February 22, 2015

Jesus, The Religious Leaders, And The Woman Caught in The Act Of Adultery.

Sermon by Derrick Tuper, Cornerstone Christian Church
[source: Sermon Central]

Summary: Taking a look at the dynamics involved in Jesus' encounter with the religious leaders and with the woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders set the trap, Jesus turned it back on them and in the end the woman was released from her trap.

Sermon: The woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11

1) Setting the trap (Vs. 1-6a). Unlike today, the sin of adultery was a serious crime in biblical day-punishable by death. We don’t know how she was caught in the act. Perhaps it was a set-up. And the Pharisees could’ve brought her to Jesus alone but here they do it in the midst of everyone, after Jesus had just finished teaching. Or they could’ve posed the question to Jesus without exposing the woman publicly. But along with their disregard for the woman their motive was to trap Jesus. This was not uncommon behavior for the religious leaders. They had tried numerous times to trap him with topics like paying taxes to Caesar and divorce and marriage.

Here they were using the law to back their actions up although they weren't completely accurate in the law they were trying to trap him in-Lev. 20:10, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife-with the wife of his neighbor-both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” As in Deut. 22:22, “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.”

So, where was the man? The Pharisees only bringing the woman showed that they didn't really care about fulfilling the requirements of the law they just wanted to trap Jesus. They thought they had him right where they wanted him. If Jesus said, “don’t stone her” then they could accuse him of going against the law which would have turned the Jews against him. If Jesus said, “stone her” then they could report him to the Roman officials since the Romans did not allow the Jews to carry out any capital punishment. Either way he would be labeled a lawbreaker. They thought there was no way out for Jesus, he would be doomed no matter what he said. They were in for a rude awakening.

2) Turning the tables (vs. 6b-9). They tried to trap Jesus but he keeps his cool. Like Jesus did so many times, he doesn't directly answer their question. He knows it’s a trap so he uses wisdom and turns the tables. He stoops down and writes. This is the only place in scripture where Jesus wrote something. And ironically, the only record we have where Jesus wrote and we don’t know what he wrote. There have been different suggestions but the most plausible one comes from the meaning behind the Greek word used here, “katagraphein” which is taken from the two Greek words “kata” which means against and “graphein” which means to write. Therefore the word, “katagraphein” means to write down a record against someone. With this in mind many believe Jesus, knowing the hearts of these men, was listing their sins. Then we see they started pressing him further. Whether they were ignoring what he was writing on the ground or they didn’t like what he was writing we’re not sure.

Nonetheless they were persistent in getting Jesus to answer them. He interrupts his writing and stands up and makes the bold statement that turned the spotlight around and put it on them. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stoops down and starts writing again. The Greek word used here “anamarthov” means the same kind of sin. Therefore, if Jesus was writing down their sins it more than likely included adultery, as well as any other sins that would get them stoned. Therefore, when Jesus said, “he who is without sin cast the first stone” he was probably pointing to what he had written. “Whoever is not guilty of these sins I've written down can cast the first one. If you want to stone her go ahead; by the law this is just punishment for her actions. However, if you do stone her to death; you will be next for the offenses you have committed and have kept a secret-until now.” Rom. 2:1-4, 21-24.

Paul highlighted the same principle Jesus was trying to get across to these religious leaders. As one writer put it, “Jesus held up one mirror for each stone and suddenly sin had a different face. As the blood flow came back to the knuckles, the fingers extended and released the rocks. Every stone fell to the ground.” This encounter illustrated the wisdom of Jesus. He didn't go against the law; he wasn't saying she didn't deserve to be put to death. But he used the opportunity to highlight their hypocrisy. And so, realizing their trap had backfired, they dropped their stones and left. The older ones first, probably because they were wiser, until there was just the woman and Jesus.

3) Set free (Vs. 10-11). Can you imagine the fear this woman held as she was standing there before Jesus? Her fate was basically sealed according to the law. She was as good as dead. Then, all of a sudden, she notices them, one by one they start to drop their stones and walk away. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” In the literal translation the woman answers, “No one, Lord”. She could've addressed Jesus in a variety of ways but she called him, “Lord”. This sinner recognized Jesus for who he was. She had eyes to see what the religious ones didn't. The religious leaders walked away, still in their sin, under the condemnation they sought to put the woman in. Yet it was the woman who would walk away free. “Then neither do I condemn you”. Can you imagine the liberation she must have felt knowing that instead of having to prepare herself for her ugly death she was going to be allowed to live and walk away?

When Jesus looked up and no one remained except Him and this woman Augustine commented saying, “Two things were left alone, misery and mercy.” She was in her misery from her guilt and Jesus extending her mercy. Jesus wants to extend mercy to take care of our misery. Rom. 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Jesus did not condemn her because he knew the condition of her heart. However, Jesus didn't let her off the hook. He didn't give her a free pass to go and continue her life as it was. He told her to “go now and leave your life of sin”. “You've been saved from death; respond to that grace by changing your ways.”

This encounter typifies what happens with us. We have sinned. We have been brought before Jesus-guilty. Our accuser, Satan, is holding the stones of condemnation. Death awaits us. Jesus frees us. He says to us, “I made your accuser drop his stone. You are not condemned. But, respond correctly to my grace and leave your life of sin. Take my mercy with you and give it to others when they sin against you.” This woman walked away a free woman. However, as far as the townspeople were considered she would've still been looked at as an adulteress. We can suffer the same fate. Whether it’s from people or Satan we may be dealing with accusations, labels, unforgiveness, whatever haunts us about our past. And because of these things we can feel anything but free. That’s when we need to cling to the label that God has put on us through Jesus. We declare our identity through who we are in Christ, not who we were in our sin. Because of what Jesus did for us we have a clean slate and a fresh start. We have been set free.

4) Who are we like? We have to answer the question-who are we most like: the Pharisees or Jesus? When we see someone do something wrong are we more like the Pharisees with legalistic, judgmental condemnation attitudes or are we like Jesus who is loving and forgiving? The Pharisees weren't wrong in holding this woman accountable with her sin they just had the wrong attitude in addressing it. Jesus didn't condemn the woman but that doesn't mean he didn't take her sin seriously. He told her to go and leave her life of sin. We need to be like Jesus. When we know that our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in sin we need to have a Jesus approach, not a Pharisaical approach. Gal 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” We need to be humble in our approach when confronting people in their sin. We need to remember that we’re not perfect. We need to acknowledge that we are guilty too when we try to speak into people’s lives. Who are we like? When we encounter the one who has sinned are we bending down to grab a stone or are we bending down to help them up? The Pharisees watched for every mistake and punished accordingly. They were not trying to help people leave their life of sin they were solely concerned with punishing people for their sins. Do we care?

Do we typically look for, expose and highlight people’s faults or are we trying to help people have less of them? Are we encouragers or are we discouragers? The Pharisees didn't care about helping people. Matt. 23:1-4. Another comparison to notice was the contrast where the religious leaders made a public spectacle of the woman’s sin and Jesus could’ve done the same to them but he didn't. He wrote theirs down. How about us? When we are aware of another’s sin do we gossip about it or do we address it privately? Jesus was humble. Jesus practiced what he preached. Jesus helped people. What about us? Who are we like?

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