Neither Do I Condemn You
1. "Neither do I condemn you." This is today's sermon topic. It is the words of Jesus as recorded in verse eleven. In our service today we are given the story of a woman blessed to have been able to hear these words [from Jesus]. As we ask that the Lord might give us this same message as well, I would like for us to proceed along together in our reading of this story.
To Find A Reason To Charge [Him]
2. We will read starting from verse one. "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, when he entered the temple grounds again, as all of the public came to visit him, he sat and began to teach. The scribes of the law and the Pharisees brought to him there a woman caught at the scene of adultery, and they made her stand in the center of them, and said to Jesus, 'Master, this woman was caught when she was committing adultery. In the law Moses commands that such a woman be stoned to death. But now, what do you think about it?'," (verses one through five).
3. It appears that this woman was caught while in the act of committing adultery. We don't know how the people caught [her] red handed. We sense an awkwardness in that only the woman here is brought in. But, regardless though, the fact of the adultery is very likely when we see that she doesn't resist them. Yet now, the problem is the intentions by which they had deliberately brought this woman to Jesus. They asked him, "What do you think about it?," yet though, they were not soliciting for a teaching from him. The scriptures explain it like this: "Testing Jesus, they said this in order to find a reason to charge him," (verse six).
4. The question that the scribes of the law proposed was actually well thought out and meticulously prepared. Were Jesus to say "Condemn her, as it has it in the law of Moses," what would happen? They would get "a reason to charge" him because it is the state that has the authority to perform executions as far as being under the Roman rule of law. If Jesus were to claim the death penalty based on the law of Moses, they could take hold of his words and charge him as a conspirator of treason against the Roman empire.
5. But then, were Jesus to say, "You must not do an execution unless you have the permission of the Roman governor," what would come of that? Full of deep despair, the public would surely have separated from Jesus whom they had been looking upon as a liberator from Rome. If they could just separate the public from Jesus, they could then later do him in through the power of the Jewish supreme court. They could even charge him with being an evil teacher who taught openly to rebel against the law of Moses.
6. Jesus must have seen perfectly through their disguised ill will against him. A question like that, filled with malice, is best left ignored. Jesus let their statement go in one ear and out the other, he bent over and began to write something with his finger in the ground. But, the scribes of the law persistently continued to question him. Whereupon, Jesus lifted himself up and gave this short answer, "Those among you who have never sinned, first, throw a stone at her," (verse seven). Then he bent down again and continued to write on the ground.
Neither Do I Condemn You
7. The developments after that are written in the text as follows. "Those who heard this, beginning with the eldest, one by one, ended up departing, [then] Jesus alone and the woman who was in the center were left," (verse ten).
8. When he said, "Let the sinless persons throw stones first," that no one could throw a stone looked like the natural outcome. But, we need to really look over the situation carefully here. Among the strict Jews of the Pharisees there were plenty enough of them who boasted that "I have kept the law since my childhood days." It was not necessarily the common attitude that they were all sinners. Had there been one person to say "I have always lived righteously" and he or she had thrown the first stone, how would things have turned out? The death penalty by stoning has a certain way of being performed. The witnesses threw the first stones, (Deuteronomy 17:7). That was the signal, then everyone threw stones. If someone had thrown the first stone in accordance with the Lord's statement, the others also would have begun to throw stones all at once, and that place would certainly have changed into a gruesome sea of blood. Then as a result of that, Jesus would have certainly been charged as the one who had been the leader of what had happened, just as the scribes' had schemed for. This had a good chance of happening.
9. Therefore, I'd say we ought to think of the outcome depicted in this scene as something rather special. In it, a very real and special thing took place through Jesus' presence and his words. Which is, Jesus and his words did truly appear to them as the word of God, and they shone light on human existence and every aspect of sin. The results of them was that the people left. When they were touched by Jesus and his words, no matter how righteous they might have thought of themselves, they came to the point of not being able to escape the admission of their own sins. This one called Jesus of Nazareth was this kind of presence and being during Jewish society back then and still is this kind of presence and being for us today.
10. Starting with the older people, one person after the other left. Thus, the response of the people towards the brightly shinning light was primarily "evasion,flight." They started running away. This scene shows that's how people are. The second response was "enmity." Through the light [their] hatred and anger was illuminated. People try to ignore this kind of light with anger. When we read The Gospel [Of John], we come to see this type of posture in humanity.
11. But, what is the scripture saying by this? It is saying that there was one person who did not run away. It was the accused woman. Because they had all left, she ought to have been able to walk off any number of ways. Her accusers were gone and her trouble was averted. The crisis laid out before her had passed on. If getting away from suffering is deliverance from it, walking away from it ought to have been deliverance for her. But, she didn't walk away.
12. The scripture says, "Jesus alone and the woman who was in the middle were left," (verse nine). Jesus asked her, "Woman, where are those people? Doesn't anyone condemn you for your sin?" She answered, "Lord, no one [does]." No one could condemn her. No, it wasn't that there wasn't anyone there. There was just one person. Jesus himself was [there].
13. Earlier I stated that when touched by Jesus and his words, no matter how righteous people think they are, they will not be able to avoid acknowledging their own sins. It is because Jesus indeed is truly righteous. It is because he is truly pure. It is because he is one with God the Father and he manifests God's love. Therefore, no matter how much righteousness a person clothes himself or herself with, or how much purity or loving of a posture one dons, what's on the inside will be illuminated through his light.
14. Jesus said, "Let those without sin throw stones first." There was only just one and only one person there who could have thrown a stone, and there was only one person who could have condemned her [but] he said the following. -- "Neither do I condemn you."
15. So, the sinner deserving of condemnation was forgiven of [her] sin and permitted to live again. She certainly heeded his words. There was true salvation, not just in running from pain, not just in escaping from a crisis, but in being forgiven sin by Christ. Why could only [one] person listen to the words of forgiveness from Jesus, the message of deliverance? It was because she stayed back with Jesus. It was because she stayed with Jesus as a sinner illuminated by the light of the Lord.
Do Not Sin Any More
16. Then finally I would like to end by mentioning one thing. When you read today's passage of scripture, [I wonder if] you noticed that this section is enclosed by brackets. If I may say in conclusion, this section was not a part of the original Gospel Of John, it was an old story orally handed down separately. This story is missing in many manuscripts. Also, in some manuscripts it is placed as an addendum to the very last part of The Gospel Of John. Also, in some other manuscripts this story is placed in The Gospel Of Luke. This is the way this story is. But, it is a story that has been transmitted totally apart from The Gospel Of John, and at some century some time later, it was put into John and started to be read. I'd say there is great significance in that. That is to say, they think it was when this event was placed along the journey of Jesus as he walked towards the cross, that it could first be understood correctly.
17. Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you." But, the Jesus who spoke like that was the very same "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" as John the Baptist had stated, (verse 1:29). He who went to the cross in order to be slain as the sin atoning sacrifice said, "Neither do I condemn you." This statement is a statement that had the full weight of Christ's life on it. It is a statement that we should not hear glibly as cheap grace.
18. Therefore, we need to accept with it the words said after it. The Lord said to her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go. You must not sin any more from here on," ( verse eleven). Those who have truly met the message of forgiveness from Christ can get up and begin to walk from that point as persons living in response to the grace that had the full weight of the life of Christ on it.