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John 7.53-8.11 Jesus the Stoner

December 16, 2007 Series: Gospel According to John

Topic: Gospel Passage: John 7:53–8:11

John 7.53-8.11 – Authentic Jesus

December 16, 2007

Sam Ford


Open your Bibles to John chapter 8.  We’re going to go over some somewhat controversial verses in Bible.  These 12 verses contain one of the most vivid and powerful images of Jesus and the Grace of the Gospel.  But they are controversial in that most of your Bibles will probably have a text note that says:  The earliest or some manuscripts do not include John 7.53-8.11; others add the passage here or after 7.36 or after 21.25 or after Luke 21.28.  


What is the Bible?

So, before we tackle this passage, I think it is vitally important that we equip ourselves to answer critics who challenge the trustworthiness of the Scriptures that we might feel confident in God’s Word as we have it in our Bible today.  To begin, The New Testament (NT) speaks of the Old Testament (OT) as Scripture, the Greek word for which is graphe, meaning writing. The word Bible comes from the Greek word for book.


The Holy Bible means the “Holy Book”. It is not in fact, one book, but a collection of books.  It contains 66 separate books (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament), written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic), over a period of more than a thousand years, by over 40 authors (of varying ages and backgrounds), on three continents (Asia, Africa andEurope).


Authors include kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, etc. Books include history, sermons, letters, a hymnbook, and a love song. There are geographical surveys, architects’ specifications travel diaries, population statistics, family trees, inventories, and numerous legal documents. It covers hundreds of controversial subjects with amazing unity. It is the best selling book of all time, and now available in nearly 3000 languages.


How did we get the Bible originally?

The Bible is like any book ever written.  The original manuscripts, or autographs, were transmitted from God and were/are different from any other book penned by man. The Bible states in 2 Peter 1:20-21…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was every produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This verse teaches us that God used human authors to record scriptures as they were supervised by the Holy Spirit of God.  


Since these men were supervised by God, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us what the resultant product looked like, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. The end result of these men writing was that they had an inspired or God-spoken book that came from the mind of the living God!  Therefore, if we disobey what the Bible says, we disobey God.  Whether the Bible speaks explicitly or implicitly on an issue, it is God who is speaking. 


So how did we get the Bible we have today?

**The Old Testament

Over 3,500 years ago, the OT was written on papyrus--a form of paper made out of reeds; the NT was written on parchments (prepared animal skins). These manuscripts were carefully copied by trained scribes so that other copies could be made available for people to read. Relative to the O.T…..

  • One group of scribes, known as the Masoretes, set its standards much higher than all the other scribes. The Masoretes counted every single letter, word, and verse of the Old Testament in order to preserve its accuracy.
  • We have only scarce copies because they took great pride in their ability to copy without error; so that anytime a copy began to fade or show signs of wear, the scribes would either burn it or bury it in the ground. They did not want anyone obtaining a poor copy that could be misread or recopied incorrectly.
  • How can we be sure when we read the O.T. that the events are recorded accurately? Consider the evidence:

o       In 1948, an Arab boy was looking for a lost goat. He threw a rock he was playing with accidentally into a small cave, and heard the sound of pottery breaking. Scampering up the hill and into the cave, the boy found some leather scrolls with ancient writing on them…known today as the Dead Sea scrolls…inside the cave were hundreds of scrolls.

o       In the caves, there were copies of several books of the Old Testament. These copies were produced from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 100, making them almost 900 years older than the oldest available copies of Old Testament books. Keep in mind, the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1948, and the King James Bible was translated into English in 1611.

o       One scroll found in the Dead Sea was a scroll of the book of Isaiah—from which only a few words were missing! When it was compared to the text of Isaiah produced 900 years after it, the two matched almost word for word!

What about the New Testament?  : 

  • The New Testament was written between approximately A.D. 35 and A.D. 100.
  • Many were letters that were copied and distributed to other congregations, but unlike the scribes who copied the Old Testament, people who copied the New Testament books did not see the need to bury or burn old, worn-out copies of the Scriptures.
  • As a result, we still possess literally thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament (see the chart on previous page). (A manuscript is a hand-written copy of a document that was copied in its original language.)
  • Total number of N.T. manuscripts is comparatively much greater than any ancient books (CHART GRAPHIC)


Can we trust our copies?

By comparing the ancient manuscripts, we find that the vast majority of variations are minor elements of spelling, grammar, and style, or accidental omissions or duplications of words or phrases.   Overall, 97 to 99 percent of the New Testament can be reconstructed beyond any reasonable doubt, and no Christian doctrine is founded solely or even primarily on textually disputed passages.


Only about four hundred (less than one page of an English translation) have any significant bearing on the meaning of a passage, and most are footnoted in modern English translations.


What do we do with passages like this?

What this footnote tells us is that this particular section of Scripture is not found in the oldest copies that we have.  In other words, at some point, we don’t know exactly when (A long time ago) a scribe inserted this story about Jesus.  Therefore, scholars much smarter than me construct elaborate arguments about whether or not JOHN wrote it, whether it should be included, and even whether someone like me should preach on it.  Most scholars don’t do commentaries on it…they skip the section of scripture entirely.


