Summary: Sermon contrasts Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultry with the Pharisees interaction with her. How should the church deal with sinners?
Interacting with Sinners
This morning we are going to minister from the first 11 verses of John 8.
How many of you have a New International Version?
If you do, you will find a comment inserted by the translators concerning this passage that says, “The earlier manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11). Some translations put the verses in brackets and at least one even puts it at the end of the gospel of John. Some have placed it at Luke 21:38.
I want to address that comment because I don’t want anyone to interpret it to mean that the authenticity of this story is in question. This is a true story in the life of Jesus and inspired by the Holy Spirit. However, it was probably not written by John. The way it is written, the style, the choice of Greek words, strongly suggest that someone other than John wrote it.
That understanding is the result of an area of Biblical studies called
“Textual Criticism.” In textual criticism scholars examine the many hundreds of manuscripts of scripture and compare them with one another to determine what the original said. You probably know that we don’t have any of the original works of the Biblical writers. Then how do we know that the Bible is true? The short answer to that is the hundreds upon hundreds of independent copies made by scribes preserving the work.
There is very little inconsistency in what was copied. And the inconsistencies are usually rather inconsequential like this one. When I first realized some of the issues of textual criticism I was a little uneasy. But once you understand what is going on your confidence in the Bible is actually stronger rather than weaker. The preservation of the scriptures is an amazing, supernatural work of God.
These translators are not questioning whether this actually happened in the life of Jesus or whether it should be in the Bible. The only question is where it goes in the Bible. Since the conflict between Jesus and the religious rulers found in this story is consistent with this season in Jesus’ ministry we will treat the text as it is placed in John 8.
Follow with me as we read John 8:1-11
This woman’s experience with the religious right of Jesus’ day was every sinner’s worst nightmare. Why do unbelievers avoid the church? Some avoid the church because they are afraid that this is the way they will be treated. And they have some justification for those fears because some have been treated this way.
You would be surprised if I told you the many times when people have wanted me to publicly expose someone’s sin before the congregation. The idea was that if we would do that other people would be afraid to continue in their sin. In reality they would just be afraid to continue in church. There is teaching in the Bible for public confrontation of bold, defiant sin. 1 Tim 5:19-20 “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” (NIV) But that kind of action is only warranted when the offender is openly defying the church’s authority with their sin. Like the woman in our story, most people are ashamed of their sin and know its wrong. They are not defiant but humiliated by their failure.
This woman worst nightmare became her dream come true when she encountered Jesus.
His treatment of this sinner stands in total contrast to the way the Pharisees were treating her. That contrast is full of instruction for you and me as to how we are to treat sinners.
I. First, consider with me the Pharisee’s interaction with this woman.
They really don’t care about her at all. They are not trying to help her overcome her sin.
They are simply using her for their own purposes. Perhaps this woman has been used and abused by men all her life—used for their own lustful purposes. But in some ways this abuse is worse. These are supposed to be the shepherds of God’s flock. These men are supposed to be laying down their lives for the sheep. But instead they are trying to take her life. They have no sensitivity whatsoever as to how this is all impacting her. She is just a means to an end.
Lev 20:10 commanded the death penalty for adultery, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” NIV
However, it was only to be administered at the testimony of at least two eyewitnesses and both the man and the woman were to be executed.