Text: John 8:2-11 — Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. (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. (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 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.“]]
Introduction: (From Reader’s Digest July/Aug, 2016 — Colin Ryan — That Time My 5th Grade Classmate Stood Up to My Bullies and Became My Hero) When Colin Ryan was in the 5th grade, he really didn’t think too much about what others thought of him. But when he moved on to middle school, well…that was another story completely. He writes in Readers Digest about his transition to the 6th grade, “…All of a sudden, it was clear there were only two options. I could somehow be cool, or I could somehow be invisible. And I have to say, I was doing pretty well at option two. Until third period on the first day, when a teacher had us fill out a questionnaire with “get to know you” questions. I assumed that she would be reading them privately, so I felt safe to share from the perspective of the … little snowflake that I was. The teacher collected the sheets, shuffled them, and redistributed them to the class. We went one by one. We’d read the student’s name and then our three favorite answers. My sheet ended up in the hands of a kid who was one of the coolest and meanest. His “favorite answers” of mine were the three worst ones to be read out loud. The first question was “What’s your favorite movie?” The other kids wrote Scream and Universal Soldier. I remember thinking, We’re 11! How are you seeing R-rated movies? He read my answer, Beauty and the Beast . A laugh erupted from the room, and my cheeks burned because I knew we were just getting started. The next question he read was “Where would you like to travel?” The others had said “Australia,” “Japan.” I wrote “Wherever a book takes me.” The laughter this time had an explosive quality to it. The kids were high-fiving. The final question was “What do you like to do on the weekends?” The other kids wrote “Hang out with friends” and “go to the mall.” I wrote “perform with Clowns for Christ.” Those who weren’t laughing at me were sort of staring at me in disgust. I felt about an inch tall. I remember fixating on my Trapper Keeper binder and trying to figure out if I could somehow disappear inside it. But then, something amazing happened. A voice from the back of the room said, “Guys, cut it out.” And the room went silent. The voice belonged to Michelle Siever, and Michelle Siever was popular and cool. Michelle Siever had sway. The room was quiet. But Michelle wasn’t done. She turned to the teacher and said, “Why are you letting this happen? What is the point if we’re just gonna make fun of each other?” I don’t remember the teacher or the kids’ names, but I remember Michelle Siever’s name. I remember how it felt when she spoke up for me because she showed me that day that we actually have three options. You can be cool, and you might be remembered for a little while. You can be invisible, and you won’t be remembered at all. But if you stand up for somebody when they need you most, then you will be remembered as their hero for the rest of their life. For the better part of two months we have been looking at reasons why Christians for the past two millennia have called Jesus Savior and Lord. With so many religions claiming to be the source of eternal truth, how did we happen to settle on Christ as the ultimate desire of the human soul? If you’re interested in my previous seven responses to “Why Jesus?” you can go to our website at riverridgewi.com and read, watch or listen to any of them. Today I want to propose yet another good reason for people to follow Jesus. It’s because He is our defender. According to one online dictionary a defender is someone who defends someone or something from harm or danger. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels provides us with several examples of Jesus taking on the role of defender for someone under attack. Today, I want to focus on the woman from the passage I read only a few moments ago in John 8. If you spend some time thinking about her story it becomes apparent fairly quickly that she was in dire need of a defender, someone who could protect her from all kinds of bad consequences. Join me now as we consider four words that describe her situation, the first three of which help us to grasp just how dire her situation was.
GUILTY. There was really no way around it. The woman was, after all, caught in the act of adultery which was prohibited by the 7th commandment God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai — You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). So this wasn’t simply someone making an accusation with no evidence to support the claim. This was one of those cases where the evidence was overwhelming. We have to assume there were at least a two witnesses and that’s all that was required by the law (Deuteronomy 19:15 — One witness shall not rise up against any man, whatsoever the sin or wickedness be: but in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand). With the scribes being the teachers of the law, I’m sure they saw this as an open and shut case.
