Summary: In the face of guilt, condemnation and judgment, Jesus speaks words of grace and transformation.

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Title: Guilt and Grace

Text: John 8:1-11

Thesis: In the face of guilt, condemnation and judgment… Jesus speaks words of grace and transformation.


An attorney tells the story of a man who died. Speaking to the widow he said, “Your husband did not leave a will so we need to know the last words he said to you.” She replied, “I really don’t want to tell.” The attorney persisted, “Look, he did not leave a will so it is important that we know what his last intentions were.” Again she said, “No, I don’t want to tell you. It was between the two of us.” With a bit more urgency the attorney pressed on, “Please, I beg you; tell us what his last words were.” “Okay, I’ll tell you. The last thing he said to me was, ‘You don’t scare me. You couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with that old gun.’”

You could say, “They caught her red-handed.” You could say, “She was guilty as charged.”

The same could be said of the woman in our text today.

I. Guilty as charged

As Jesus was speaking the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery.” John 8:3-4

Our story today is one of those classic “sex sells” stories. We are well informed regarding the FBI investigation into a seemingly unrelated issue that led to an e-mail trail that revealed the ongoing saga of CIA Director David Petraeus’ extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell. They were caught “red-handed.” (The term “caught red-handed” has Scottish origins. The allusion is that when a person is caught with blood on his hands after a murder or a wildlife poaching, he has been caught red-handed. For example, “If he is not caught red-handed” or “with blood on his hands” the sheriff cannot arrest him.”) Our story today centers around a woman who was caught red-handed, in the act of adultery.

This whole scenario reeks of injustice. The accusers were not so much concerned with upholding the law as they were about trapping Jesus into saying something they could use against him. They were not nice men and they were willing to make a public spectacle of and humiliate a woman… even stone the woman to death if need be.

The law stipulated no one could simply be accused of adultery and stoned to death… the law required that there be two eye-witnesses. (A husband could not just accuse his wife and get her stoned…)

Additionally, the Jewish Law stipulated that in the case of adultery… if it happened within the town, both the man and the woman were to be taken to the city gates and stoned to death. The man for obvious reasons and the woman for not screaming for help. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 (The assumption was, if she did not scream for help then the act of adultery was consensual. Interestingly, if the act of adultery had taken place in the country the man could be charged and the woman not charged because there would not have been anyone near enough to hear her calls for help.)

The woman was guilty as charged. There were two witnesses who had caught her in the act. Unfortunately, in that culture the woman was to be blamed as the instigators and lacking in moral fiber in upholding the law. It was a throw-back to the Garden of Eden when Adam defended his actions saying, “The woman made me do it!”

The law is somewhat reminiscent of Congressman Todd Akins’ comments to the effect that women’s bodies have ways of preventing pregnancies in cases of “legitimate rape.” If the woman is truly taken advantage of she will not get pregnant… so if she gets pregnant the act was consensual.

And if that were not injustice enough, where was the man? He too was caught in the act of adultery. The law stipulated that both the man and the woman are to be charged. Not exactly fair…

Illustration: When I was a young person we would occasionally hear of a pastor requiring a young woman who became pregnant to confess hers sin to the congregation and ask their forgiveness. And so she would tearfully stand before her church family and dutifully confess her sin as did Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. Though she did not have to wear a big, scarlet letter “A” sewn on allher dresses as did Hester Prynne, she was a marked young woman. So where was the guy while she bore the brunt of the guilt and shame?

We can only imagine the depths of that woman’s humiliation and dread. And it would seem that her fate rested in the hands of Jesus.

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