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Jul 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 29, 2014 – John 8:1-11

Guilty As Charged But Not Condemned

Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women, what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. John 8:2-6a

We begin our study of this passage by looking at some of the faces John locates in the scene

We recognize the face of Jesus, of course
– also his disciples, who are no doubt nearby
– then, “all” the people coming to him
• many of them had not yet drawn a firm conclusion about Jesus

So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him; (Jn. 7:41-43)
And there was a division among them (Jn. 9:16)
A division occurred again because of these words (10:19-21)

• nevertheless, they felt the irresistible attraction of Jesus
– the woman (who perhaps hid her face, so we do not actually see it)
– the vigilantes — the scribes and Pharisees

Now we leave history for a moment and return to today
– perhaps we hear in news that the District Attorney has charged a suspect for a burglary
• what do we immediately assume?
○ the good guys caught the bad guy
• later we hear the suspect has been released — that he could not have committed this particular crime
○ it had been a case of over-zealous investigators following a false lead
– eventually the actual perpetrator is apprehended
• do we now know enough to make a judgment regarding this person?
○ most people think they do even though it is based solely on information they’ve picked up from news sources
• the reality is that sometimes people on the legal side don’t have:
1.) all the information
2.) correct information
3.) or the training, experience, or wisdom to discern fact from fiction, truth from lies
• still, they assume they have enough correct information to proceed
○ nor are the people who are responsible to arrest and charge others totally free from prejudice or distorted thinking
○ their judgment is not always perfect–or sound
– now, back to story

There’s no question, this woman was guilty

she had been “caught in adultery, in the very act”
– I can’t help wondering how they managed to do that
• this isn’t a theoretical situation they brought to Jesus
○ she was a living person – an actual “specimen”
• and that’s precisely what she was to them–a specimen, a prop
○ to them, she was not a person

William Barclay reminds us that the scribes and Pharisees were “regarded as the authorities on the law. Their whole attitude makes it clear that to them authority was something which was characteristically critical, censorious and [condemning]. That authority should be based on sympathy, that the aim of authority should be to reclaim the criminal and the sinner, never entered their head.
“They conceived of their function as giving them the right to destroy the sinner; they never dreamed that it might lay upon them the obligation to cure the sinner. There are still those who regard a position of authority as giving them the right to condemn and the duty to punish. . . . They think that such authority as they have has given them the right to be moral watch-dogs trained to tear the sinner to pieces.”

– we don’t know but that the woman was a good person who did a bad thing
• but John leaves little doubt about her accusers — they were not good

In the way they posed their question, they invented a public opinion
(like when someone tells us, “Everyone knows your reputation,” when “everyone” exists only in that person’s imagination)
– the impression their question created was that a fundamental conflict existed between Jesus and Moses
Moses commanded . . . what do You say?”
• as if it’s a given Jesus will not say the same thing
• the common opinion they assume was a complete fabrication (cf. Mt. 5:17)
– if Jesus were to answer the question as they posed it, he would have fallen into their trap
• had he said, “Well I say we should not condemn, neither should we condone this woman,” they would have tightened the noose

Before moving on, let’s ask, Was the law of Moses about punishing sinners?
– no, it was about creating a pure community, a holy people
• its goal was to excise sin, not people
• it provided sinners a means of atonement, forgiveness, and reconciliation
○ the threat of harsh punishment for specific crimes was meant to serve as a deterrent for the whole nation
“Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you” (De. 13:11)

The motive of the scribes and Pharisees is exposed in verse 6

Their plan:
– first, draw everyone’s attention to the woman and reveal her crime
– then throw the problem of her punishment on Jesus
– next, they would pressure him into giving them an answer
– and then, regardless of how he answered, they would “have grounds for accusing Him”

It seemed a perfect plan, and they could not see in it any risk to themselves
• they would occupy the moral high ground
• it is this self-righteousness of theirs that prompted them to approach Jesus and his audience so brazenly

