Sin

The Gospel of John – A stones throw away

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Jesus’ response to a trap sprung by the Pharisees is masterful. Though He alone has the moral authority to execute the woman for her sin, Jesus instead chooses forgiveness. This highlights a major concept of Christian ethics: just because one has the power to do something does not mean it’s the best option. All sinners are just a stones throw away.

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The adulterous woman

The story of the adulterous woman is almost certainly not original to the gospel of John; however, it is a valid example of Jesus’ life and teaching.

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. She was standing made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 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. [on questioning him, he himself straight up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

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. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11

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You can’t trick Jesus

In this passage, the Pharisees once again attempt to trick Jesus in order to ruin His reputation with the people. Unlike other attempts, however, this one involves both a moral dilemma and a powerful, real-life example. Jesus’ response to this trap teaches us about the importance of restraint, as well as sound judgment.

Here, the Pharisees introduce a new wrinkle: a real-life, flesh-and-blood moral dilemma, both unexpected and scandalous.

A trap laid

The verse here says the woman had been caught “in adultery,” specified in the next verse as “in the act.” Most likely, the woman had been caught, moments before being brought to Jesus, but at some time previously. One way or another, her guilt was not a matter of debate: she was absolutely, unquestionably culpable for the sin of adultery. This, however, raises a question which might well have been part of Jesus’ response. Namely, if the woman was caught “in the act,” then so was whatever man she was with—so where is the guilty man? This entire episode is an attempt by the Pharisees to show that they, not Jesus, are truly following the law. But even their trap fails that test, since they’ve only brought half of the guilty parties (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).

The act of “placing her in the midst” is part of the Pharisees’ intended drama. This is meant to be as public as possible, so that Jesus’ response can be given as much publicity as possible. Of course, that approach assumes that Jesus is about to make a serious public-relations error. As it turns out, this assumption is once again false.

So, as they bring a guilty woman into the area and throw her in the middle of the crowd, they highlight Jesus’ reputation by referring to Him as “Teacher.” This is part of their intent: to be sarcastic, to try prove to the people that Jesus is not a figure worth following.

Jesus evades the trap as always

By bringing this woman into the crowd, the Pharisees are setting a trap. The challenge being issued to Jesus is more or less the same as other paradoxes and conundrums with which Jesus was presented (Matthew 16:1; 19:3; Matthew 22:35; Luke 10:25; 11:54). If Jesus agrees to stone this woman, it would greatly damage His reputation for being a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). It would also, more than likely, give the Pharisees something they can accuse Him of to the Romans (John 18:31). On the other hand, if Jesus rejects the law of Moses, the Scribes and Pharisees can write Him off as a heretic and prove their accusations against Him.

It’s like the Pharisees are trying to force Jesus into a mental chess game.
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What we know is, regardless of what Jesus actually wrote in the sand, is that Jesus successfully answers this dilemma using a principle from which all Christians can learn.

This is the difference between what we can do, and what we ought to do.

The Pharisees trap this time and all previous times never succeeded. In fact, they often wound up embarrassing the critics! Here, the Pharisees attempt to use a more dramatic approach: a real-life moral dilemma.

Jesus’ critics will abandon their attack, and the prominence it is given in the story, one has to assume His writing factored heavily into their reaction.

What he wrote is less important than the impact it had

While we don’t know what Jesus wrote, we do see how He turns the hypocrisy of these Pharisees against them. They were not wrong to seek justice under the law. However, they are clearly not following it fully, since they have only brought half of the guilty ones. And, God’s law also prioritized mercy over blind punishment (Proverbs 21:10; Zechariah 7:8–9; Matthew 23:23).

Jesus’ reaction includes several layers. Here, he points out that the law also requires the accusers to begin the stoning process. Whomever caught the woman “in the act” was supposed to initiate her death. That, in and of itself, stymies any attempt to get Jesus in trouble with Rome, since the Pharisees would have to act first. Jesus’ response also highlights another problem—a woman caught “in the act” would have been caught with a man, but the Pharisees have brought no guilty man with them.

In one fell swoop, Jesus points out that the Scribes and Pharisees are not actually interested in following the law. If they were, they’d at least follow the entire law, and not merely use it as a cheap publicity stunt. A complete submission to God means more than legalism, it also means using “right judgment” (John 7:24). Jesus’ behavior after the Pharisees leave continues this contrast. The accusing men were ignoring God’s frequent calls for His people to be merciful (Proverbs 21:10; Zechariah 7:8–9; Matthew 23:23).

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Pharisees Fail

Not only do they fail to ruin Jesus’ reputation with the people, they actually make Him look even wiser, and themselves even less holy.

The phrasing here can be interpreted to mean that Jesus and the woman are literally the only two people in this area. However, the context strongly suggests that Jesus and the woman are only alone “in the midst” of the crowd, now that the Pharisees have left. In other words, once the accusers are gone, all that is left in front of the crowd are Jesus and the adulterous woman.