What can we learn from this passage?

So why did these guys allow something like this in the canon?  Scholars agree that the story itself is, most likely, an accurate account of an event in the ministry of Jesus, probably passed down from oral tradition.  Whether or not it’s valuable at all is best determined by letting Scripture interpret Scripture.  In other words, we let the truth in the 65 other books written from 39 other authors bear out whether or not it portrays a consistent picture of Jesus.  And the verdict is that it does.  The reason they let it in the canon under such controversy was it connected with the gospel.  The gospel of Judas and the gospel of Thomas were not connected with the Jesus they knew.  But this story is considered by many the highlight story of the New Testament, a clear illustration of the grace of God. 


READ JOHN 7.53-8.11


8 53 [[They went each to his own house, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.


Jesus didn’t have a home…by choice

Everyone goes off to their own houses but Jesus didn’t have a home.  We must never forget how Jesus came into our world so that we don’t make much of ourselves.  If we learn nothing else today, know that the infinite God showed us how to live and walk a humble life.   He arrived as a humble, poor, insignificant, unimportant, unimpressive, son of a teenage mom and a blue collar carpenter, born in a feeding trough and the target of a murderous king. 


It is very hard for us to demonstrate the grace that Jesus demonstrates because we live with such an attitude of entitlement.  I’m owed wealth, health, happiness, peace, comfort…that is what life is about.  Well, your vision of life doesn’t include the life of Jesus lived.


Jesus Gets Away from the World

Pilgrims, like Jesus, often stayed on the mount if they could not find lodging.  The Mount of Olives, is a small range of four summits, overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple from the East.  At this point, he’s been accused of being a blasphemer, being possessed by a demon, breaking the law, disturber of the peace, and a liar.  The people were confused and argued about who he was, the Jewish leaders debated with him, then both groups wanted to arrest him so that he could be killed.  He’s always being asked to PROVE WHO YOU ARE, HEAL ME, ….Who wouldn’t want to get away?  Not only was his birth Jesus went off by himself to pray, to meditate, and to think about God. 


3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.


Brought a Woman “Caught in the act”

Jesus enters the temple and sits down to teach.  As he is teaching, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman “caught in the act” of adultery before him.  We have to ask ourselves, how they “stumbled” upon this woman in the act of adultery—THEY HAD TO HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR IT, like some sort of “SIN POLICE.”    


But regardless, these guys do not appear to care for this woman in anyway.  If a person knew that someone was about commit a sin, they had a responsibility to try and stop them. 


Galatians 6.1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.


The Law concerning Adultery

Make no mistake about it, this woman is guilty.  Although this woman is most likely a prostitute, and may have been set up, they do have “LEGAL” grounds for their actions.  The Jewish people viewed adultery as a serious crime—much more serious than we do today.  Adultery was one of the gravest sins punishable by death although there were considerable differences in how the death penalty was to be carried out. 


Lev. 20.10;

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.


Deut. 22.22

22  “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.


The Mishnah (Jewish oral law tradition written down) stated that the penalty for adultery is strangulation and even the method of strangulation is laid out. 

  • The man is to be enclosed in dung up to his knees, and a soft towel set within a rough towel in order that no mark might be made on his neck for it is God’s punishment.  Then one man draws the towel in one direction and another in the other direction until he is dead. 


  • Death by stoning is the penalty for a girl who is betrothed and who then commits adultery. From a perfectly legal standpoint, the scribes and Pharisees were correct.


Testing Jesus, the true purpose

These guys have the legal right to judge her actions, but she is simply a tool for what they really want to do which is catch Jesus in something they could bring a charge for.  In their mind, Jesus has only two possible responses:


  1. Yes, STONE HER: 
    1. He would lose his the name of “mercy” that he had become known for.  He did not come to judge to but to seek and save the lost.  The first coming of Jesus is one of humility and love—much different than his 2nd coming.
    2. He would usurp the authority of the Roman Empireto stated that Jews had no power to carry out death sentences on anyone.


  1. No, DON’T STONE HER:  if he said to pardon her, then he would be breaking the law of Moses and appear as if he was condoning people who committed adultery.


We’re really good at finding and using other people’s sin

I believe we often bring a lot of different people who we believe are “sinning” before God.  Of course, we don’t bring them to Jesus, but we bring them to the word of God.  And, I am not saying this is “WRONG”, but I am questioning our motives for doing so. It seems like we:

  • TO PUNISH:  We bring people caught in sin to God so that we see them punished.  Rightly, this is simply identifying an authority beyond yourself, wrong….We believe that the person just doesn’t recognize how sinful they are so if we judge them enough, threaten them enough, or otherwise scare them enough, they’ll change. 


  • TO HIDE:  We bring people caught in sin to God so that we don’t have to go ourselves.  If we’re taking a stand for God’s rightness by condemning every sin we FIND (not that finds us) then it becomes easy to ignore our own sinfulness.


