Stephen Caswell © 2005
Breaking The Law
Hurrying an 11-year-old girl to school, a mother turned right on a red light where it was prohibited. Uh, oh, she said, realizing her mistake. I just made an illegal turn. It's all right, her daughter said. The police car behind us did the same thing.
How should believers respond to sinners? Should we charge them according to the Law? Should we ignore them or withdraw from them? Should we condemn them for their sin? Tonight we will look at how Christ applied the Law to a sinful woman. The Law declares God's righteous standard for mankind. But since no one has ever kept the Law, God responds to man with both mercy and truth. Tonight I want to look at Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery. We should show mercy to sinners as Christ did. If we don't show mercy to others, God won't show mercy to us. Tonight we will see 3 things; The Characters, The Charges & The Conclusion.
Firstly, The Characters
a. The Savior
John 8:1-2: But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.
Firstly, we are introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ. Just prior to His ministry in the temple Jesus had spent some time on the Mount of Olives. Most likely He spent much of the night there in prayer and fellowship with His Father. The Lord often prayed before crucial times in His life. No doubt the Spirit led Him there to pray. The Lord Jesus lived in obedience to His Father's will. In fact He said that He always did those things which pleased His Father.
Early in the morning Christ came to the temple. He came to teach the people. They came to Jesus, a great Teacher, to be instructed. Jesus sat down and taught the people. Rabbis would sit when teaching their disciples. Jesus taught with authority unlike the religious leaders who quoted other rabbis or writings. The people loved to listen to Jesus because they knew that He loved them. Although He taught them through simple stories and parables, His teaching was profound.
The Lord loves all people, even the ones that the religious leaders disapproved of. He showed no favoritism but accepted all men. He was accused of eating with tax collectors. In fact He became known as the friend of sinners. So the Pharisees asked Jesus, didn't He care that sinners had broken God's holy Law? Yes He did care!! In fact He taught that all men were sinners and that all needed a Savior. But that didn't stop Him from receiving them. Jesus loves all sinners. He taught God's Word in order that He might save us, not condemn us. Jesus still reaches out to lost sinners.
DL Moody’s Ministry
In his early years DL Moody preached how much God hated sinners. He taught that men needed to repent and be saved from their sins. Then an English evangelist came to America. He was the preacher at a crusade that lasted 1 week. He preached for 7 days using the same text; John 3:16. He preached that God hated sin but loved sinners. Moody’s heart was captured by the message and it marked a turning point in his ministry. From then on he preached that God hated sin but loved sinners. As a result, God used DL Moody mightily to reach thousands for Christ.
b. The Scribes & Pharisees
John 7:45-49: Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, why have you not brought Him? The officers answered, no man ever spoke like this Man! Then the Pharisees answered them, are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.
The Scribes and Pharisees thought that they were the most holy men of all. They knew God's Law well and even taught it. They believed that they were right with God through keeping the Law. But did they really keep the Law? No!! They failed miserably on the two most important commandments. They didn't love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Or else they would have loved and obeyed God's Son. And they didn't love their neighbor as themselves. Or they wouldn't have despised the common people. The Scribes and Pharisees were proud and full of conceit. They were a self righteous group that used their religious position for their own gain. Jesus called them hypocrites. They weren’t righteous, but full of sin. Today we have people like the Pharisees with us. They are strong on rules and weak on love and holiness.
c. The Sinner
John 8:3a: Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.
Verse 3 declares that this woman was a sinner. From the Gospel account there is no denying that the charge was true. She was caught in the very act. We know nothing about the background of this woman. She represents millions more men and women who have fallen into this kind of sin. Her plight is therefore very important. Is there hope for sinners such as this? Or are all such ones eternally damned? How does God view such sinners? He loves them. He wants to save them. In fact none of us are any better than this woman in God's sight. We all need a Savior!
Today we still have hopeless sinners. In fact, we were amongst them until Christ saved us. It’s only by God’s grace that we stand faultless before Him now. We also have people like the Scribes and Pharisees who use God's Word to condemn sinners. Then there’s Jesus; still seeking to save lost sheep like us. Let’s love people and reach out to them with the Gospel. Jude 22-23: And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Secondly, The Charges
a. The Crime
John 8:3b-4: And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
The Scribes and Pharisees acted with their usual pride and self importance. They didn't care that Jesus was already teaching the people. They gave Jesus and the woman no respect at all. They simply interrupted Christ's ministry and ungraciously set this woman, this sinner, before Him. They stated her crime and thrust her before Christ and the crowd in a most abrupt manner. They said for all to hear she has been caught in the very act of adultery. This was a very serious charge and they wanted Jesus to deal with it. After all He was a great teacher. They wanted to know His judgment on this matter.
b. The Commandment
Jo 8:5: Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?
