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Worship Message - Conversations With Jesus #2

Conversations With Jesus - #2
A Woman Caught in Sin

In a recent Bible study or devotional, I was reminded of the number of conversations Jesus had during His ministry. We are, today and for the next few Sundays in our morning messages, considering some of those conversations, in which Jesus’ power, love, compassion, and dedication to His purpose are displayed.

There is one conversation for today. A conversation recorded in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. A two-part conversation, the first part between Jesus and a group of religious leaders, the second part between Jesus and an unnamed woman.

To set the stage for today’s conversation - again, we are in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John - Jesus, early one morning, in Jerusalem, entered the Temple. He had already been teaching in Jerusalem. On the day of the conversation, He was in the Temple. Many people were gathered around Him as He sat. As He sat, He began to teach.

What Jesus taught that day is not recorded, but in previous days He had challenged people to not judge others by appearances, but with right judgment, and He promised to be living water for any and all who would accept Him. Perhaps it was those teachings He continued that morning.

However, sometime after Jesus started that day’s teaching, there was an interruption. The interruption was by a group of religious leaders. Some Scribes and some Pharisees in particular.

Scribes were leaders who kept track of all Old Testament laws, along with all the rules and regulations other leaders had developed over the centuries to explain what God meant by His Old Testament laws and what needed to be done to follow each one.

Pharisees were leaders who were totally devoted to following all the laws, rules, and regulations, usually placing those things higher in importance than things like justice and love.

Sometime after Jesus started that day’s teaching, there was an interruption. Some Scribes and some Pharisees entered the Temple. They went to the area of the Temple where Jesus was. With them they had a woman. Not just any woman. A woman who had just been caught in the act of a very serious sin. The sin of adultery.

By the way, apparently the woman had committed the sin of adultery. Never in today’s passage did she deny having done the sin, and according to what I have read, the appearance of the woman provided evidence of her sin. As in not being fully clothed, her hair being messed up, her make up not applied freshly or properly.

As Jesus was in the middle of that morning’s teaching, suddenly a group of men with a woman with them - not with them willingly, the men forcing her to be with them, maybe dragging her - entered the Temple and went to where Jesus was. They stopped near Jesus, putting the woman right in front of Him.

The commotion was disruptive to begin with. Plus, the appearance of the woman no doubt caught the attention of those who had been listening to Jesus. That, too, was disruptive. But that was not the end of what the religious leaders did. They added some words of accusation. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.”

The scene and the accusation were quite interesting.

You see, only the woman was taken to Jesus. That is interesting because according to religious law, in a case of adultery, both the woman and the man were to be punished. Where was the man?

And what about the wording of being “caught in the act of adultery”? Did they just happen to be passing by when the sin occurred? If so, how was it they noticed? Or had they been watching her house in an attempt to catch her?

How is it those leaders saw her committing adultery. Plus, why was it necessary for the accusation to be made at that time and so publicly? The woman - and the man - could have been taken to any religious leader. In fact, since Jesus was not a religious leader, per se, like a Scribe or a Pharisee. She should not have been taken to Him for punishment in the first place. And could the matter not have waited until Jesus was done with His lesson? Would a few minutes or a couple hours have made any difference?

The scene and the accusation were interesting. So interesting that perhaps the goal of the Scribes and the Pharisees was not justice or an attempt to uphold moral law, but instead an attempt to get Jesus into trouble.

Which, it seems, was their goal, which is stated. It is recorded they said this “to test Jesus, that they might have some charge to bring against Him.” Their goal was clear in what they asked Jesus. “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such. What do You say about her?”

The question was an attempt to get Jesus to say something worthy of bringing some charge against Him. What was the test? What was their intent?

If Jesus agreed with the law of Moses and said the woman should be stoned to death, that would be reported to the Roman authorities, who could then arrest Jesus since no Jew, individually or as a group, had the right to condemn anyone to death. That was a Roman decision. If Jesus spoke otherwise, He could be in trouble with the Romans.

If Jesus disagreed with the law, He could be in trouble with even common Jews who had been taught to know and follow religious law. If Jesus was seen as not being devoted to Jewish law, maybe people would not follow Him anymore.