ALONE. She was alone when they brought her to Jesus. Now this has a couple of implications for us. First, it wasn’t as if she had a defense attorney to plead her case and, using today’s lingo … request a plea bargain to a lesser charge. No — she was all by herself as she stood in their midst. Second, she was alone even though the story says she was caught in the act of adultery. This means there were two people who were breaking the law of God together. We are not given the reason why the man was not also brought forward. Some suggest that the Pharisees engineered a trap for the woman, but allowed the man to leave. If they were in fact laying in wait so they could witness the entire illicit affair (which was required to convict someone), then they should have warned the woman beforehand to act consistently with their own rule — no penalty without a warning. However, none of that happened, and the woman was left to stand before her judges and the Lord all by herself.
DESPERATE. This woman was in deep trouble. The offense of adultery in the Old Testament was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10 — If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife — both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death). Evidently the woman must have been a virgin pledged to be married to another man, because this was the only instance of adultery that called for death by stoning (See Deuteronomy 22:23-24). She had committed a capital offense and it seemed that her accusers were bent on carrying out the sentence. Application: GUILTY/ALONE/DESPERATE. It’s hard to imagine a more desperate scene than this one. And if it resulted in the witnesses picking up the first stones to hurl at her, the woman had to know that she was only getting what she deserved according to the holy and righteous Law of God. Imagine the tension of the moment…so thick you could have cut it with a knife. As the woman’s life hung in the balance, Jesus decided to take charge and when He did, everything changed. This brings us to our fourth word.
SAVED. The woman was saved from near certain death. Listen…Jesus could have chosen not to respond. Obviously the scribes and Pharisees were testing Him. I doubt they cared very much what happened to the woman. They just knew that however the Lord answered their question — “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” — someone was going to be deeply troubled by His response. If Jesus agreed that she should be stoned, the Romans would have been outraged since they alone had authority to sentence someone to death. If you remember, that’s why they had to get permission of Pilate, the Roman Governor, before they could crucify the Lord. Roman law was the only standard by which a person could be condemned to death. If, on the other hand, Jesus disagreed with the scribes and Pharisees who said she committed a capital offense, then He would have been seen as an offender of the law of God. Talk about a predicament! Most people would have kept their mouths shut. That would have been the easy thing to do. But Jesus was not known for taking the easy way out of anything. He understood that the whole thing was a sham and her accusers cared nothing for the woman or for the law. They just wanted to put the Lord in a no-win situation. And that’s why He chose to come to her defense. At first Jesus didn’t say a word. He simply bent down and wrote something in the sand. The Bible doesn’t tell us what it said. Some conjecture that He wrote a verse from the Old Testament. Perhaps it was Exodus 23:1 — You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. Others think He might have written the names of her accusers who had also had illicit sexual relations with the woman. Then Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Still no one moved, so He wrote something else on the ground. And then we’re told that slowly the older men walked away followed by the younger until Jesus and the woman were all alone. That’s when the Lord turned to her and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she replied. And that’s when Jesus said these often quoted words — “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Imagine the relief that woman must have felt knowing that she would live to see another sunrise! And the gratitude she felt toward Jesus! Had He not defended her, had He not saved her, she would have suffered a terrible death.