They then reminded Jesus of the 10 Commandments. The seventh commandment forbids adultery. The fact this woman had broken the seventh commandment was all to clear. Moses had commanded that adulterers should be stoned. Leviticus 20:10: The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. The crime was certain and so was the commandment. But what do you say Jesus? They wanted Christ's decision on this matter. How would the friend of sinners respond to a clear breach of the Law of Moses? Would He compromise or condemn?
c. The Catch
John 8:6: This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
In verse 6 John wrote they said this to accuse Jesus. In what way was this situation a trap? It was a trap because no matter how Jesus responded the religious leaders would be able to accuse Him.
1. Stone Her
If Jesus agreed with their interpretation of the Law, He would alienate Himself from sinners whom He came to save. In fact he was known as the friend of sinners. Previously Jesus had received publicans, harlots and the worst kinds of sinners. He promised forgiveness to all that would come to Him. If Jesus said stone her wouldn't His teaching seem inconsistent? Also, if Jesus said to stone her He would also be condoning an action contrary to Roman Law. The Romans did not sentence people to death for adultery. Since Roman Law governed Israel at that time, He would be braking the laws of the land to agree to this. The religious leaders would no doubt have accused Him to the Roman authorities.
2. Release Her
If Jesus said to release the woman He would be charged with breaking God's Law that required the death penalty. The religious leaders expected Him to release her. Then they would pronounce that Jesus considered Himself above God's Law. If Christ released her the Scribes and Pharisees would have said that Jesus had no respect for God's Law. That He had come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. They would accuse Him of promoting adultery and all kinds of sin. They would charge him with loving sinners more than God's Law.
3. The Scheme
I believe that the Scribes and Pharisees plotted the whole scheme from the beginning. You ask me why? For one, they caught the woman in the act. How? Some of them must have been waiting in a near by room to catch her. Where was the man involved in this? It takes two to commit adultery. Why wasn't he brought to justice? How did he escape? The Law requires both guilty parties to be punished. The man probably enticed this woman to commit adultery whilst his accomplices watched on in secret. Then they sprang the trap and let the man go. The religious leaders were so determined to trap Jesus that they broke God's Law to do it.
It is against the Law to entice someone else to sin. It is against God's Law to watch someone sin without warning them. For religious leaders to do this is even more shameful. How did Jesus respond to them? He ignored them. He pretended that He didn't hear them and bent down to write on the ground. Why did Jesus do this? To set a good example for us to follow. Do not be hasty in making judgment against another. We don't know what He wrote on the ground, but it was probably significant. Perhaps He wrote down something from the Law. Or He may have implied that His finger had written the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai in the first place.
Will anyone escape God's judgment from the Law? No! The Law will condemn all sinners. But there is good news. God's mercy is available to all who will trust in the Savior.
Thirdly, The Conclusion
a. The Requirement
John 8:7: So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.
The Pharisees and Scribes thought they had trapped Jesus. This was why He didn't answer them or so they thought. So they pressed their advantage and continued asking Him for an answer. You might say that they pestered Him. They sensed they had the victory over Jesus. The woman must have been very fearful at this time. Her life was left hanging in the balance. Whether or not she knew it this woman was the meat in the sandwich. How could Jesus save her when she was truly guilty of adultery? How could Jesus justly release such a sinner?
How did Jesus respond to them? By referring back to the Law itself. Normally the witnesses were to initiate a stoning. Jesus completely disarmed them with His answer. He allowed the Law to be carried out, but insisted that the witnesses be both innocent and competent. In fact He commanded the first stone to be cast by an innocent witness. Firstly, none of them were without sin. In fact ,Jesus said that to lust after a woman is to commit adultery with her in your heart. Many of these religious leaders were guilty of the same sin in thought or deed.
James 2:10-13; 4:11-12: warns about judging others. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, do not commit adultery, also said, do not murder. Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
Secondly, because the entire case had been manipulated from the start, the witnesses were not reliable. They had been as it were accomplices to the crime. Since they looked on and gave no warning to the woman their testimony was invalid. They were involved in the same sin she was. The words of Jesus were both an appeal to the conscience and a warning to the hearers that their own lives might be at stake. If anyone were to stone the woman they must be absolutely certain about the witnesses. They weren't! Judges must observe the Law first!!
b. The Response
John 8:8-9a: And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.