The intent of the Scribes and the Pharisees was to trap Jesus. Imagine their surprise when Jesus, at first, had nothing to say in response.

As I have shared before, when I am in a confrontation, I seldom say anything. But for me, that is because my mind goes blank, leaving me unable to think of anything to say. The next day I can come up with wonderful answers, but not when they are timely.

Jesus, though, was never tongue-tied. His mind was never blank. However, instead of saying anything when confronted that day, He did something. He bent down. Remember He had been seated as He had taught. From his position of sitting, He reached to the ground - to the floor. With a finger, He wrote something.

No one knows what Jesus wrote. Of course, Jesus knew, and apparently the religious leaders around the woman knew. But we do not know.

And actually, maybe the leaders did not, at first, notice what was written because they continued to ask Him what He thought ought to be done with the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.

I imagine the asking became stronger and stronger. If Jesus had nothing to say, they must, they thought, have really trapped Him. They had tried to trap Him before. This time they must have succeeded. That is what they took His silence to mean. Their excitement had to have added to the volume of their voices as they kept asking and kept asking, ready to go in for the kill.

After a few minutes, Jesus stood up. That may have attracted the attention of the accusers. He then started His part of the conversation with the leaders. He said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

It must be pointed out that Jesus did not excuse the sin. That was not His point at all, which will become especially clear in just a bit. However, it seems He was at least equally concerned about the sins of the leaders. Including the attitude sins that had resulted in their interruption of Jesus’ teaching. Sins like trickery and malice. And the sin of dishonesty in the fact they were more interested in trapping Him than in upholding morality, which they pretended was their purpose.

Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then once more bent down and again wrote with His finger on the ground.

A moment ago it was said no one of us knows what Jesus wrote. However, I find it interesting what some commentators suggest might have been written.
One suggestion is that Jesus did write the names of the sins of trickery, malice, and dishonesty.

Another is that the word “wrote” might refer to doodling. Maybe Jesus drew a picture - or some pictures - that reminded the leaders of maybe some other acts of sin they had committed.

Or maybe He wrote the names of the leaders beside whatever of the Ten Commandments they had broken. “Cyrus, adultery. Seth, murder. Hiram, coveting. Mordecai, using the name of God in vain.”

And think of this. One of Jesus’ teachings had been and would be that it was not only the physical acts of sins that are bad. So, too, is thinking of doing them. Maybe what Jesus wrote was a reminder that the woman’s accusers were not as pure as they pretended to be. At least not as pure in heart. That even if they had not sinned physically, maybe they had sinned emotionally or in their thoughts.

It is interesting, at least to me, to wonder what Jesus wrote on the ground. But we do not know what He wrote. Since it is not told what He wrote, it must not be the most important part of the passage. And, as one commentator writes, it really does not matter.

What does matter is how the Scribes and the Pharisees reacted to what was written. What happened was they had nothing to add to their part of the conversation. They had nothing more to say. Instead, they started leaving. They went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest.

I wonder about the importance of the part of the passage that states the eldest left first. I assume there is some importance or it would not have been included in the report.

However, in a bit of study on that question, I could not find an answer to the importance of the order of leaving. Maybe, if Jesus had written a list of sins or violations of the Ten Commandments, maybe naming names, the older ones wanted to get away before the younger ones - the ones the older leaders might have been training - could themselves confront them. Maybe the younger ones could not leave first. It might have been against the accepted protocol.

I could not find an answer to the importance of the order of leaving, but all the leaders - all the accusers of the woman - all those who a moment earlier had been so excited, thinking they had finally caught Jesus in a trap - left the Temple. One-by-one it happened until, in a short time, the leaders were all gone.

The way I read it, so, too, were all those who, before the interruption, had been listening to Jesus, gone. I assume that to be the case because, it is reported, Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him.

Isn’t it interesting the woman was still there? With everyone else leaving, she would have been able to slip away and freshen up before she might be re-located by her accusers. Maybe she could disguise herself.

But she did not slip away. The woman was still there, standing before Jesus who, she had to have known, had just saved her from certain death by stoning.