Jesus’ response to the adulterous woman is valuable for our understanding of judgment, mercy, and God’s perspective on sin. Christ’s question here sets up His response in the next verse. This is an instance of forgiveness, not ignorance. Jesus is not going to claim that the woman is innocent or that her sin is trivial. On the contrary, Jesus will explicitly refer to her behavior as sinful, even as He demonstrates how mercy is meant to take precedence over retribution, even under the Old Testament law (Proverbs 21:10; Zechariah 7:8–9; Matthew 23:23).

No condemnation in Christ Jesus

What happens in this verse must be taken in its full context. Jesus does not tell the woman, “you did nothing wrong.” He does not say, “don’t worry about what you did.” Instead, Jesus simply states that He does not condemn her—which in this context refers specifically to stoning her for this particular sin—and also explicitly tells her not to sin anymore. This incident is often misapplied by those who think Christians ought never to speak out against sin. The exact opposite is true: Jesus showed this woman spectacular grace, while still holding firm in calling her adultery what it was: a moral failure which should not be repeated.

This incident serves as a useful example for Christians. The adulterous woman is morally and legally guilty.

Jesus is morally and legally perfect.

No one on earth had greater justification to kill her for her sin than Jesus did in that moment. And yet, Jesus chose not to do what He was allowed to do. Instead, He chose to do what He should do, which was to exercise “right judgment” (John 7:24), to show mercy (Proverbs 21:10; Zechariah 7:8–9; Matthew 23:23), while still speaking out against sin.

Having the right to do something does not mean it’s the best option; sometimes, the right thing to do is to be softer, gentler, and more forgiving than the world.

Judge not as the world does – judge as Jesus would. Be merciful.

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 1 comment

Live Like it’s True

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Long before the qualities of light were understood or used in surgical applications, the Bible called us to reflect God’s light. When you walk into a room and flick on the switch, the light reveals what is in the room. People count on the darkness to cover their actions and keep their sins a secret.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  Ephesians 5:6-9

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Reflection of God’s Light

Do not be startled when people react to you, or even accuse you of being judgemental when you haven’t said a word. This can be a confirmation of the reality that you are reflecting God’s light. Just as someone shared God’s love with you, this is an opportunity to tell them about God’s mercy and forgiveness.

That’s the Truth.

When we are afraid that there is no solution, revealing our sins can be terrifying. As a person of the light, you have a message that God already knows everything. We are trying to hide, but He has made a way for us to be restored through Jesus.

In the Scripture from Paul above you’ll read a warning. His readers not to participate in the things that hinder being on mission for God.

People of light

We are often referred to as “people of light,” meaning God is using us, our lives, to light the way for others toward truth. Toward love. Toward a relationship with Jesus. But, we must be on guard against our old ways of living that dim our light.

Is there someone in your life who insists on trying to excuse their sins? What do you think your reaction should be?

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16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Keep Our Light Bright!

Psalm 15 shares some practical ways we can keep our light bright. David encourages the us to dwell with God humbly. To spend time in His presence and to choose to live a life that reflects God’s nature.

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

God has created us to be cyclical. The reality is that when we want to grow closer to God, we choose to worship Him. We want to spend time talking to Him and listening to His wisdom. As we worship God, as we seek His presence, we are empowered to live out what He has shown us. As you fall more and more in love with God, you crave to do what is right.

It’s not a matter of getting “good enough” to come into God’s presence. It’s more about recognising that when you spend time with God, your life reflects it.

We won’t want to gossip or physically harm others. We’ll stand firm in our mission even when facing opposition. And we’ll live with integrity—even when there is a cost. When we have spent time with God, we’ll want to share His truth and love with others. 

Take a moment to consider whether this list could be used to describe you. Why or why not? Is there one element you want to work on today?

The Struggle Is Real

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25

I think all of us would admit we struggle with believing the truth sometimes, no matter how clear it is to those around us. The headlines are full of stories about models who felt ugly, billionaires who doubted they were truly successful, and incredibly talented comedians, entertainers, and inventors who felt like their best was never enough.

Living in a broken world means we, too, might need some assurances about truth, love, hope, strength, courage, and salvation. 

The Scripturebfrom James reminds us that when we find ourselves forgetting about God’s goodness and faithfulness , or when we’re struggling to believe our value in Him, we can turn to the Bible and see a reflection that is not only accurate, but one that will remain with us. As followers of Jesus, who continually learn more and more about truth, we see the importance of obeying God’s Word, not just listening to  it.

Be doers of His Word

As encouraging as the Lord’s assurances are for those who follow Him, there are also assurances for those who do not. The Bible  warns us about apathy of people who call themselves followers of Christ but don’t put God’s Word into daily practice. 

Many people emotionally connect with God’s Word and listen to it and would say they believe it, but they don’t actually obey it. 

They fool themselves. These are serious passages about living a life based on God’s truth.

How do you need God’s perfect law to set you free today? How will your life change to reflect this freedom?

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The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

Build your life on the Rock that is Jesus!

That’s the Truth.

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