Radical Grace

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Sermon Notes and Audio

Scripture Focus- John 7:53-8:11

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Before we jump into this passage in John, I want to make some comments as it relates to the placement of this story in the narrative and its significance. If you look closely in your English Translation, you may notice this section is in brackets/parentheses. It may say depending on your Bible version- “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53-8:11.”

We do not have any of the original autographs of the Bible. What we have are thousands of copies of the manuscripts that are remarkably accurate with no doctrinal variations. The earliest manuscripts we have that include this section are from the 5th Century AD. Earlier than that Eusebius, the first historian of the church, told of learning the story from Papias who lived from 60 to 130 AD. Ambrose mentioned it and he died in 397 AD. Augustine by the early 5th century, made comments that he believed the story we are considering today, may have been originally omitted because it deals with the subject of adultery. Jerome included the account in the Latin Vulgate Bible.

  • Whether or not John wrote it specifically, or it was included in the Bible otherwise, we should view it as the Word of God, which is without any mixture of error.
  • It is placed well because it illustrates John 7:24.
  • It is consistent with the character and practice of Jesus in dealing with sinners.

The focus is on how God deals with sinners caught in their sin, so it applies to all of us!!

1. In the sight of God we all have been caught in our sin and stand condemned.

The Feast of Tabernacles had concluded. Jesus followed by telling the people about “Living Water” and the significance of believing in Him. In this, He also spoke of the Holy Spirit who was to come. The Pharisees continued to discuss and dispute with the people.

Everyone went back to their own houses. Jesus went to the Mt. of Olives. Early in the morning, Jesus came back to the Temple. The people gathered around, and Jesus sat down to teach them. All of a sudden, he probably heard a ruckus, a commotion. The Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. The woman was humiliated and marched into the Temple before the crowd.

Adultery= A sexual relationship between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.

We must also clarify- God deems acceptable, and blesses, the sexual relationship between a man and a woman who are married to each other. Any other expression of human sexuality is sin and condemned in the sight of God.

To catch a person in sin, in the act of adultery, as prescribed by the law, would have been most difficult. Witnesses would have been required to basically catch the people in the act. Giving a bad appearance, of indication, would not have sufficed. I think it is possible/likely the religious leaders set a trap to catch the woman so they could in turn trap Jesus in a dilemma regarding the Law. Part of what makes me think this is, the adulterous man was nowhere to be found. Maybe he was in on it, or maybe they were simply guilty of setting a double standard.

The dilemma for Jesus would have been this- If He agreed the woman should be punished, and stoned to death, it would have undermined His mission and His message. If He showed her mercy, He would have been viewed as not upholding the Law but being soft on sin. So it was a predicament.

The penalty for adultery under the Law of Moses was death, by no specific prescribed manner. If however, a woman was engaged to be married and was caught in the act of adultery, the penalty was stoning.

Deuteronomy 22:22-24 If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. If there is a young woman who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man encounters her in the city and has sex with her, you must take the two of them out to the gate of that city and stone them to death- the young woman because she did not cry out in the city and the man because he has violated his neighbor’s fiancée. You must purge the evil from you.

Roman authorities did not give the right to the Jews to exact capital punishment during that time.

The irony of the whole situation was there was no difference in standing before God between the religious leaders and the adulterous woman. The difference was in their response to God.

Hebrews 4:13 No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Every single person is guilty before a holy God!

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Everyone may not know about your sin, but God knows everything about your sin.

In his book “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis wrote- If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity (sexual sin) as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst sins are purely spiritual. The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of backbiting, the pleasures of power and hatred. For there are two things inside of me. . .they are the animal self and the diabolical self, and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be nearer to hell than a prostitute. But of course it is better to be neither! The Scribes and the Pharisees failed to see themselves as they really were.

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector- Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was praying- God, I thank You that I’m not like other people- greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of everything I get.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, God, turn Your wrath from me- a sinner- have mercy on me a sinner- Jesus said, I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)

We need to see ourselves as we really are. Pride will prevent us from seeing ourselves as we really are. Pride made the Devil!

In the sight of God we have all been caught in sin and stand condemned.

 2. In the sight of God we can be forgiven, because the justice of God has been satisfied.

The religious leaders had come with the Law as a weapon against Jesus.

V5 indicates they were saying what they were saying to test Jesus.

It doesn’t matter if you can quote Scripture if your premise and conclusion are wrong.

(1 Kings 21) Remember Ahab and Jezebel in the OT? A man named Naboth had a little vineyard. Ahab wanted it. Ahab was the King. So he went to Naboth and said he would like to buy the vineyard from him and furthermore he said, I will give you some other place where you can have a vineyard. The vineyard was right by the palace. Naboth refused the offer, why should he sell his property given to him by his family by the Lord?