Application: Four words that sum up the story of this woman — GUILTY — ALONE — DESPERATE — SAVED! Now as we bring this message to a close, allow me to share another angle on this whole thing. In my study this week I discovered that the Hebrew word for “redeemer” is occasionally translated as “defender” (See Proverbs 23:11 NIV) because they both have the idea of coming to one’s rescue. And it makes sense that that’s what Jesus did for the woman caught in adultery. But did you know that He has also done the same for each of us? He has come to our defense by redeeming us. This He did when He purchased us from being slaves to sin by his shed blood on the cross of Calvary so that we might become servants of God (See Romans 6:20-22). He rescued us from sure and certain eternal death and, boy, did we ever need it! You see the Bible says that we actually share much in common with the woman caught in the act of adultery. Like her …
- We are guilty before the Lord. The word means to be “brought to trial — to be under judgment.” Scripture says that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ — Romans 3:23. We may try to minimize our sin or think that we can offset it with the good that we do, but God never approaches it this way. When we do what He commands us not to do or fail to do what He commands, we are guilty of sin. And by the way, we should all be reminded that there is no such thing as secret sin that can be hidden from the Lord. Not when the Bible tells us — The Lord sees what happens everywhere. He watches everyone, good and evil (Proverbs 15:3); His eyes are on the ways of men and He considers all their steps (Job 34:21); And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13). The one thing mankind shares in common is that we are all guilty of sin.
- We stand alone before the Lord. Like the woman who faced her accusers alone and could offer no defense for violating God’s law, we also stand alone before the Holy, Righteous and Just God of the universe with no way to defend ourselves. We have no excuse to offer and no one else on whom we can pin the blame for our own sinful choices.
- We are desperate before the Lord. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). In the Bible the term death is not merely used to describe the cessation of human life — as in physical death. It is also used to describe spiritual death — or separation from God. This is how it is used in Ephesians 2:1 — And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked following the course of this world. This is the condition into which each of was born as sons of Adam. The Apostle Paul says it like this in Romans 5:12 — …sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. We come into the world with an inherited sin nature that places each of us in a desperate situation. We know we’ve done wrong and we know God would be right in putting us to death for all eternity.
- We can be saved by the Lord. What Jesus did for the woman in coming to her defense and saving her from death, He is also willing to do for each of us. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate (Defender) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” When we put our faith and trust in His sacrifice on the cross, we no longer are condemned by God’s holy law. We are forgiven of our sin and declared to be righteous. In fact, if anyone would dare bring a charge against us, Jesus is there as our defender, our redeemer to keep us from suffering harm. Having offered His life for ours, we are now free from the penalty and power of sin and able to enjoy a new life no longer encumbered by sin.
Conclusion: More than a decade ago (2005), Shin Dong-hyuk, became the only person to ever escape from a “total-control zone” internment camp in North Korea and live to tell the tale. Because Shin was born in the prison, he knew no other life. In his mind, the entire world was Camp 14, and there were only two types of people in the world: prisoners and guards. You were born as one or the other, and you lived your entire life that way. He later said that he never considered escape because he always assumed that “the society outside the camp would be similar to that inside the camp.” Every day, Shin was told what to do and he did it. For twenty-three years, he was always hungry and tired from daily hard labor. But Shin said everything changed in one day. A new prisoner named Park was brought to Camp 14, and with him came tales of a different world on the other side of the electric fence. He talked about living in cities and traveling to China. But one particular thing Park talked about defined freedom in Shin Dong-hyuk’s mind more than anything else: broiled chicken. Park told him that outside the electrified fence of his world was another world where you could eat broiled chicken—and you could eat it anytime you wanted. Shin had never eaten chicken. But he knew what chicken tasted like: freedom. This quest for broiled chicken led Shin and Park to attempt to escape over the electrified fence. Park went first and touched the fence whereupon he immediately died. An untold number of volts coursed through his body and stopped his heart. (But miraculously) his body draped the fence and became a bridge over which Shin was able to climb to freedom. That day the only person to ever escape from [a “total-control zone” internment camp in North Korea] lived to tell the tale. Shin Dong-hyuk is no longer a prisoner. Because of a friend whose dead body created a bridge from slavery to freedom, he now lives in South Korea and enjoys new life where he can eat broiled chicken whenever he wants. Jesus volunteered for duty to go to the cross and die for us so that through faith in Him we could be saved.
If you wonder why Christians follow Jesus, just look to the woman at the well who discovered that He is the defender and redeemer of all who put their trust in Him.