Reframing Forgiveness | John 7:53-8:11
March 3, 2019 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: REFRAMING JESUS | Portraits of Glory from John's Gospel
Topic: Gospel Passage: John 7:53–8:11
Introduction | Difficult Text
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work,Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series REFRAMING JESUS: Portraits of Glory from John’s Gospel.In Reframing Jesus, our desire isn’t to reinvent Jesus into someone He is not or make Jesus into an image we are more comfortable with. Instead, we seek to have our portrait of Jesus reframed by John’s Gospel to see Him as accurately and glorious as possible.
How do we deal with this text? What does the note “Earliest manuscripts do not include” mean? Because this might be one of the most well-known and often quoted episodes in Jesus ministry. For some of you depending on your translation it might not include this text, or it might have it placed later in John or even in the Gospel of Luke. The reason for this is, this section is not included in all the earliest Greek manuscripts. It’s worth taking a moment to talk a bit about how we get our new testament. There is a precise science called “Textual Criticism” that is used to reconstruct the what was the original writings of each of the books of the NT. It evaluates thousands of various copies from different sources of the new testament as close to the time of the original writings as possible to see where and what is unanimously consistent. There is portion of the Gospel of John from the first century that is the oldest known in the world in the John Rylands museum in Manchester, England. The Church, and we, believe and affirm scripture as the Word of God inspired by and overseen by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with Human authors it’s original writings, if not affirming every copy. Textual Criticism is actually faith and confidence building as we learn in substance of scripture is actually 99% in agreement across these thousands of copies, with less than 1% of variation. This is part of that 1%. While a bit controversial on if/where it fits in the Gospel, there is overwhelming consensus that what happened here is authentic, apostolic, was part of Jesus ministry, and is worthy included in the NT, and be considered scripture that is profitable for teaching, etc. So this may not be John, but this is Jesus. We can ask a simple question of doctrine: Does other scripture affirm what is taught here? Yes, what we will see here is consistent with the other teachings of the Gospels and rest of the NT. Everything that we’ll see is inline with Jesus teaching, the disposition of the Pharisees, and the Spirit and Truth of the Gospel of Grace for sinners who Trust Jesus. This text is significant on how we understand the Gospel of Grace, how we engage with sin and/or walk in Judgement of others. What is our role in condemnation of others and how should we evaluate our own heart motivation and guilt? How do we experience the grace of God? Even when we actually are guilty? What should it lead us to in response? In Jesus we are Reframing Forgiveness.
PART I |Reframing Motives |John 7:53- 8:6
John 7:53 - 8:6 |[[They went each to his own house, 8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
Jesus is teaching in the temple, (maybe during the festival) He’s in a very public setting so there is opportunity for Jesus opponents to bring up challenging cases or situations for the purpose of placing Jesus in controversy in front of people who are listening to His teaching and others who are interested in Jesus. They present Jesus with this case for Him to provide some judgement or perspective on. But the what, how, who why of the case raise quite a few questions for us to consider:
Caught…in adultery… How? I mean you can accuse someone of adultery but how do you “catch” someone in adultery? There are some really dark motives and attitudes displayed by those who “caught” her:
Hyper-focused and vigilant on searching out, even staking out, the sin of others. Maybe there was a hint, maybe they there was suspicion this was going on or present in her life, but their answer is “I bet if we keep looking into this person we can find some sin.” Yup, you sure can. Because if you look at anyone long enough or close enough you’ll find moments or motives of sin. When you’re so focused on the sins of others (or finding sin) you have the wrong heart disposition. It’s not humility, it’s pride masked in faux holiness.“I just really take sin seriously and want to hunt sin.” If you want to hunt sin, you can have a lifetime of happy hunting focusing exclusively on your own heart, otherwise you will minimize your sin looking at others.
Not truly caring for another person when they are in sin. They allow her (and him) to move toward the act, knowing what consequences they could ultimately face and they say nothing. They’re likely present in some way or at least know enough to be able to show up in time to catch them. They don’t come in and confront in advance, in fact the opposite, wait until it’s clear there has been sin committed. When if they truly cared, they could have intervened individually, or with both and with care and compassion say ‘what you are pursing is clearly sin and there are grave consequences if you do not change your course,’ but they don’t.
How should we see this woman? So an act is committed and this woman is brought to Jesus. Here she is placed in the “midst” of this very public, very sacred gathering with all of her guilt and shame bear before everyone. Regardless of any outcome from this episode everyone present will know her as the women caught in adultery. Before you feel too much sympathy let’s be clear on this…. She’s not sinless. She is guilty.Adultery is a sin, it’s in the Law of God, the 10 Commandments, given for how we worship God and love others. But it’s not like coveting, stealing, or lying, it’s an act of sin that by it’s nature cannot be done in isolation, it takes two to tango so this situation begs the question….
