Today, we’re continuing our message series entitled “New Life.” We’re looking at Jesus’ encounters with different people who have not yet believed in Him. Jesus calls each and every person to put their faith in Him. In this series, we’re learning what it means to believe in Jesus. And we’re learning how to lead another person to believe in Jesus. Today, our message is entitled “Caught in the Act.” We’re going to be looking at the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8
You’ll notice in your footnotes the notation that the earliest manuscripts currently available do not contain these verses. This is a very rare notation, as well over 99% of the text of the New Testament is well attested by the earliest manuscripts. The only other instance of the ending to the Gospel of Mark. Despite the story in John 8 not appearing in the earliest manuscripts, it does appear in many later manuscripts. This story and Jesus’ teaching in it is consistent with the rest of the Gospels. The majority of scholars affirm that the story is a genuine account of Jesus’ ministry. I and many others consider this story in John 8 part of the inspired Word of God and that’s how we’ll be looking at it today.
Let’s do a quick review of what we’ve looked at so far in this message series. We began with the story of a Samaritan woman in John 4. She had lived a promiscuous lifestyle of five marriages and living with a man she was not married to. Yet, Jesus offered her living water, a symbol of eternal life. He called on her to worship in Spirit and truth. Last Sunday, we looked at the story of Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus was a respected Jewish leader, well-versed in the Old Testament. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again by believing in Jesus in order to enter the kingdom of God. We’re learning that everyone needs to be saved by believing in Jesus. No one is too far gone that they don’t need Jesus.
Today, we’re going be talking about a woman caught in the very act of adultery. Can she be saved or should she be prosecuted by the Old Testament law? Our take away from this series should be that no one is too far from God or too deep in sin to be saved. Don’t give up on relatives, friends and family who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t think they are OK because they believe in God and go to church. Everyone needs to personally make a commitment to believe in Jesus in order to be saved.
Now, let’s turn our attention to our passage in John 8. Our main points will be directed to believers who desire to follow Jesus’ example of sharing with unbelievers. However, if you’re not a believer here today or you’re not sure, then Jesus’ words will speak to your heart. As believers, we must …
John 7:53-8:2 (ESV) [[They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.
At the end of a day of teaching in the temple, the people went home to their houses. Jesus, however, went to the Mount of Olives. He often went to the mountains to be alone and pray. What did Jesus pray about? He undoubtedly prayed about what the Father wanted him to do the next day. Although Jesus was and is God, the Gospels make it clear that Jesus often communicated with His Father in prayer. Then Jesus went back into the temple and began to teach them again about God’s truth.
If you did a summary of the prayers of Jesus in the Bible, you would conclude that He was a man of prayer. In John 8, we see Jesus, after a busy day of teaching, going to be alone on the mountain and to pray. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to pray on a daily, regular basis, how much more do we? All too often, we try to pursue our own plans and only pray if we run into trouble. Life isn’t about simply doing what we want to do, it is about doing what God wants us to do. And the only way that we’ll know what God wants us to do, is through prayer.
In these verses, Jesus’ ministry is to teach people the truth of God. That’s what we are called to do as believers. We’re not all called to speak in front of groups of people, but every believer is called to be a witness for Jesus. A witness tells what they have experienced and know to be true about Jesus. Pray for God to give you opportunities to be a witness for Jesus. Then share the truth of God with others that are in your life.
John 8:3-5 (ESV) The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
We’re not told how the Jewish leaders found this woman or how she was caught in adultery. However, it takes two to commit adultery. There is no mention of the man by the leaders. The Law of Moses in Leviticus 20:10 states that both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. In fact, it was extremely rare for someone to be caught in the act of adultery. Most likely, the husband conspired with the leaders to arrange a trap for his wife. The law required at least two witnesses to actually observe the adultery. So, rather than stopping the sin, they were complicit in arranging the trap and doing nothing to stop the adultery.
Jesus is faced with a tough question. Some believe that the Romans would not allow the Jews to carry out a death sentence. However, they apparently got away with stoning Stephen in the book of Acts. So the woman’s life was at stake. If Jesus went along with the stoning, He could have been reported to the Romans. On the other hand, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn or judge the world, but to save sinners like this woman. How would he answer?
John 8:6 (ESV) 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.
