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Understanding Law and Order

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Understanding Law and Order

John 6:25-59 *

March 26, 2000            John 7:53-8:11


Scripture: Matthew 7:1-12


Later in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus tells us about the first and greatest commandment (Mt. 22:36-40). But that was not the first time he had spoken about this distilled truth.

That verse tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. But how do we know if and when we are doing this? {And who is my neighbor? My neighbor is anyone in need (Lk. 10:27-37). Jesus said the good neighbor was the one who had mercy (priest, Levite, Samaritan)}.

Verse 12 in the passage of Scripture we just read together in Mt. 7:1-12 gives us the answer also. We should do to others what we would have them do to us. That is loving your neighbor as yourself. That is the truth that sums up the Law and the prophets.

The whole extent of Mt. 7:1-12 is that we not be judgmental toward them.

We know we are loving others like ourselves - like we want to be loved - when we extend to them the same grace we would like to have extended to us in the same circumstances. And are any of us above such circumstances? (Personal illustration.)

We are not trying to excuse sin here, but we are trying to overcome it. It is "grace that is greater than all our sin."

Have you ever been judged by someone else? How did it make you feel?

Have you yourself ever judged someone else wrongly? How did that make you feel?

We always seem to want to judge what we don't understand. But Jesus helps us to understand if we listen to him.

His H.S. lives inside of us as believers. He is "God with us." When we judge others, the H.S. is well aware of our actions. And he says, "You are going to judge this person, knowing what I know about you?"

God doesn't want any to perish but that all should come to repentance (2Pet. 3:9). It is restoration, not condemnation, that sets things right.

It is restoration in the love of Christ. He will come as judge. But in the meantime he said that he came not to judge the world but to save it (Jn. 12:47). And in Jn. 8:15 he said that he passes judgment on no one. This is the Age of Grace.

We are able to extend the same grace to others, that we ourselves would like to have, when we are able to see our own sin clearly.

Do you think this is hard to do? I think so. That is why Mt. 7:6 is in here. Explain.

But Jesus says it is possible. That is why Mt. 7:7-8 is in here. Explain.

All we have to do is ask and God will give us the good gift of understanding our own sin.

Then (Mt. 7:12) we will be able to do to others what we would have them do to us. We will not be judging, and we will not be judged (Mt. 7:1-2).

There is an interesting and heart-moving section in John's Gospel that illustrates this nicely.

It begins at 7:53 and ends at 8:11.

Now most of your Bibles will have a note here that explains, "The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have 'this passage.' "

Most likely it was inserted later. But why?

I believe it was inserted later to make a very appropriate point. It is an actual event that illustrates the context immediately surrounding and preceding it.

It was remembered later and inserted here in the appropriate and chronological place to illustrate the events so far.

We must remember the words at the end of John's Gospel (Jn. 21:25).

And when we look at the events leading up to it, you will see how well it fits.

In the beginning of Ch. 7, Jesus has a pointed discussion with his brothers about going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. It was pointed because they did not yet believe who he really was.

This was a great seven day feast that celebrated the completion of the harvest and commemorated God's goodness to the people during their desert wanderings before they arrived at the Promised Land.

The name for this feast came from the leafy shelters or booths that the people lived in throughout the seven days. These shelters reminded them of their temporary homes in the desert (Lev. 23:33ff).

Well, Jesus didn't go publicly with his brothers. He went secretly later because the Jews were waiting there to try to take his life.

Halfway through the feast, Jesus begins to teach in the temple courts.

His teaching amazes all who hear him because he appears as a common man. The Jews were asking, "How did this man get such teaching without having studied?" To this Jesus replied, "My teaching is not my own --- it comes directly from God."

Then Jesus furrows a few frowns on a few faces when he refers to the question of the Law and says in 7:19, "Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?"

Jesus is referring back to a man that he healed on the Sabbath. In 5:1-9, Jesus did indeed heal the man at the Bethesda Pool who had been paralyzed for 38 years.

The Jews were angry that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and that the man picked up his mat on the Sabbath and walked home. They were very upset that Jesus had boldly broken their interpretation of the Law – that no work be done in honor of God.

We are told in 5:16-18 that they persecuted Jesus on account of this and were trying to kill him also because he called God his Father.

And so Jesus tells them all in the temple courts to stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment.

And what is that right judgment? It is that he is the Son of God who alone has the right to judge. And he has the right to heal on the Sabbath – especially the Sabbath. It is his own Law.

The controversy continues. Some cry out, "Are you the Christ? But that can't be since we know where you are from and when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."

Others cry out, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family in Bethlehem?"

But some believed his miracles and some believed his words when he said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink --- and streams of living water will flow from within him." And they said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."

In the midst of the controversy, the Pharisees send the temple guards to arrest him. But they return empty-handed because they were astounded by his teaching, declaring, "No one ever spoke the way this man does."

And the Pharisees continue the discussion about the Law, saying that the ignorant temple guards and the ignorant crowd know nothing about the Law.

Nicodemus, also a Pharisee, (who had earlier gone to Jesus at night and heard from his own lips about being born again) tries to bring some reason to their thinking but they chide him too.

Then each of the Pharisees goes to his own home – but they have not forgotten their self-appointed duty to expose sin wherever they have suspected it.

And then we come into the present scene that they intend in order to present to Jesus the ultimate test concerning the Law. It is this true story inserted into the beginning of chapter 8 in John's Gospel.

It is a heart-breaking story and yet it is an overwhelmingly beautiful story. It is a story that perhaps a few, if not many, of us know about personally. It is a story that could happen to someone you know.

Listen to how it unfolds ---

Scene One: The accusers present the accused to the One they really want to accuse. (8:1-6a)

This was the day after the night of last and greatest day of the feast.

I'm sure that there was much revelry going on.

