Faithlife Sermons

Set Free

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I want to invite your attention into the Gospel of John. We looked at a story familiar to many, an event that is taking place during Jesus' stay in Jerusalem. After the Feast of Tabernacles has concluded, Jesus remains there in Jerusalem, staying at the Mount of Olives, or perhaps at Bethany at the home of Mary and Martha. He is teaching and His popularity is such that He draws crowds when He teaches. There are those who hear from His mouth, one who speaks with authority, not as the scribes, not as the normal teachers who the people are used to, but One who has something about the truth He is telling, the interpretation of the Scriptures He is offering that excited them, that touches their hearts. So they come, and they come in numbers.

The morning Jesus comes in our text in John 8; it says He arrived very early in the morning. That word is the word for dawn. He goes to the Mount of Olives and comes back at dawn. At dawn, there is a crowd waiting for Him. So interesting, so persuasive, so powerful were His words that He did not come at the normal times that a rabbi would begin to teach. He comes at dawn and still finds a crowd when He is there. He would go into the temple area, actually into the court of the Gentiles area and there a circle would form and the rabbi would sit down. To sit down was the position of a teacher in that culture. He would sit while they stood. He would teach them. He would share His interpretation of Scripture. He would share the object and the principles He wanted them to learn.

Jesus knew He had but limited time. He knew His mission. He knew His purpose, and so every word, every syllable, was certainly important, certainly pointed to the purpose He had for those people to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. For them to see a Good News, a gospel message, to turn from the idol religion they found themselves in and to turn to Christ, to turn and become a member of the Kingdom and a child of God.

Boy, that message always resonates with those who are seeking, with those who are hurting, with those who have found religion to be empty and who want to know if God truly cares for them, if there is really a meaning for their life. Jesus communicates that to these people. But what marks this day is that as Jesus is sitting there in that circle of people teaching, suddenly there is a ruckus. The ruckus is a crowd of Pharisees and Sadducees that are dragging a young woman. We know her to be a young woman from the charges that are leveled against her in the Levitical code.

They drag her and actually interrupt Jesus' teaching by just bringing her in right into the midst of that circle, right into the teaching area and having her stand alone right there for everyone to see. They then lay charges against her. They say, "This woman was caught in the act of adultery, in the very act of adultery, and we have brought her here to see what You might have to say because we know the law, we know the Scriptures and the law says such a one should be stoned, should be killed, should be publically stoned for committing adultery."

Now the Levitical law did call for the stoning of both the man and the woman when they were caught in the act of adultery under certain provisions, one of which being when the woman was betrothed to someone else. So we feel this is a young woman who is being dragged before this crowd, perhaps a teenager as the unmarried were most likely to be. We have to ask ourselves…where is the man in all of this?

Also, the fact that it is dawn and they have found this act taking place, when we put all of this together, it becomes somewhat obvious in our investigation that this was a set up. The Pharisees had conspired likely with the man who goes scot-free and the law was very clear that the man was to equally be stoned. That they had set this up in order to bring this woman, not because they're even interested in anything about her, but because they want to bring an accusation against Christ.

Here is their thinking…You know, we don't stone people anymore. We haven't stoned people for a long time. That's really fallen out of favor, and we can't do it without Roman approval. The Romans reserved the right for capital punishment for themselves. So, we're going to create this circumstance and we're going to drag this woman before Jesus and either He is going to say, "Yes, the law says we ought to stone her," or He is going to say, "No, we ought to let her go."

We win either way because if He says, "Yes, you should stone her," then the people who are gathered there who think Jesus is so compassionate and loving are going to have a different view of Him. They're going to see He is willing to stone this young girl who is in tears, disheveled, and being abused and used as a tool, and they're going to turn from Him. Even more than that, if the Romans find out He is advocating capital punishment on their own, He's liable to be arrested for disobeying Roman law.

But, if He says, "No, don't stone the woman," well, then He is going to show He really doesn't obey the Levitical law. He's going to show He really doesn't care for it as much as He has been saying, and He doesn't know it as well He says He knows it and that He is not as obedient to the Heavenly Father He claims to be from. It's a win/win situation as far as these Pharisees were concerned.

