to Jesus. Jesus suffered the spiritual consequences for sin when He took our place on the cross. There are no stones in Jesus’ hands, only nail scars! Jesus has the words we need to hear. Jesus has the words we need to hear in order to heal and to live free.
I guarantee that when Jesus was talking to the religious leaders and inviting them to consider their own lives, the woman was listening. Jesus’ words weren’t an attempt to create fear, but conviction and consideration about what was inside each person’s heart. That is what a loving God does. He helps us see who we are and identify what needs to change and when we accept that as God’s perfect motivation, when we see it for what it is, the love of God, fear fades.
When Jesus speaks, forgiveness is extended.
So Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Sir.” When you look into that word, “Sir,” it is literally the word, “Lord.” You know what that four-letter word, “Lord” does? It changes everything. When you decide that Jesus is Lord, when you decide that God’s Word is the last Word over every part of your life and you allow Him to deal with your sin through His grace, you can live forgiven.
Have you ever wondered, as the religious leaders were leaving one by one, why didn’t she take off running? Why didn’t she try to get away? Why did she stay there and face Jesus? I believe it is because she knew she had met Someone quite different from all of the rest. She felt His love and recognized His authority. Her sin had already been exposed, and she knew she could trust Jesus to deal with it.
Listen, when we settle that Jesus Christ is Lord we don’t have to fear coming to Him, and we can trust Him to be who He says He will always be. I John 1:9 is a verse everyone needs to memorize. It says this, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is always the way Jesus deals with someone who willingly deals with their sin and doesn’t try to run, doesn’t try to hide, doesn’t try to pass the blame off on someone else. Rather than try to slip away from the consequences, she chose to face the music, and when she did, she met the Master and found forgiveness.
And what did Jesus say in response to the fact that her accusers had all left? “Then neither do I condemn you.” Maybe she exhaled out loud. Maybe she fell to the ground in praise and worship. I don’t know, but in a stunning turn of events, the One who had the authority to condemn her, didn’t.
While Jesus didn’t actually say to the woman, “Your sins or forgiven” or “I am willing to forgive your sins,” it is definitely implied when He says in verse 11, “Neither do I condemn you.” When the accusers left, her case was thrown out of court. She was “free” to go since the charges against her were dropped. What began with a mob became a personal exchange between this woman and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The ministry of forgiveness is personal. You can’t count on the forgiveness your grandparents or parents received for their sin to somehow be passed down to you as if you could inherit it. Right standing with Jesus is an individual and personal experience. Forgiveness is something Jesus offers to each one of us in and through His grace and it deeply reflects the love of God. He would have offered it to any one of the religious leaders had they been willing to confess their need.
The mob of religious leaders couldn’t have cared less about the woman. To them, she was a pawn to be used to trap Jesus, but to Jesus she was a person in need of forgiveness. This precious woman mattered to Jesus. Forgiveness teaches us that we matter to God. Jesus doesn’t want you to live condemned. He doesn’t want us dragged around by our sin. He doesn’t want you to be defined by your sin. He wants to offer you forgiveness.
When Jesus speaks, freedom is possible.
I’m not talking simply about freedom from condemnation and accusation in a moment of time. I’m not even talking just about freedom from the spiritual penalty of a particular sin. I am talking about the freedom to become someone who lives free of sin and who lives to please God. This woman wasn’t just going to be freed from something, but she would be freed to become something different than she had ever been. Anybody know what I am talking about this morning?
Jesus wasn’t simply giving the woman a pass on her sin. He never said she hadn’t sinned. She had sinned. The mob knew it. The people in the temple knew it. Jesus knew it. She knew it. She never tried to defend herself. She never said the religious mob was wrong about their accusation. In her silence she admitted her guilt.
Don’t listen to anyone who would tell you Jesus is soft on sin. This passage says a lot about sin. It exposes sin for what it does. Sin is awful. It complicates our lives. It puts us in awkward and at times, painful situations. What this woman went through wasn’t pleasant. The woman’s sin was exposed and also those in the religious mob were forced to be face to face with their sin. Jesus knew that each of them was guilty of the very thing they were trying to condemn her for doing. In addition, the religious gurus had to deal with the sin of self-righteousness for trying to have her held to a standard they weren’t keeping themselves.