Ahab was pretty upset about the situation. Jezebel comes to him and says, what’s wrong? He tells her. She says, who is King, you or Naboth? Ahab said ‘I am.’ She said, Here is what you do- and she presented the King with a strategy to get Naboth accused of blasphemy. The plan comes to pass and he’s removed and Ahab gets his vineyard. When Jezebel wrote the notes, or letters, by which Naboth was to be put to death, she quoted Scripture. She knew it, but not enough.

Some of the most ungodly people I have ever known wielded Scripture as a weapon and defense for their sin.

Jesus did something very curious. He stooped down and wrote on the ground with His fingers. It is the only time Jesus is said to have written something.

What did He write? There has been much speculation about it and the answer is, nobody knows.

John Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries 319-320) “He was shaming His enemies by ignoring them and showing them they were unworthy to be heard.”

In the Book of Daniel there is a story of King Belshazzar who put on a great feast with drunkenness and debauchery of every kind. The King resorted to the ultimate blasphemy of using in the feast, the sacred vessels that had been taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. Suddenly a hand appeared on the wall and wrote four words on the wall. The King turned ashen, and the servants around him were stunned and silent. Persian words- ‘mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.’ He called Daniel to interpret. Daniel 5:25, “You are weighed in the balance and found wanting.”

I have to think the gesture of Jesus writing in the dirt was indicating something similar to the religious leaders.

V7 They continued to ask Him, and then He stood up and said to them-

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

Now obviously, Jesus was not saying for example, that a person has to be sinlessly perfect to call something right or wrong. Even a judge in a court of law does not have to be perfect to pass judgment. If that were the case, no law could ever be upheld.

Matthew 7:1-5 Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be so judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye, and look, there’s a log in your own eye?’ Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

The judgment you pronounce will be the measure by which you are judged.

The religious leaders came to accuse and condemn. Instead they were accused and condemned.

This was the mic drop moment. Jesus starts back in the dirt.

V9 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.

Why did Jesus not apply the Law to the situation? Because Jesus fulfilled the Law, which nobody else could do, and He offers grace to broken sinners who repent.

Jesus stood up and said to her- “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

The woman said to Jesus, “No one Lord, and Jesus said, neither do I condemn you.”

The Law reveals sin.

The Lord forgives sin.

John 1:16-17 Indeed we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

There is no direct evidence that the woman repented. Yet Jesus knew what was in her heart.

God will do nothing for us of eternal value until the issue of our sin has been dealt with.

God’s justice is upheld in Jesus.

Romans 3:26 God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

 Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

There is nothing cheap about the grace that Jesus brings to us.

God laid our sins on His one and only Son. Either we will trust in Jesus by faith and have our sins forgiven, or we will be forever separated from God.

Either way the justice of God is satisfied.

In the sight of God we can be forgiven, because the justice of God has been satisfied.

3. In the sight of God, He expects us to live holy lives.

Jesus said to the woman, v11- Go, and from now on sin no more.

Jesus forgave the woman, and freed the woman!

The forgiveness Jesus granted was not based on the woman’s behavior.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.

The forgiveness Jesus granted was a command to and motivation for, holy behavior.

Romans 6:1-2 What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 Whatever happened to holiness? When, in the church, did it become cool to color outside the lines and live on the edge of Christian liberty, and see what we could get away with? God said, “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16

 Radical grace comes from Jesus!

On March 22, 1824 an incident took place in Madison County, Indiana, which came to be know as the Fall Creek Massacre. Six white men murdered nine Seneca and Miami Indians and wounded another. Among the nine dead were three women and four children. The six men were apprehended and tried and some were executed.

One of the men, named John Bridge, Jr., was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in the massacre. He was to be executed on June 3, 1825. His father, John Bridge Sr. and another man named Andrew Sawyer, who was John Bridge Jr.’s uncle, were also to be executed that day.

John Bridge, Jr., along with a large crowd, witnessed the hanging of his father and uncle as the crowd waited expectantly for a pardon from the governor. With no sign of a pardon, a sermon was preached as the crowd waited expectantly. Finally, John Bridge, Jr. was lead to the gallows and the rope was lowered over his head. But as the men waited for a signal, a cheer arose from the back of the crowd.

A stranger rode forward and looked the condemned man in the face- “Sir, do you know in whose presence you stand?” Bridge shook his head no. “There are but two powers known to the law that can save you from hanging by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead; one is the Great God of the Universe, the other is J. Ray Brown, Governor of the State of Indiana; the latter stands before you.” Handing over the paper, the governor announced, “you are pardoned.”

What looked like a hopeless situation became a door of hope. John Bridge Jr. went home, settled down, opened a dry goods store and died peacefully, fifty-one years later.

 Apart from Jesus, we are in a hopeless situation. Jesus has stepped into our situation, and by faith we receive the pardon of God.