Vv. 6b-9, You have to admit, this part is intriguing

Jesus did not shoot back an answer, yet he did respond
– and he responded to them with his body language
• of course the big question for most Christians is, What did he write? and it’s too bad some people get stuck on that
(I like to think he doodled)
○ if what he wrote (or drew) had been the point, John would have told us
• Jesus’ action and not what he scribbled is the point
○ still, the meaning of his action is not immediately clear
○ to some it may have seemed like a weird response — to others, it may have appeared mysterious

There is something else moving in the background that I think we’re supposed to feel — an up and down motion
– Jesus “stooped down” and “straightened up,” then again “stooped down” and “straightened up”
• I’ll leave it to others to figure out what meaning may lie in him touching the ground then lifting himself up
• all in all, this story raises more questions for me than provides answers
○ that’s one of the reasons why I love it!

The scribes and Pharisees came as if this were an emergency, sensationalizing the issue (“the very act”)
– they tried their best to push Jesus into giving them an immediate response
• but what he said with his body language was, “I’m busy right now”
• he patiently let them persist in their demand for his verdict
○ what is he accomplishing with this non-verbal communication? How did it affect everyone present?
– if you were there, first time the vigilantes spoke, their words would have been shocking
• what would happen after you heard them repeat it the second time?
○ or when they repeated it for a third time? a fourth time?
• eventually their repetition would become desensitizing
○ the effect would be to drain some of the steam from the excitement they had stirred
○ Jesus effectively changed the pace of what was unfolding, from fast-forward to normal speed

Jesus dissolved their fabrication it being common knowledge that he opposed Moses
– he refused to take the bait
• instead, his answer (spelled out) went something like this:

“Assuming that all of us follow the commandment of Moses, let us apply one condition. The first person to initiate the execution must be someone who is not guilty of violating any of Moses’ commandments. And then after we execute this person, who is next? Who else here has committed adultery or broken a commandment?”

– then he went back to writing on the ground – and I wonder if that spooked them
• Jesus’ behavior was unconventional, mysterious
• was it possible that this strange man was actually a prophet? Could he write out their indictment?
○ could he publically expose each of them? Do to them what they had done to the woman?

Vv. 10-11, John specifies, that they left single-file “beginning with the older ones”

They did not leave as boldly as they arrived
– Jesus didn’t establish the woman’s innocence, he exposed their guilt
• left alone with woman, still standing where placed her, Jesus straightened up again
• I try to imagine how nervous she must have felt in that moment
– without making a big deal of it, Jesus rescued her
• treating her as a person and not a prop, he asked, “Woman, where are they?”
○ no answer–she had no idea where they had gone, only that they were no longer there
• “Did no one condemn you? Did no one throw that first stone? Were they all as guilty as you of breaking commandments?”
• then he did not say, “You are innocent, so you can go,” but, “I do not condemn you either”

Conc: There is so much more here I would have liked to cover

But we need to wrap this up and I’m coming to the point I believe God wants to stress for us today

First, I want to ask, Can Jesus relate to, or identify with sinners?
– can he know what it feels like to be condemned by people ready to stone him?
• notice how this chapter begins and ends with the threat of stoning
• at the beginning it is the woman caught in adultery and at the end it is the innocent Jesus
○ so though he was not guilty as we are, he does know what it is to be condemned
○ in fact, he knows what it is to carry guilt, be condemned for it, and die with it (1 Pet. 2:24)

Second, meditate on Jesus’ final words to her, “From now on sin no more”
– a more literal yet somewhat awkward rendering of the Greek is, “From the now, no longer sin”
• what was “the now”?
○ a moment in time, a dot in the line of eternity
○ it was that instant when she met Jesus and he spoke hope to her heart
– what happens when we stand in “the now” with Jesus?
• compassion, forgiveness, transformation
• Jesus brings a miracle to the now (to each now) a miracle that shapes what comes after

Jesus can tell the woman, “No longer sin” because of what happened in the now
– this is a door that is always open, a refuge we can find any time, anywhere
• we can always come to Jesus in the present moment, the now, and find shelter

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous runs into it and is safe.
Proverbs 18:10

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