Jesus stooped over once more and wrote on the ground again. As He did this the accusers left one by one. In fact there was a procession of people leaving the temple area. Starting with the oldest who first realized their own guilt and the futility of pursuing this any further, down to the very youngest. Verse 9 says that their consciences convicted them of sin. Jesus had turned the Law upon the accusers and proven their own guilt. If they were completely honest they were no better than the woman.
God’s Photograph Of Man
In the days when there were fewer cameras and fewer photographs, and when it was an event in one’s life to have one’s photo taken, an evangelist with a party of friends was enjoying a pleasant Saturday afternoon in Rouken Glen, Glasgow, Scotland, on a lovely summer day. He carried with him a little leather case containing his Bible and, as he walked along, a company of young people out for an afternoon’s enjoyment approached him and said, Please will you take our photograph, thinking that the little leather case contained a vest-pocket Kodak.
Without a moment’s hesitation the evangelist said, O, I have it already. The spokesman of the party asked in surprise, When did you take it? You must have got us on the hop. Well, anyway I have it here, and here it is, said the preacher as he pulled out his well-worn Bible, opened it at Romans 3, and began to read to them from verse 9 to verse 23, This is God’s photograph of every one of us, he said, as he concluded his reading with the words, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The Law condemns all men, no exceptions!! We are saved by Grace.
The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty before God also. They too needed God's mercy. For, no one will be justified by the works of the Law. God convicted the consciences of all these accusers and they all went out. When the force of Jesus' words struck home they were no longer interested in her sin, but their own. The Lord Jesus Christ was able to uphold the Law and show mercy because of the cross. Psalm 85:9-11: Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, That glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Paul said this about Christ’s mission in 1 Timothy 1:15: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. All men must repent to receive God's forgiveness. Everyone needs God's mercy to be saved.
c. The Restoration
John 8:9b-11: And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.
Now Jesus addressed the woman directly. Only Jesus cared for her. The religious leaders sought to use her, whilst Jesus sought to restore her. Jesus asked where were her accusers. Hadn't anyone condemned her. The woman assured Jesus that this was the case. The woman called Him Lord acknowledging His divine person. Then with loving-kindness Jesus assured her that He didn't condemn her either. Jesus was the one person that could have thrown the first stone. He was an innocent witness who knew the case perfectly. But Jesus wouldn't condemn her because her accusers were more guilty than she. Unlike the religious leaders, Jesus spoke the truth in love. Rather than condemn her, Jesus forgave her of her sin. He wiped the slate clean. Grace!!!
Jesus didn't condone her actions for He commanded her to sin no more. She was to stop sinning. Jesus gave her a new start. It would have given her great encouragement to know her slate was clean. Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Christ came to save us not condemn us. John 3:17: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. The Law tells me how crooked I am; then grace comes along and straightens me out. DL Moody
Feast For Enemies
In the year 1818, Tamatoe, King of Huahine, one of the South Sea Islands, became a Christian. He discovered a plot among his fellow natives to seize him and other converts and burn them to death. He organized a band to attack the plotters, captured them unawares and then set a feast before them. This unexpected kindness surprised the savages, who burned their idols and became Christians. This is what God has done for sinners. In mercy He captures His enemies with the Gospel of grace and then sets them free. When it comes to judgment God wants us to know 4 things.
· Only those without sin can correctly judge another person.
· All have sinned and are therefore unable to judge others.
· Those who judge their fellow man will be judged by the same standard.
· Lastly God's mercy is available to all sinners if they will but repent and turn to Jesus Christ.
How should we respond to sinners that come across our path? Should we avoid them, ignore them or condemn them? No, none of these!! We should treat them the way Jesus treated this woman and us for that matter. Let us share the Gospel of Christ's forgiveness with them, not just the Law. After all where would any of us be without God's mercy? Jesus Christ came to save sinners not judge them.
Therefore let us urge them to seek God's mercy and find forgiveness. Let us show them mercy and not just judgment. Let us show them love not just the Law. If we don't show mercy to others, then God won't show mercy to us either. Praise God His truth is balanced with mercy. Let us be known for our kindness and mercy toward the lost. Let us reach out to them the way Jesus did. Let us teach them of God's forgiveness as well as His justice!!
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.