Jesus looked at her and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She answered, “No one, Lord.”

Lord. Isn’t that an interesting word, which indicates she was aware of Jesus’ divinity. His saving power had certainly been proof of that, along with the kindness and compassion He had just shown her.

I imagine the woman was shocked by what had just happened, but having looked around, she said, “No one, Lord.”

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus had one more thing to say to finish the conversation, but before that, think of the wonder of what Jesus said to the woman. A woman who, as mentioned earlier, never denied having sinned, so she must have committed adultery.

Jesus said He did not condemn her. And again, that is not to be interpreted that He looked lightly on her sin. Neither does He look lightly at any sins we have committed or do commit. But remember she had stayed with Jesus. As mentioned, she could have slipped away, but she did not. Maybe that was a sign of trust she had in Jesus. Maybe it was a sign she knew He might forgive her, which she must have wanted or she would not have stayed.

And maybe she had heard a report about what Jesus had said earlier when Nicodemus had met Him. It was a statement to Nicodemus, but maybe it had been reported. Or maybe Jesus had repeated the statement in some of His teachings.

I am referring to what is recorded in John 3:17, where Jesus said He had come into the world, “not to condemn the world.” And hey, Jesus had many condemnatory things to say to those who would not acknowledge and repent of their sins. In fact, that had just been expressed in what He had said and whatever He had written concerning the woman’s accusers. But Jesus’ purpose was not to condemn. His desire was that the world would be saved through Him.

That day, the woman who had just escaped death, knew her sin. By staying around, she gave evidence she was sorry for what she had done. That day, she allowed Jesus to save her.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. He then ended the conversation with these important words. “Go [she was free to leave], and do not sin again.”

One more time, Jesus did not and does not condone sin. And when He forgives, He expects those who are forgiven to do better in the future. The woman was not free to keep sinning. She was expected to live righteously from that time on. But notice the order.

You know, it can be so easy to say to others, “Clean up your act and then I - or we - will accept you.” But that is not what Jesus said. He did not say to go and become perfect, then come back, and He would see what He could do for the woman. No. He started with, “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus forgave her. Then He told her to go. To go into a new life, free of the sin she had committed.

And think of this. Don’t you suppose that if Jesus told her to not sin again, He was willing to help her with that? That how He ended His conversation with her was a promise of His help for her to be able to live better? To change her life?

So, what can we learn from the two-part conversation we have thought about today.

How about this? That the Bible is true when it says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That included not only the woman caught in sin, but also her accusers. That includes us as well.

How about this? Jesus seemed to be concerned about the attitude of the woman’s accusers. I think part of that was their lack of acknowledgement of their own sins, which caused them to treat the woman very harshly.

And yes, one more time, sin is never to be condoned. But when we come face-to-face with it, do you suppose we should react to the sinner with some compassion? Enough compassion, not to drag him or her to Jesus, but to help him or her find Him?

And how about this? May we learn that Jesus is willing to forgive those who repent. Including us.

And may we remember that when He forgives, He is willing to do for us what He offered the woman, which is help in answering the call to go and sin nor more. May we take advantage of that ourselves. May we assist others to be drawn to His help.

Today’s closing song is based on Be Still and Know. A few of the words have been changed to fit the challenges just mentioned, especially the one to accept Jesus’ forgiveness and to go from there living righteously. Let’s think of the challenges as we sing.

Be still and know that He is God.
Be still and know that He is God.
Be still and know that He is God.

He is the Lord that saveth me.
He is the Lord that saveth me.
He is the Lord that saveth me.

In You, o Lord, I put my trust.
In You, o Lord, I put my trust.
In You, o Lord, I put my trust.

Like the woman caught in adultery, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means that like the woman, we all deserve death.

That is what will happen to us unless, like happened for the woman, Jesus steps in to help. He alone can forgive. He alone can help us go from here and sin no more. He alone is our only spiritual hope.

He will not force His forgiveness on us. He will not force His help on us. But His forgiveness and help are available. Accept His blessings of forgiveness and help. Do that by accepting Him as the Savior He is. Amen.

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