Where is the man? He wasn’t brought when clearly in order for her to be implicated He would have to be present as well. Maybe he was faster at getting away leaving her alone to deal with the consequences (men do this) The society had some inherent sexism chauvinism that winked a guy’s sexual sin while shamed a women’s. (our society has answered this inequity not by calling out men but affirm women who act as men do) There is clearly inequity in this situation and she’s facing a harsher consequence, but she is still guilty. This is a person who has, is walking in sin, in rejection of God. Which is the condition of everyone. So we should each have some compassion and identify with this women because we’re all guilty of sin.
What process or desired outcome were they hoping to achieve?Here is the trap and the potential outcomes of what they’ve presented: What they were saying was true: Leviticus 20:10 |“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Deut 22:22, 24 also have details) were clear there are to be consequences for both the man and the woman. God’s law takes sin seriously. (note this is not the way we engage with this at all any longer, while parts of the Muslim world still respond this way) It’s believed that this punishment was actually quite rare and unpopularly particularly in urban areas like Jerusalem. So here is the dilemma they’ve placed Jesus in:
If He doesn’t affirm the judgement/consequences as outlined it then He’ll be accused of rejecting the law of Moses and all of His credibility in calling people to repent and follow the kingdom of God would be undermined. They were hoping to see Jesus extend mercy to her, (or Jesus has been Forgiving people) of sin in order for them to condemn Jesus for not taking sin seriously or being God in forgiving sin. So they can charge him as a heretic, one denying holy scripture, and who doesn’t take sin seriously as God does.
If He does say “Stone her” there are just as many negative outcomes. First, (but not the worst) it would be incredibly unpopular. Second, it would have contradicted Jesus ministry to sinners of grace, forgiveness, and restoration, all undergirded by His great compassion for those who broken and who He has said can have new “born from above” transformed life with God. Third, it could lead to legal trouble with the Roman government. If Jesus approves of an execution, it would be seen as usurping the current authority of Rome to be the ones who sentence and carry out capital punishment in this region. Jesus could be arrested by Roman officials and charged with rebellion, or even murder, and face execution.
This appears to be a well sprung trap. It seems Jesus can’t win here… Never forget… Jesus always wins.
They were hypocrites because they didn’t want to take this sin seriously either, they just wanted to hang Jesus. We’ll see later they’re hypocrites for other reasons as well. They weren’t interested in mercy and grace to this woman, they were interested in their own self-righteousness and taking down Jesus.
PART II | Reframing Righteousness |John 8:7-9
John 8:7-9 | 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him
Despite Jesus delaying an answer they keep pressing for His judgement. They were unsatisfied, they knew they had a rock-solid case against this woman and they wanted Jesus to answer them on their terms.
Jesus writes (twice once before and once after His statement) There are may theories and traditions about what was written. Maybe, He was writing out the law, maybe He was writing out each of the other guys sins, some have speculated at various scriptures including one that is popular in church history:
Jeremiah 17:13 | O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.
I am going to put this in the “maybe, just an idea, some small correlation” the only other time in the Bible you see the “finger of God writing” is in Daniel chapter 5 when it says “you’ve been weighed in the balances and found wanting (Lacking)” It’s likely not some affirmation of these guys character, they’re similar sinners. Regardless of what has been written by Jesus in the sand, they’re responding to what He’s said.
Let the execution be initiated by the one among you who is not guilty of sin in this way. Jesus is directly quoting Deut 13:9/17:7 that says if you witness a crime, you must throw the first stone assuming you haven’t engaged in the crime. Jesus isnt’ saying to them you must be entirely sinless, or that there can never be any legal judgment or consequences for sin. However, He is saying you cannot judge a situation where you’re guilt of the same thing. The law said if you wanted to see the person executed for their sins then you had to participate in it. Meaning you might want to search your conscience to see you had possibly committed the same sin, the same transgression, if you were in a place of such righteousness that you can say “I am blameless enough here to throw the switch on this person. Knowing there is none of what they’re guilty of in me.”Jesus here didn’t find some middle ground or compromise, in fact He affirms the Law of Moses. It’s the accusers He challenges. You couldn’t be hypocritical in your judgement of another to the point of desiring condemnation, shame, and wrath for someone else. How do we engage with judgement?
Romans 2:1| Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
We are quick to judge with a double standard. This is a warning against judging people in the ways you’re also failing. When have you judged others by your standards, when you’re not meeting your own standard? Or you’re not applying the same level of mercy and grace on others that you have been granting yourself?