It would not have been hard to find some young woman shacked up in a booth with an acquaintance made during the festivities.

We don't know what happened to the man involved, but he was either able or allowed to make his escape.

Even though the sin was true, the woman was not the issue here.

The issue was what would Jesus do with her.

Jesus was the one they wanted.

She was the hapless victim of a larger intrigue.

But so is all our sin in view of the warfare in heavenly places.

Every time we sin, we give opportunity for Satan to accuse God.

So this woman, hastily clothed, crying, condemned, confused, humiliated, much afraid and alone, stood before them all as her sin is laid open for public review.

This was not a private matter between them since the purpose of the Pharisees was to also humiliate Jesus.

They said she was caught in the act, but it was probably after the fact since this was the morning after the night before.

Compromising circumstances were not enough to condemn someone. Witnesses were necessary.

The Pharisees bluntly reminded Jesus of the law to stone those in adultery, but this law was only for a betrothed virgin, and for both parties at that (Dr. 22:23-24).

Death, but not necessarily by stoning was prescribed for other adultery (Lev. 20:10)

And the Romans did not allow the Jews to carry out death sentences.

Scene Two: Convicting the accusers. (8:6b- 9)

Now Jesus is one smart man.

He knew that those who condemn others ultimately condemn themselves, let alone those that try to condemn him.

So he proceeded to allow this to happen – that they should condemn themselves.

Given the context of everything that has taken place in this so far, what do you suppose Jesus now stooped to write on the ground?

Since the law was in question, I think that is what he wrote.

I believe he began to write the Ten Commandments.

And as he proceeded, he hoped that hearts would be torn open.

When they kept on questioning him he had to give them a hint as to what he was doing.

He said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

By talking about throwing a stone, he was upholding the law.

But without commanding it, leaving it to particular and individual zeal, he could not be condemned by the Romans.

And then he drew their attention once more to the Ten Commandments on the ground that they had committed themselves, by their accusation, to uphold.

Jesus was drawing the moral qualifications to stone her.

When Jesus spoke to them he had said "if anyone without sin" – meaning without any sin.

He was defusing mob action.

He was teaching individual accountability.

And they began to leave one by one and the older ones began leaving first.

Now the older you get, the more mature you are to become.

And what is maturity except experience in life?

And what does life teach us except that all are under the condemnation of sin?

So it is fitting that those that understand apply it to the heart first.

The older ones were the first to realize all that was involved here – all that they were really doing.

Jesus had arrived in the midst of their consciences.

And how many times in life have we seen these young Christians be the first to want to condemn the hypocrisy of others.

They are idealistic and zealous.

They think they have all their ducks in a row.

They think that all their issues must be slotted in all the correct pigeon holes, but find out at some point in life that some of those pigeon holes have broken eggs in them. (Personal example.)

It is the mature who must temper the immature.

It is Jesus who must temper all of us.

And in the end, Jesus stands alone with the woman who was accused.

Scene Three: Convicting the accused. (8:10-11)

Now we know that when Jesus straightens up he has something to say.

And this time he says it to the woman.

In the end it is only Jesus and us, us two, and no more.

He casts off our moralistic accusers in order to address our own conscience directly and appropriately.

He is not indifferent to sin.

But in his wisdom he addresses it without the encumbrance of other issues.

He is fair and he is final.

He has set us free from condemnation.

But he has not set us free from our own conscience.

We are free to go, but we must go where we are free.

He tells her to leave her life of sin.


We must judge ourselves lest we be judged. Our attitude about sin should be hard on ourselves and easy on others. That is the order of the law.

Every message God gives me must first be written on my own heart. I have no right to give you anything from God unless I have believed it first.

And the proof of my believing is my following what I profess to believe. It is the same with each of you.

God is building his church. In order for him to build his church he must call people out of the world to come into it. That is where people are at.

The people that he will call to come into the church are sinners out of the chaos and falleness of the world.

The world is getting more and more fallen. Disorder is rampant.

If all we had to do to be the church was to get people just like us to come in and be just like us then God would have no use for the church. And he would have no use for people just like us.

No, the church is to be a place of hope, example, growth, change, maturity, and equipping the saints in Christ-like-ness.

We have to deal with sin. But we must deal with it like Christ did.

The Pharisees wanted to accuse Jesus by boxing him in.

If he agreed to stone the adulteress then his whole message of redemption was suspect, bankrupt, inept and false.

If he failed to uphold the law then he could be accused for preaching a message of license.

Neither option fit what Jesus came to say and do. He is neither for punishment or for license. He is for redemption and restoration.

And his message for us today is to think of others first by thinking of ourselves first.

Strange? You bet. But everything Jesus did was strange because it didn't fit the world's way of doing things.

That was why he needed to come. We couldn't see any differently. But now we can.

We have his message of hope not only for ourselves but for others as well.

So he says to us today, "Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment."

Now I know you do that – all you out there in the pews.

Not that we don't need to be reminded about it sometimes - but this message is also for those whom God is bringing into the church.

They need to know that we will not judge them for who they have been or for even who they are.

They need to know that we see them like Jesus does.

They need to know there is hope.

They need to be assured that we will stand with them in this journey of righteousness in preparation for the coming of Jesus for his church.

And you out there who are coming into the church – don't let Satan deceive you into thinking you are being judged.

That is Satan's job and we have the privilege and the power from Christ to undo his work.

We all struggle with sin. And we all struggle together to overcome it.

But the words of Jesus to the woman stand firm, "Go and leave your life of sin."

He did not come to condemn you for it, but to draw you away from it.

And we trust that you wouldn't be here unless you, like us, have been attracted to his light.

Timeless Truth: Understanding law and order is to put first things first. How do we know when we are making a right judgment? We know we are making a right judgment when we can apply it to ourselves first.

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