Well we’ve got 2 Sundays before our Thanksgiving service, and so there were these 2 weeks, this week and next where I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. Two weeks isn’t really enough time to develop any really big ideas. And so I wanted to do something that I think it’s kind of simple, but it’s incredibly meaningful to me, and I hope it will be for you too.
I’m doing a quick 2 week series that I’ve entitled “Gentle as the Rain”.
I want to go to 2 places in the gospel of John. 1 this week, and another next week, where we see Jesus interacting with these two women who were very broken. Absolutely social outcasts, neglected and even abused by a society that treated women only a little better than cattle really. But Jesus comes and he’s just absolutely gentle, and kind, and gracious, in a way that changes how these women see themselves.
They’re seen BY Jesus, and that changes how they see themselves.
I don’t want to oversimplify, but I truly believe that the majority of self-destructive behavior stems from seeing yourself in a self-destructive way.
You will always live up to the way you see yourself.
If what you believe about yourself is that you’re just a giant piece of garbage, that will ruin your life. And that’s really what corrupt religion does. It convinces us that we’re scum.
But is that what God says about you? No, the truth about you is that you’re made in the image of God. Imperfect image bearers, but imagine bearers none-the-less. The deepest reality of who you are : You are built for love and joy and peace. And purity of heart. And Kindness. And when you understand that truth, you’ll live there automatically.
You raise your daughters with a deep sense of value and they won’t settle for a relationship where they’re not valued.
And so I love that Jesus when he comes to us, one of the first thing he addresses is how we see ourselves.
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. (John 8:1)
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. (John 8:2)
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group (John 8:3)
and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:4)
In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:5)
They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:6)
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8:8)
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. (John 8:9)
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10)
“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)
Something that’s amazing about John chapter 8, I wonder if you read along, that you noticed that there’s a note before this section that says something like this:
Pic – John 8 – (Did not appear in original text)
It’s interesting to point out that when it comes to biblical manuscripts (or any ancient literature), older is better. Because it’s closer to the source of the original writer. That’s NOT to say that older English translations are better. Often they aren’t. Because we find older manuscripts (you have have heard of the Dead Sea scrolls, discovered in the mid 1900’s that helped clarify what the original manuscripts likely said.) So it’s weird that the older manuscripts (which are the better ones), don’t have this story.
At first: “WHAT?!”
Atheists. In fact, atheists use this as a reason that the bible cannot be the word of God.
That’s not what this shows. In fact, if you understand the reason, it’s actually really cool.
The reason: In the first 3 centuries of Christianity, this story was so scandalous, people left it out.
For the deeply religious, this story is a thorn in their side.
Augustine – 5th century (420AD)
“…certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from the manuscripts the Lord’s act of forgiveness toward the adulterous.”
This can happen even today: There’s parts of Jesus’s story that are so scandalous, that we just think “I’d rather not talk about that.”
Woman caught in adultery
Religious police bring her (but not him) out – stand before group – trap Jesus into saying she should be stoned “ACCORDING TO THE LAW”.
Jesus bends down and begins to doodle in the dirt.
Classic: “What is Jesus doing?!”
Amazing: This is the only time in recorded history where Jesus WRITES something.
“Let anyone without sin, cast 1st stone.”
Write on ground more
People start to leave
“Does anyone condemn you?” No
Neither do I.
Leave life of sin. End
At the beginning of John 8 – want to kill the woman, by the end of chapter 8, they want to kill Jesus.
Writing on the ground
What is he doodling? Everybody wants to know. All sorts of people have come up with all sorts of ideas, but it doesn’t tell us.
This is my OPINION
Feast of Tabernacles
This story found beginning of John chapter 8
Go to the beginning of chapter 7, we learn that this takes place during the “Festival of Tabernacles”.
1 of 7 major annual Feasts on the Hebrew calendar.
I appreciate a faith system with feasts. Our tradition doesn’t have any, so I just invent my own. It’s just called ‘Saturday’.
There were Spring feasts and fall feasts
- The Spring Feasts were Passover, then Unleavened Bread, then First Fruits, then Pentecost.
- The Fall Feasts were Trumpets, then Atonement, then Tabernacles.
Feast of tabernacles: last fall feast. – Feast before winter. Modern day, it takes place in October.
Hoping – water come – crops – so in the spring – harvest – celebrate at the spring feasts
1000’s of people – Jerusalem
8 days of feasting – living in tents. I don’t know why I picture Jewish Woodstock.
Sacrifices / Singing / Special Rituals / Feasting
All about asking God for winter rains – crops
When you’re a teacher, you try to find things to talk about that pertain to what’s happening around you. And the Religious leaders were no different. So they would teach on the Significance of water.
- Water as rain
- Water and thirst (Metaphor “spiritual longing”)
All cultivated to 8th day
High priest – pitcher water & pitcher of wine
Pour it over the altar (Libation ceremony AKA a ritual pouring)
Crowd chanted “Hosanna, Hosanna” (God save us). “God please bring us rain to save us from drought and famine.”
1000’s of people are together, living tents, partying.
What happens when people spend all day and night together and all get drunk?
End up in the wrong tent regretting their decision.
Not surprising religious leaders drag a woman out who is having sex with a guy who she’s not married to.
Drag her out, trying to trap Jesus See they don’t believe Jesus. They’ve rejected Jesus. Want to expose him as a fraud. Challenge him from a passage from the law. From the OT. Bend down and writes in the sand.
- What have the Pharisees and religious leaders been doing for the past 8 days? Feasting
- And what have they been doing at the feast? Teaching
- And what have they been teaching about? Water.
- And what passages would they have been teaching? Interesting.
One most common – Jeremiah
About dust – which is what you have when you don’t have water.
“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13)
The scripture they were used to – turned in on them.
