If I were to ask you a qualifying noun to describe our Lord, what would it be? This morning, just for a few seconds, try to complete the following sentence. Our Lord is a God of _________________________.
I think what I would put in there is “Our Lord is a God of second chances.” It is amazing, in the scriptures, to see how many times He gave people another chance, isn’t it? We could talk of men, like David, this morning, who committed adultery; and still, he was chosen to lead Israel. We could talk of men like Abraham who gave his wife away to find the favor of a king; yet, he was chosen to be the father of all nations. We could talk of men, like Paul, who was a murderer and a violent criminal; yet, he was chosen to be an apostle. Lack of time prevents me from telling about Adam , Noah and Jacob. These were all men we would never have allowed back into our pulpits; yet, God used them. But this morning, I want to tell you about an adulterous woman who has become, through the years, the best illustration of our God being the Lord of second chances. So if you have a Bible, please open it to John 8:1.
As we start today, let me say that the passage was not found at first in the oldest manuscripts. It seems that this story would have been written separately and then included later in the Bible. It has all the appearance of being true and we know, for sure, it was in circulation before the apostle John died. Some of the early Christian writers used this text as a rebuke to bishops, who were too strict toward sinners. Now this being said, I believe this story really did happen and is consistent with the life of Jesus that John recounts. It seems John would have been the one who wrote it. So today, we approach it as an integral part of his gospel. Read with me, if you would, verses 1-6, “…”.
Adultery! Fornication! Betrayed confidence! Broken trust! Cancelled promises! What an ugly sin! How many families have been touched and destroyed by its terrible effect. How many sexually transmitted diseases have spread widely because of a lack of commitment to one partner? How many lives have been brought forth without a two-parent home because of its hurt? Indeed, adultery is an ugly sin and the Christian should be the first to hate it.
But don’t miss what is happening in the text. It is not so much the sin which makes them angry. It is the Lord they want to condemn. For John 8:6 says that it is a trap, an ingenious one. You see the law said, “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. You shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death!” Deut 22:22. And so if Jesus refused to stone the girl, He would be seen as a lawbreaker. He would show Himself to be a false teacher. On the other hand, if He said, “Stone her!”, He would run head to head with the Roman authorities, who prohibited the Jews from administering capital punishment. Really the Master is in a bad position. They seem to have found a great way to trap Him. But they should have known better.
You cannot corner the Son of God, can you? Did they do it in their question on taxes, before? Or, did they corner him on the resurrection? No. You can’t box Him in a small place. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is so wise; no one can bring Him down. We read this in the second part of verse 6, “…”.
Don’t miss the significance of what is happening here. The lady has been shoved, like an animal, into the circle the crowd has created. She is exposed to public shame. By now, she must know it’s a trap. Where is the man who slept with her? Why wasn’t he brought there with her? How convenient that her accusers just happened to walk in on her this morning! You see, the law demanded two eye witnesses to the very act of adultery before condemnation could take place. You know that the Pharisees had to nose around her place for a while to catch her. Why didn’t they try to stop her and teach her? Why did they want, so much, to punish her, and yet, cared not enough to correct her? How long had they stood watching, peeping in on the two lovers? She is, no doubt, full of questions and resentment. She is treated without any dignity and now, every eye is upon her. They hate her for what she has done and they burn holes through her heart.
And now Jesus writes on the ground. The usual Greek word for write is “graphein”, but the word you have here is “katagraphein”. It means to write down a record against someone. Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus is doing is writing out a record of the things everyone else has done wrong. We will never know for sure. Perhaps He is writing out Bible verses that condemn the Pharisee Jews. What we know for sure is, he takes away the attention of the crowds onto Himself. He is giving the poor lady a break from her humiliation. And His silence is deafening. Jesus’ heart is twisting in agony and pity for the lady. And I learn my first lesson for the morning here.
They are so much more than instruments in the eyes of God. The Jews may see a girl as a thing to use to reach the desired end, but Jesus sees a girl, even a terrible sinner, as a person worthy of love, of dignity and of honor.
Have you ever noticed how the Bible is full of names? You don’t find the prophets saying, “Once there was John Doe. Once, a man called Mr. X did this.” God is a personal God. Rather, he says to Moses, “I know you by name (Ex 33:17). He says to Cyrus, “It is I, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name!” (Is 45:3). There are whole pages of names He gives us in the Bible. John 10:3 says, “He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out!” I tell you, you are so much more than a number or a case for God. And the minute people become things to use; the “spirit of Christianity” is dead!
Take a few minutes and consider your relations this morning. Are people tools in your hands? Are they precious souls, even those who are terrible sinners, worthy of your love, worthy of your time, worthy of your protection and care in this world? Always treat people as Christ would treat them.