  • TO ARGUE:  We bring people caught in sin to God so that we can catch God in a contradiction or a mistake.  This is the person who really doesn’t believe to begin with and try to justify their sin or sin of someone they know.  They break God’s Law and the “scare” that they had been given never pans out.  OR, someone they know breaks God’s law and their not the Devil Incarnate so they try and argue with God.


Jesus remains silent and writes in the sand

Jesus doesn’t fall for either of their options.  He remains silent. (EVER WONDER WHY GOD DOESN”T ANSWER) Jesus is already sitting as he had been teaching the people.  He bends down to write on the sand.  As 93-4% of our communication is non-verbal, I’m always curious what we’re supposed to understand Jesus to be saying here. (REMINDS ME OF An ADULT TALKING TO A LITTLE KID)


Then, what did he write.  Scholars put forward all kinds of different opinions, all of which are guesses at best.


Jeremiah 1.13;

13           O Lord, the hope of Israel,

                    all who forsake you shall be put to shame;

          those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,

                    for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.

Proverbs 26:4

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him”


Drawing pictures: The Cross, flames/ Don’t you have anything better to do? /Listing out their sins:

7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them,  “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and


As they continue to ask…

These guys keep asking and asking…and finally Jesus has enough.


He says ‘Let him who is without sin’

He did not say that the woman had not sinned or that her sin was a trifling one.  But he reminded her accusers that they at any rate were not the person to bring a charge against her. Their own motives and lives were far from pure and were full of hypocrisy.  Then he starts writing again….


Who is without sin?

Romans 3.23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


1John 1.8-9 says,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


If we’re all SINFUL, do we have the right to judge anyone?

Is Jesus telling us not to judge anyone here?


Matthew 7.1-4

 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.


My first question is WHY you are judging?  What do you really hope to accomplish?  Do you feel like you need to HELP God out? Do you believe that if you don’t judge that for some reason those things that God has declared as sinful suddenly become right?


#1 We’re naturally bad judges…we categorize sin according to consequences only

We will all admit we’re sinners.  But we like to categorize sins as the ones that are not so bad, bad, and really bad. In fact, casting stones at other people generally makes me feel good.  I enjoy talking about the shortcomings of another person or the sin of another “people” because I can feel good that, “I’m not that bad.”  We categorize sins (especially sexual ones) according to consequences and not according to the offensiveness to God.


James 2.10

10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.


#2 We’re bad judges...we judge according to LETTER of the LAW, not the SPIRIT

We all need to recognize one thing, Jesus consistently working toward the SPIRIT of the LAW versus the LETTER.   Just because we have the “RIGHT” to do something, doesn’t mean that we should not demonstrate mercy and grace.  Sometimes there is a greater RIGHT.

Matthew 1.18

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.


When we say the SPIRIT of the LAW is not intended as a means to encourage sin, rather, as a means to encourage righteousness.  Matthew 5, Jesus Sermon on the Mount, shows how obeying the letter of the law says “I didn’t commit adultery”, or, “I didn’t touch her” so lusting is ok.  Jesus tells us that the SPIRIT of the LAW goes much deeper than the letter. Following the letter of the LAW doesn’t go far ENOUGH! 


Following the spirit of the law protects us from breaking the law and from falling short of the law.  (I didn’t actually lie….officially…it wasn’t actually sex….I looked, but I didn’t touch…I hurt him but I didn’t murder him.)

#3  We’re bad judges…because we don’t take our own sin seriously

At best, we lack empathy.  At worst, we’re hypocrites.  When is the last time you wept over your sin?


Even the LOST have consciences that will convict

Wicked and hardened as these guys were, they felt something within them which made them cowards.  Fallen as human nature is, God has taken care to leave within every man a witness that will be heard.  The conscience is not powerful enough to save, but it is powerful enough to convict.  Of course, it takes the YOUNGER people a bit longer to admit that they are wrong. 


Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said,  “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]


Neither do I condemn you…but I could.

Jesus did not condone the sin. He offered forgiveness not approval Jesus was without sin.  Jesus could have thrown a stone, but he shows mercy (not giving something she deserved) and grace (giving her forgiveness)—we wouldn’t do that for an adulterous husband or wife today.


From now on sin no more.

Jesus did judge her.  Jesus said, you are an adulterous, you did sin, you do deserve death…but I forgive you.  He doesn’t just forget the penalty for sin…he is going to defer it for about 6 months when he pays for it on the cross.   As he judged, however, he pointed out that she needed to stop sinning. True repentance that consists in nothing more than feeling, talking, professing, wishing, meaning, hoping, and resolving is worthless in God’s sight.  Until a man ceases to do evil and turns from his sins, he does not really repent. 


The goal is repentance…

·        God doesn’t want more judges, sin-spy-hunters, or hypocritical Christians pretending their not  sinners or hiding behind those who “look” like they are.

·        God seeks people to understand the mercy and grace they have been shown by the ONE who has the RIGHT to Kill us…and as we fall in love with Him…we share his love with others.

·        Read 2Timothy 2.22-25

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