Without saying a word.
“You preach of water, and you’re missing the living water that’s right in front of you.”
“Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust.”
Many people think he wrote in the dust was the names of the religious leaders.
“Those who turn away from the Lord will be written in the dust.”
In your rejection of me me and your judgement of this lady, you have forsaken the Lord.
3 Quick points from the story and then we’ll receive communion.
1. If you’re bruised or broken, Jesus wants you to come to him.
When people leave the Christian faith, they give lots of reasons, some heart reasons, some head reasons. But I truly believe that behind those “reasons”, more times than not is a feeling of unworthiness and shame. I believe that. People who believe that because of who they’ve been or even who they currently are, that they are somehow excluded from God’s affection.
Sometimes it’s shame from something that has been done to you (perhaps neglect or abuse), and for other people, it’s shame that is the result of things you have done. It doesn’t matter.
Here’s a question: Is the woman in this story guilty? OF COURSE. Jesus never said that she wasn’t wrong, he acknowledges she was wrong. But the point he makes is that being guilty need not result in condemnation. Was she guilty? Yes. But Jesus didn’t condemn her for it.
Jesus isn’t saying the woman didn’t sin, he’s saying these men also sinned and thus, were in no position to judge.
Something that you’ll find when you read the New Testament that can be a real challenge for people is this:
You find Jesus not only standing up for people who are innocent, you also find him standing up for people who are guilty.
So you might be saying “No Pastor David, you don’t get it. I’m guilty! I’ve done some BAD stuff.” I believe you. Here’s what I know that you don’t: No one who comes to Jesus deserves him. No one. Real Christianity begins when you STOP trying to earn it. If you earn it, it’s not grace. And grace is the only thing Jesus offers.
2. Whenever Jesus, though, gives you a word of grace, it always includes a call to obedience and growth.
Moviemakers love the “Neither do I condemn thee” line. Heck I love it too. It’s great. But when they make movies, they like to say “Neither do I condemn you.” Scene Over. That’s not what happens.
What does he say? “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” That’s real love. And everybody knows it. If you love someone, you hate the idea of them being destroyed. Even if it’s them destroying themselves.
Let’s do an example: Let’s say you adopt into your house, a teenager. Now let’s say this teenagers was passed around in the foster care system for the last 14 years and she’s a total mess. Unbelievably bad behavior. Well why did you adopt her? It’s free grace. You don’t adopt them because they’re such a great kid. They’re a terrible kid! No, it’s free grace. And now how do you treat that kid? Do you say “Hey because I love you, you can keep doing drugs and skipping school, and sleeping around, and getting into fights. We love you.” No, of course not. IF you really love them, you’ll do everything you can do see that succeed in life. And that often times includes you insisting that they grow up.
And God is no different. Because he loves you, he will call you to obedience. “I don’t condemn you. Now let’s clean up that life of yours.” That’s how real love works.
3. Some of you can’t change bad habits because you’re taking them to the law instead of to the cross.
Here’s what I mean by that: Rules, by themselves, don’t usually create lasting change. We talked about this this past week in our parenting grow class (Tuesday nights, you should come), that if the only thing preventing your kid from bad behavior is fear of punishment from you, that’s going to end very poorly for you and the child when they turn 18. Cuz now they’re outside of your punishment.
Jesus has another way. Notice the order of what he tells this woman. It’s not: “Go leave your life of sin and then I won’t condemn you.” No it’s: “I don’t condemn you, now leave your life of sin.” The order is all important.
Life change comes from the place of first being accepted by God.
But a lot of us are trying to change our life “So that God will…”. No that’s backwards. And it doesn’t work.
You don’t eliminate sin by focusing on sin.
Write lustful thoughts on paper – I remember when I was a teenager in youth group here at this church, one time we went to camp and heart a message (just to the boys) about lust. And how if we lust after a girl that’s just as bad as adultery. So we thought: “Oh man! That’s the worst! Let’s get rid of this lust business!” And we make a pact and agreed that any time we’d have a lustful thought, we’d write it down on a piece of paper. And so I’d fill that paper up, and start on another paper. And then another. We were 16, I don’t think there were enough trees on the planet to provide enough paper. What do you think happened? We just lusted more. And we wasted an incredible amount of ink!
No, that’s taking your sin to the law. Taking your sin to the cross, which is the Jesus way, is to get off the treadmill of trying to look worthy – to God, or to your parents, or to yourself. And instead to just receive the grace of God as a free gift. And a beautiful side-effect of understanding God’s grace is that it changes you.
My friend Andrew Wommack would say “If you get a revelation of God’s grace, you’ll live better on accident than you ever did on purpose.” That doesn’t mean it doesn’t require effort. It absolutely does. But real life change comes from understanding that you’re accepted by God.
Closing Statement: The story of the woman caught in adultery teaches us that God’s love is not dependent on what you do or don’t do. He loves you faithfully and consistency even before you come to him. That doesn’t mean that he’ll leave you the same. With the grace he extends comes a call to obedience. This too is an expression of his love. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to accept Christ’s free grace and to allow that grace to change you from the inside out.
Amazing: God’s grace is not only for the woman, it’s also for the men throwing rocks.
And so whether you feel like the accused or maybe you acknowledge that sometimes you’ve been the accuser, the solution is the same: God’s free grace.
As we pass communion, spend a minute – opening your heart – He sees you. He knows you, he loves you.
He wants you to open your heart up to him, and rest.
There’s this beautiful rest that can be found in not trying to hide, not trying to cover yourself or act like you’re something other than exactly what you. Warts and all. He sees you.
So open up, receive Him, and rest.
Prayer: Even when my own heart condemns me, you have always loved me. There has never been a moment, where you didn’t adore me.
Invitation / Pray / Prayer 4 Poor