Please read with me verses 7-9 “…”. Oh I love this picture, don’t you? One by one, the stones thud to the ground and one by one, the men leave. It starts with the oldest, maybe because they are the wisest or the guiltiest.
You know there was a time when I was really harsh with people around me. I was young. I was focused. It was easy to see the faults in others. It was easy to bluntly say, “Hypocrite! You are such a terrible Christian.” And then the years pass. I’ve become older. My responsibilities have grown. I have made my own mistakes and I still make them daily. And I have learned a great truth. I am a terrible sinner, too. Often, others have done much better than me in similar circumstances. So, I’ve become much more compassionate and less self-righteous in my attitude. Time has taught me I have my share of sin to deal with.
I think, on that day, the people who were condemning the lady, learned that also. That’s why they all left, beginning with the oldest.
Who is without sin today? Let him cast the first stone. One of the worst faults Christians have in life is to demand standards from others they do not hold themselves. We condemn faults in people around us and these faults are the very things that plague our lives. Yes, our sin might be different, not big in our eyes, but are they really small in the eyes of the Lord? Oh God, forgive me for, so often, having my hands full of stones and yet, my heart being so wicked! Help me to purify my own life first, to take care of my own house before going to my neighbor’s house! Help me to show pity towards those around me who sin!
You see, we are not called to be “moral dogs” trained to tear sinners to pieces. But we are called to be physicians. When a person is seen by a doctor, the doctor seeks to keep the person healthy. But when he finds someone sick with a gruesome disease, he doesn’t run away with disgust; he doesn’t try to put us to sleep, to kill us or to make us worry. He gets to work and seeks to help. If there is revulsion, it is quickly overcome by a great compassion and desire to heal and cure. You see, when you are confronted with someone who has done wrong, your feelings ought not to be, “I’ll have nothing more to do with him”, or “I’ll make him regret what he has done!” Our feelings should be, “What can I do to help? What can I do to gently change his thinking?” II Tim 2:24-2 says “…”.
I have given each of you a stone as you have come in today. I want you to keep it and try to carry it with you this week. Keep it in ……. and let it be a reminder every time you are ready to stone someone for the sins that plague your own life. Recall the time when Jesus said, “Let him who has not committed a sin cast the first stone.” Keep that in mind, not so you will be more tolerant with sin, more accepting of it; but, so you might remember not to lack love, mercy and pity when you deal with a sinner. God, only, can apply punishment.
Please read verses 10-11. “…”. Wow, what a Savior! What a great love!
Is there anyone here that has been betrayed by a husband or a wife? Has your spouse run around with someone else? I don’t expect you to raise your hand today! But ask yourself this. Have you forgiven? Can you say, like Jesus, I no longer hold it against you!”? It takes a lot of love to do that. I have seen some great ladies do it in regard to their repentant husbands. It was not easy, but they did it. And they did it because of love. That’s what Jesus had in His heart when He used that. Oh the great love of God! It glows like a flame; through endless years it is the same. The love of God will never fail, nor lose its glory ‘til we see Him face to face!
Has anyone here today committed great sin? God is the God of second chances. His love never stops burning for you. Get away from thinking you are only good to be thrown on the ash heap. You are not beyond salvage. You aren’t like Humpty Dumpty that the king couldn’t put back together again!
How can you start all over again? Let God wash your sins away. Paul says, “Repent each of you and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s that simple. All you need for a new beginning is for Jesus to free you. Like that lady, you need to go to Him and He’ll wash your sins away in His blood. And then go and sin no more.
I want to finish with this little poem in the form of a prayer.
Dear Lord Jesus,
I confess with shame that there are times I have stood in the midst, condemned. And there are times I have stood in the crowd, condemning. There are times my heart has been filled with adultery. And there are times my hands have been filled with stones.
Forgive me for a heart that is so prone to wander, so quick to forget my vows to you. Forgive me, too, for my eagerness in bringing you the sins of others, and my reluctance in bringing you my own. Forgive me for the times I have stood smugly Pharisaic and measured out judgment to others. Others I am not qualified to judge. Others, who you, though qualified, refuse to.
Help me to be more like you, Jesus—full of grace and truth. Help me to live not by Law but by grace, by the spirit of compassion you showed to that woman so many mornings ago.
Give me, I pray, pierced conscience of the older ones in regard to the stumblings of others so my hands may be first to drop their stones, and my feet, first to leave the circle of the self-righteous.
Thank you for those sweet words of forgiveness: “Neither do I condemn you!”, Words that flow so freely from your lips. Words that I have heard so often when I have stumbled. And in the strength of those unmerited words, help me to go my way and sin no more……