This doesn’t mean there is no consequences for sin, or that the grace of God is an excuse for lawlessness. It is not wrong to punish criminal behavior. It is a stark warning to those who zealously desire judgment that you need to spend more time searching your own heart and conscience before rushing to judgement of another. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, so our disposition to others is one of humility.
They respond to what Jesus has said, not with justification, argument, or even debate. Some manuscripts of verse 9 include ‘they were convicted of their own conscience” they took to moment to asses themselves in light of their own guilt, on their own places of inadequacy or even iniquity. They don’t stand in righteousness, they retreat humbled. Starting with the older men who are a bit more self-aware and know they’re lacking. The younger men, take a minute to come around and see they’ve got more zeal than sense.
By quietly leaving they’re acknowledging they are morally or positionally no better than this women who stood accused by them. Those who came with shameful intents to take down Jesus and use this women, left shamed by their own consciences.
PART III | Reframing Forgiveness |John 8:10-11
John 8:10-11 |10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
As each of these men, left one by one this women is still there standing wondering if the next will pick up a stone or turn on their heals.They have left, but “in the midst” of this public gathering is this women, who committed adultery standing alone guilty in front of Jesus with a crowd watching what’s next:
And because she heard ‘He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her’, she likely expected to be punished by the one in whom no sin could be found. But he who had repelled her adversaries with the voice of justice lifted on her eyes of mercy.” -Augustine
Finally only Jesus remains. The sinless one. The one here who is absolutely qualified to execute her for her sin.Jesus could have easily said, “they’re not sinless, but they have left, you remain and you’re guilty. I am here to condemn you.” Jesus address her and Jesus doesn’t even talk about her sin only her status, and how she is to respond. Her guilt is known. Jesus has not condoned here sin or simply said “what you did is no big deal. Jesus takes sin seriously because He is a Holy and Just God.Jesus takes Mercy and grace seriously because He is a good and compassionate God. Jesus tell her the words we all long to hear when we are convicted of sin.“neither do I condemn you!” Everyone of us needs these words, we all need this proclamation over our lives. Before God, each of us is guilty of sin, shamed, convicted, and exposed.
God’s answer for our sin for our shame, is Jesus, who came on a mission of compassion for sinners.
John 3:17 |For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
She’s not sinless but she won’t be condemned by other sinners. Only God can judge rightly and only God is the one who can bring condemnation. That is where we stand without Jesus. No condemnation doesn’t mean no conviction of sin. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for sin. Her sin, my sin, your sin will be, has been paid for with capital punishment taken by Jesus in our place on the cross, where our sin is nailed.
2 Cor 5: 21| For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
You have been given a new life, you have been pardoned, now go live a new life and don’t walk in sin. The mercy and grace of God is transformative, empowering us by the Holy Spirit to walk out the new life we’ve been given.Jesus told the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida after healing to stop walking in sin.
This is the response of being healed by Jesus is to stop walking in sin and begin to live a new life with Him.
Romans 8:1-4 | There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
So who are you in this story? (Hint: you’re never Jesus!) Are you the self-righteous scribe/Pharisees blind to or justifying your own sin while heaping condemnation on others?? Then don’t quietly sleek away from the presence of Jesus in shame hoping you can continue the illusion your sinlessness until the next time you see your heart well up in self-righteous condemnation of another. Stay with Jesus, be humble with Jesus knowing you’re not condemned to have to rely on our own righteousness but can also receive the mercy and grace of Jesus, and go and sin no more trusting in yourself, but rather resting in Jesus work in your place.
Are you the woman caught in your sin. You know you’re guilty, you know you have shame, you know others know precisely where you’re lacking and how you’ve failed. You’ve had others try, convict, and sentence you, and you’ve been humiliated in public, but because of Jesus the crowd would look not at this women as the adulterer, as the condemned. But one who was compassionately pardoned by Jesus and commissioned to live a new life walking away from sin in the Mercy of Jesus. If you’ve been forgiven by Jesus live a new life empowered by Holy Spirit. Don’t settle for simple guilt removal, walk in the works God has prepared.
Are you in the crowd? Think if you were in the crowd how you would respond if you knew then there was a God who you could come to in your sin, in your guilt, in your shame who would not condemn you but would receive you with compassion and send you out with a new identity and life. Where do you need healing? where do you need forgiveness? Where are you waiting for someone to say “neither I condemn you” or “where have you been condemned and need Jesus mercy?” Know, whatever you’ve done, or whoever you are you are not beyond the reach of the mercy and grace of Jesus and no matter how righteous you think you are, you’re not beyond the need of it. So relent, repent, and rest in new life, when you Trust Jesus.