When they brought the woman to Jesus and sat her there, they made that claim. They said, "The Law of Moses says we should stone such a one, but what do You say? What do You think we should do?" Interestingly, Jesus doesn't say a thing. At that moment, having stood up, He stoops back down on the ground. The Bible tells us He uses His finger and He writes in the dirt. Actually, the Greek word that is used there is the word for sketching. He draws a picture in the dirt.

Now He is going to stoop down later and write and that word is the normal word for writing letters, but it's perhaps that Jesus maybe He writes some letters, or maybe He draws a picture. We don't know what He draws. We don't know what it is. A lot of people speculate. Really, the important thing of the story is that Jesus ignores them at first. He doesn't respond to them. But the Bible tells us they continue. They are not going to let that pass. They've set all this up. They brought her here, and they're going to get their due.

So they continued and they pestered Him. They pursued. "What do You want to do? What do You want to do? Do we stone her? Do we let her go? Do we keep her? What do You say? What do You say? We know what Moses says, but what do You say?" Finally, Jesus stands up. Having His lesson interrupted, His teaching destroyed by this event, He stands up and He says, "Whoever among you is without sin, let him throw the stone at her first."

Now that was a very important thing for Jesus to say. First of all, Jesus was not saying, "Whoever has no sin, whoever is sinless," because there is no one who is without sin except Christ Himself. So He is not saying as sometimes we think nobody was qualified because the law did make provision for stoning someone else. What He is saying is that if you're guiltless on this event, if you are without sin in what has taken place, be the first to throw a stone.

Well, it's important to know that Leviticus called for the first one to throw a stone to be the accuser. The Levitical law said the ones who brought the accusation, who were the eyewitnesses to the event, were to first throw the stone. Leviticus called, the law called for two witnesses before such a judgment could be made. So what Jesus is saying is, "Whoever among this mob are eyewitnesses to the event she is being charged with to this adultery, then you, according to the law, you should go first."

That bring us to look at our text today to see why it is that they walk away, why it is the words of Christ bring conviction to them and they turn, beginning with the oldest and they walk away and they just leave that woman standing there in the midst of the crowd. Let me re-read some of this for you. I want to begin in verse 3 of John, chapter 8, if you want to join me there. It says, "Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?'"

Now again, dawn is an unlikely time for a group of Pharisees to be gathered together unless it had been preplanned. Verse 6 begins, "This they said, testing Him [testing Jesus], that they might have something of which to accuse Him." Isn't that interesting? They brought this woman. They brought accusations against this woman, but it's really Jesus they want to accuse. In other words, they weren't concerned with adultery. They wanted to stop Jesus, and an accusation could do that.

Notice the Scripture. It's not that they want to convict Jesus, they're content to just float an accusation. You know we've learned that if you watch politics in America. When people are accused of the craziest things, they have learned to immediately respond and to deny it. The tendency might be to just ignore it and let it go, but they have seen politicians on national level with the media and so forth that when you ignore the thing becomes perceived as real sometimes.

That's what they're content with. They just want to bring this accusation to Jesus. They're not concerned whether it's true at all. They just simply desire to float this charge. If He said, "Stone her," He would lose respect and the Romans would be upset. If He chose to let her go, then He is going to be accused of not following Scripture. It's the accusation they think will get them what they want.

What do they want? They want to stop Him. He's drawing crowds at dawn and they aren't. He is becoming popular. His teaching is gaining acceptance. They don't like that. Their selfishness, their ego is being harmed. They feel Jesus needs to be stopped. But Jesus' response in the last part of that verse is that He stooped down wrote/sketched on the ground with His finger as though He did not hear. He assumed or resumed the position of a teacher and went back to drawing and writing…that was sort of the chalkboard of the day…and ignored them.

He tried to continue doing His mission. He tried to continue with His ministry. He tried to simply ignore it, not taking the advice of political consultants of today. He simply stooped back down as thought this was not important enough for Him to deal with as though what He was talking about in His ministry was far more important. Verse 7 tells us, "So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.' And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground."