No, Jesus didn’t just say to the woman, “You are free to go.” He said, “You are free to go and sin no more.” He was telling her, “This needs to stop, and a new life needs to start. I want you to live free to enjoy the life I can provide for you.” I want each of us to be encouraged this morning. God would never ask us to stop something, to leave something behind that He wouldn’t give us the power to move away from. Whatever you have gotten entangled in, God can untangle. Whatever has a choke hold on your life, your relationships, your finances, whatever-those ties can be cut, those powers can be subdued in Jesus’ name. The question isn’t can we live free, but do we want to? Do we want to follow the command of Jesus to go and sin no more? Until we do we will find ourselves being “caught” and condemned and controlled by the sinful ways we choose. As a Christ-follower, I want Jesus and not my sin to have the last word in my life.
When the woman stood accused, it was her sin that was going to have the last word about her life and destiny. But Jesus spoke, and that changed everything. Listen, your sin doesn’t have to have the last word in your life. When Jesus speaks you can walk in newness of life and have brand-new experiences that include leaving sin behind and the power to do so would come to the woman not because she was afraid of being stoned the next time, but because she had met Jesus and been rescued by His grace this time.
Does anybody know this morning that grace is a game-changer? Doesn’t it come and uproot the selfish and broken desires in our lives? Doesn’t it cultivate a want to do things God’s way because of our gratefulness for God’s help in our lives? Isn’t the grace of God overwhelming in a good way? Because we know how much we have been rescued from, we want to enjoy the rescue. We want to stay rescued. Who wants to be rescued only to go back to slavery or incarceration? No, freed people want to live free. This is the power of grace at work in our lives! It prompts us, it motivates us to live free.
Because she had received grace, because she had fresh spiritual breath, because the weight of her sin was off her back, because her case had been dismissed she would likely want to walk the path that would keep her from having to go through what she had gone through again. And she wouldn’t have to live bitter. She could live better. Because she had received forgiveness and mercy she would have the ability to forgive the religious leaders and the lover who perhaps had set her up. She would be able to forgive those who would whisper about her and try to label her according to her past. Because Jesus had offered forgiveness, she could be able to learn to forgive herself.
This story teaches us how Jesus wants to deal with each one of us. Oh, He isn’t asking that a mob would pick us up and drag us and our sin into a public setting in order that we could be scared spitless and have to face Him. That isn’t His game, so everyone can relax. Our security team isn’t on stand-by to look for people to drag up here to the altar. Can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief? But God does want to have a one-on-one conversation with us about our sin. He wants us to allow Him to be the Lord of our lives.
And as you allow Jesus to speak to you, He wants to talk to you about the love of your Heavenly Father. You don’t have to be afraid to talk to Him. You don’t have to be afraid to come and pray to Him. Jesus wants to have a positive conversation with you. He wants to talk to you about the loving plan God has for your life. He wants to explain to you and teach you why it is a plan that doesn’t involve sin. He doesn’t want you to be trapped, to be caught in sin. It isn’t a good place to be. It will steal life from you and cripple you with fear in time.
When Jesus speaks, you will hear the voice of your loving Heavenly Father and not the voice of your accuser. Scripture tells us that Satan is the accuser. Satan is the one who wants to shame you and condemn you. When Jesus speaks, He will silence your accuser.
When Jesus speaks about your sin, if you are willing to expose it to Jesus, He will say of it what He said on the cross when He died for your sin and mine. He will say, “It is finished.” It can be put to rest in your life. You can live and walk in the freedom to not have to deal with that dark, heavy, crushing weight any more.
When Jesus speaks, fear is dispelled. When Jesus speaks, forgiveness is extended. When Jesus speaks, freedom is possible. Are you willing to listen when Jesus speaks?