The Adulterous Woman

Text: John 8:2-11


I.         People rarely want their sins pointed out.

            A.        It should be understandable. We want to think well of ourselves and have others think well of us also.

            B.        The common response to rebuke is to attack the messenger - Proverbs 15:32

            C.        You’ll hear people inappropriately quote, “Judge not ...” - Matthew 7:1

                        1.         The fact that they are making a judgment to make this statement doesn’t cross their minds.

            D.        Or “Him who is without sin cast the first stone” - John 8:7

                        1.         Sometimes it is shorted to “You shouldn’t cast stones.”

                        2.         The implication is that we all sin; therefore, you can’t condemn what people do.

            E.        Let’s look at what happened in John 8 to understand it better.

II.        A side comment about the passage

            A.        John 7:53-8:11 is not in many of the early manuscripts. Sinaticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and Ephraemi are all missing this section.

            B.        It isn’t that the passage was unknown.

                        1.         The Bezae manuscript does have it, though it is not considered a reliable manuscript

                        2.         While the Vaticanus doesn’t have it, there is a mark indicating there is an alternative reading at this point.

                        3.         The Syriac Didascalia Apostolorum, dated about A.D. 200-250 says, “...for you do not obey our Savior and our God, to do as He also did with her that had sinned, whom the elders set before Him, and leaving the judgment in His hands, departed. But He, the searcher of hearts, asked her and said to her, 'Have the elders condemned thee, my daughter?' She said to Him, 'No, Lord.' And He said unto her, 'Go your way; neither do I condemn thee.' In Him therefore, our Savior and King and God, be your pattern, O bishops." [Didascalia Apostolorum, VII.ii.23]

                        4.         There are numerous references to the passage in Christian writings dating from the A.D. 300s.

                        5.         Jerome (A.D. 417) mentioned that it was in many manuscripts in both Greek and Latin.

            C.        Augustine, I believe gives a clue as to the problem.

                        1.         He stated that some skipped the passage to avoid the idea that Christ sanctioned adultery.

                        2.         “Certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith, fearing, I suppose, lest their wives should be given impunity in sinning, removed from their manuscripts the Lord's act of forgiveness toward the adulteress, as if he who had said, Sin no more, had granted permission to sin” [Augustine, De Adulterinis Conjugiis 2:6–7].

            D.        What we might have is an early “editing” that influenced many manuscripts.

                        1.         Some speculate that it might actually had been a part of Matthew and got moved

            E.        Other evidence

                        1.         Nothing in this passage contradicts the rest of the Bible

                        2.         It contains all the traits of a genuine eyewitness account

                        3.         It is attributed as inspired by the early quoters.

                        4.         Its acceptance was widespread, though not complete in the early church

            F.        Despite the questions, it is solidly seen as genuine.

III.       The account

            A.        It was early in the morning on the day after the Feast of Booths. Jesus was in the temple. People began to gather around him, so he sat down and began to teach the people.

            B.        The Scribes and Pharisees took this as an opportunity to test Jesus - John 8:3-5

                        1.         When Rome took control of Palestine, they issued an edict that no death penalties could be issued without their permission - John 18:31

                        2.         If Jesus said the woman should be put to death, then the Pharisees would go to the Romans and report that Jesus was violating their laws.

                        3.         If Jesus let the woman go, then they would claim that he wasn’t upholding the Law of Moses.

            C.        As Jesus often did, he did not do what was expected. He ignored them.

            D.        Instead of answering, he wrote on the ground with his finger - John 8:6

                        1.         People have long wondered what Jesus wrote, but there is no way to guess what was not recorded.

                        2.         So why mention it?

                        3.         By focusing on his writing instead of the accusers, he caused the Scribes and Pharisees to get angry. They insisted that Jesus answer.

                        4.         That delay showed that Jesus was only answer at their insistence. He wasn’t volunteering the information.

                                    a.         This is important because the Law required that judges make decisions in legal matters - Deuteronomy 16:18

                                    b.         Jesus was a judge, but not one the Jews recognized - Luke 12:15

                                    c.         Their insistence shows that they were insisting Jesus become their judge.

            E.        His pronouncement? - John 8:7

                        1.         He then went back to ignoring them.

                        2.         The statement does not mean that only sinless men could uphold the law. If that were true, there would never be judges - Romans 3:23

            F.        The Law required that the witnesses cast the first stone in a death penalty - Deuteronomy 17:7

                        1.         Jesus said that if the men who brought the woman and the charges were guiltless in this matter, then they should carry out the law.

                        2.         There is a subtle implication, Jesus is basically agreeing that the woman was guilty of adultery

                        3.         But Jesus put the decision of whether to follow Moses’ Law or Roman Law back on the shoulders of the Pharisees and the Scribes. They became trapped by their own snare

            G.        But there is more going on here that is often missed

                        1.         The men clearly stated that they caught the woman in the very act of adultery.

                        2.         So where is the man?

                        3.         The Law requires that both the man and woman be stoned for adultery - Deuteronomy 22:22

                        4.         The fact that they only brought the woman and not the man demonstrates that they were not guiltless. They were hiding someone from the consequences of his sin.

            H.        And they knew it! Beginning with the oldest and wisest, they slipped away - John 8:9

                        1.         It dawned on them that not only could they not make the difficult decision to violate the Roman law to uphold the Mosaical Law, they realized they had no case because of their own duplicity.

                        2.         This then illustrates what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:1-5

                        3.         They were trying to prove that Jesus would not uphold the law while they were not upholding it themselves

            I.         After a while only Jesus and the accused woman were left - John 8:10

                        1.         The fact that all the accusers had left is an important point. The law requires that two or three witnesses are necessary to carry out a death penalty - Deuteronomy 17:6

                        2.         Jesus knew the woman was guilty of adultery, but he asked where her accusers were – the witnesses to the crime

                        3.         She acknowledged that there were none there to accuse her

            J.         Jesus stated that he would not condemn her either. She was free to go, but she must stop her sinful ways - John 8:11

                        1.         Jesus was talking about the death penalty, not the charge of sin.

                        2.         Jesus said the woman had sin. It was a fact that they both knew was true. He told her to stop.

                        3.         The implication is if she would change, she would be forgiven - Ezekiel 18:21-23

IV.      Neither Matthew 7:1-5 or this passage is saying that others can’t point out sins.

            A.        Both are saying that those trying to straighten out the sin in others have to first look at themselves - Galatians 6:1-2

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