Jesus was not calling for sinlessness because He is the only sinless person, but He was calling for them to follow the law, the law that required the accusers to throw the stones first. They know that. They realize they are caught up in a frenzy. They have come with the crowd to accuse Jesus, to drag this woman because of what they've heard. They can't throw the first stones. Why? Because they were not eyewitnesses to it.

Do you understand that? They were caught up in the frenzy of the mob, and all that was based on was gossip, was hearsay. They followed along and joined the mob mentality, this lynch-mob mentality to destroy this woman, and in effect, to destroy the ministry of Jesus based simply on what they had heard. It was sure enough for them. It came from a Pharisee. It came from a Sadducee. It came from, what was for them, a trusted source, but nonetheless, the law didn't allow for hearsay. It didn't allow for gossip to bring conviction. There had to be eyewitnesses to be willing enough to carry it out and there were none. There simply were none.

So their guilt was the conviction based on the words of someone else because they were not eyewitnesses. So in verse 9, "Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." With the crowd of disciples around her, no doubt her eyes looking to the dirt, no doubt disheveled, no doubt destroyed…guilty and destroyed.

It says Jesus was left alone. In other words, all of the accusers had left for the time being. The woman, standing in the midst. "When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours?'" Literally in the Greek, "Young lady, where are they? Is there no one left to throw that stone? Is there no one who is here to condemn you? Is there no one here who is going to bring the convicting evidence. Where are they?"

Did any of them have evidence or was it just gossip? Was it just that lynch-mob mentality based on what other people had said? You know, even the gossip of a trusted source is still hearsay and that's what they realized. That was their conviction. So she lifts her eyes, perhaps for the first time, looks into the eyes of the Savior and says, "No one, Lord," in verse 11. Literally again, "No one, sir. No one, sir." Jesus said to her, "Well then neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." " I refuse to join the lynch-mob," Jesus said. "I'm smarter than that." Instead, notice, He forgives her. He forgives her. Then He does a remarkable thing. He sets her free. He sets her free. He says, "Go. Go live your life. Don't let sin mar the joy that I'm giving you. Just go. Be free. Be free."

Now the question we have to ask ourselves is…Should she now live in shame or live in freedom? Now, the indication of Scripture is she's guilty. But how does she live now because Jesus has told her, "Go." He said, "I don't condemn you." She's been set free by Christ from her accusers and from her faults. Culturally, I think sometimes we wonder, Well, that's okay, but she has to live in shame. I think culturally sometimes that's what we tell ourselves when we've been freed by Christ that we somehow have to continue to live in the shame and the guilt that Jesus died to free us from, that Jesus forgave us for.

There in the public square, Jesus declares her uncondemned. What about you? Is that why you don't step out and serve Christ? Though you have received His salvation, He said, "Go, sin no more." He has forgiven you of your transgressions. Is your response to cower in shame? Does the public around you, does the culture around you say, "Well, you may be forgiven, but you need to keep your head down?" Or do you lift your head up and look into Jesus' eyes and accept His forgiveness and go on and be set free?

Well, what is it that lets Jesus do this? In fact, what is it, since we are His hands and feet, now, what is it that will allow us to set free those who are around us who continue to live in guilt and shame, those who may have been falsely accused, those who've been the subject of the lynch-mob mentality, the subject of gossip, the subject of the accusations that destroy the very fabric of their life and character? How can we be like Jesus to those in our community when they're hurting? When they are disappointed?

Notice some things I think we find in the character of Christ. The first one is eyes of compassion. When she looks in His eyes, one thing I know she has to see are eyes of compassion. Those are the eyes we need to have to all of those who are around us…eyes of compassion. Not eyes of judgment. Not eyes of I told you so, but eyes of compassion. It has been said that compassion is your hurt in my heart, and that's exactly what needs to happen. We need to see the hurt in other people, not…Well, they deserved it. Well none of us deserve God's grace, but to see the hurt they're going through. Who will step in their hurt and let their hurt reside in our heart?

You know when Jesus saw multitudes coming to them, He was tired. He had been ministering and was trying to have a mountain retreat, but His eyes of compassion were such that when He saw those multitudes coming to them, the Bible says He was moved with compassion because He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He saw they had a need. He didn't see them as sinless. He didn't see them as theologically correct, but He saw they were hurting as sheep without a shepherd would.

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