Now we see that the motives of the leaders were not simply to carry out the Law. They were seeking to trap Jesus whether He condemned or exonerated the woman. What did Jesus write on the ground? It must have been something in keeping with what He was going to say. Some believe that it was a Scripture that would bring conviction on the hearers. The leaders had essentially trapped this woman in to being caught in adultery and let the man go free. Some believe he wrote:
Exodus 23:1 (ESV) You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
Although the woman was guilty of adultery, the leaders appear to be guilty of setting up the trap and letting the man go free.
Oftentimes, when we are talking or witnessing to unbelievers, we are faced with tough questions. As we study the life of Jesus, we find that many questions, He did not answer. Some questions, He answered with another question. Yet, in this case, we’ll see that Jesus answered the Jewish leader’s question. Why? Because a woman’s life was hanging in the balance. This was vitally important. When we face tough questions, we must pray and ascertain the motive of the questioner. Are they really seeking the truth or simply trying to take the conversation off-topic? We must determine whether we know or believe God is giving us an appropriate answer to the question. Sometimes, the best answer is “I’m not sure” but I will get back to you. The Bible tells us that we need to study God’s Word so that we are prepared to answer the questions of people genuinely seeking the truth. It also tells us that the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say when we need His answer.
John 8:7 (ESV) 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.”
Whatever Jesus wrote on the ground was not sufficient to satisfy the leaders. They continued to ask him whether they should stone the woman or not. Finally, Jesus answered them and said, “He who is without sin, be the first to stone her.” Deuteronomy 17:7 indicates that there must be two or three witnesses and these witnesses must be the first to throw a stone. The witnesses should upstanding people who had not committed the same crime as those they were punishing. Jesus was asking these Jewish leaders to search their own consciences and history. Were they also guilty of sexual sin in one way or another?
John 8:8-9 (ESV) And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 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.
Jesus then went back to writing on the ground. Perhaps he wrote another Scripture or maybe he began to write the sins of the leaders. Jesus may have written the names of women the leaders had sinned with. The impact of Jesus’ statement and writing caused the leaders to be convicted. The older ones, with a longer history, saw their sins more quickly and the younger followed. Finally, there was no one left, just Jesus and the woman.
Jesus had supernatural insight into the situation, both of the woman and her accusers. Jesus’ purpose was clear, He wanted to see the life of the woman changed. In the same way, our purpose in life is to see people saved, not judged for their sins. We must be careful that we do not throw verbal stones at sinners. The internet is full of people throwing verbal stones at one another. Some supposedly in the cause of Christ and others opposed to Jesus.
Jesus’ words and actions brought conviction to the hearts of the Jewish leaders. He spoke the truth in love and brought about God’s purpose. Is there someone in your life whose sin irritates you. Rather than attacking them for their sin, pray for them. Ask God how you can share the truth of Jesus’ forgiveness with them. Pray about how you can …
John 8:10-11 (ESV) Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
Jesus’ words and actions had caused the woman’s accusers to leave. Not one of them stayed to condemn her, because they were convicted of their own sins. Jesus’ final words are very important and powerful. Jesus did not question that the woman had been caught in adultery. Even if she had been set up, she had made a sinful choice to be involved. Most likely, she had a lifestyle of adultery. Yet, Jesus chose not to condemn her and give her no hope of forgiveness. He did not condemn her, but commanded her to sin no more. In other words, Jesus condemned the sin and extended grace to the sinner. Jesus was not saying there nothing wrong with adultery. He’s telling her that she can be forgiven by believing in Him. He’s telling her that there is a new life that doesn’t have the sin of adultery in it.
How can we extend grace to those around us? It begins by recognizing that we all have sinned. The only reason that we are the children of God is that Jesus has forgiven us. Since we’ve been forgiven, we are commanded to forgive others, rather than condemn them. When we forgive others, we are in a position to offer God’s grace and forgiveness to them. Jesus could have answered the Jewish leaders by telling them to go out and stone the woman, but He didn’t. He extended grace to the sinner.
In today’s world, sin is increasing and actually being promoted more and more. There is a temptation to get angry with sinners and condemn them, either verbally or in our thoughts. Yet when we do that, we forget that we also are sinners, saved by grace. When we are tempted to lash out at someone, may we remember this story. Jesus did not condemn the sinful woman, He offered grace to her. Jesus didn’t say the sin was OK, He told her to sin no more. May we continue to speak the truth in love, calling on people to be forgiven and saved. Perhaps there are some here today who feel somewhat like the woman. You’ve sinned and you know it. You feel that everyone is condemning you and you don’t know what to do. This morning we want to offer you the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.