Summary: Sermon on Forgiveness by Jesus.
The apostle Paul says: But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment (1 Cor 11:31).
They came before the son of God and asked him to pass judgment. I am not sure they knew what they were doing. This was the son of God, the creator of heaven and earth, the omnipotent, the one with all power over life and death. He appeared as a human being with no obvious power, but he was the one who could silence the storm and the sea and who could raise the dead. He is the omniscient, the one with all knowledge about every creature, about their thoughts and deeds. They came to him and asked: will you please pass judgment.
Sometimes we think like that, don’t we? When we have an argument with someone. Maybe someone at work. Maybe someone in our family. If only there were an impartial judge that knew everything about this argument I am having and its prehistory, then I would be vindicated. If only there were someone who knew about all the things I had to take into consideration and who knew why I acted the way I did and who also knew how unjustly I am being treated by this person with whom I am having this argument. Then this impartial, all-knowing judge would surely say that I am in the right. If only there were someone who knew it all.
I remember when I was a young man, when I was an undergraduate student. Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember so far back into the past, so I can’t guarantee that all the details that I’ll tell you are accurate. Anyway, I lived in the dorms at the time, and there was a lot of social activity going on. There was especially one girl that liked to prepare some good tasting food and have people over. And for some reason, I usually got to be invited too. And I always gladly accepted. Later in the year, it was my birthday and I decided that I wanted to invite some people myself. So I invited a few of my friends, but not this girl whose hospitality I had been enjoying for quite a period of time. When she found out about this she got a little upset and let me hear about it.
This incident made me think about why I had not invited her in the first place. And the reason stood clear in my mind: I did not think that she was good enough to be brought together with my friends. Of course, I never had any doubts that I was good enough to be brought together with her friends. But she was not good enough for my company.
But what became so clear to me was that in passing a judgment on her, I really condemned myself. My attitude was revealed as egocentric and self-righteous.
In a way this pathetic incident reminds me of our text for today. Those who were interested in passing a judgment on someone else were the ones that were condemned. They did not know what they were doing when they came to Jesus, the one that knows everything about us, everything that we have done, everything that we have said, everything that we have thought, everything that we have wished, he knows it all. They came to him and asked for judgment. And they got it. It was just that the judgment was the exact opposite of what they had anticipated. Instead of passing a judgment on the woman, as they had expected, Jesus turns the tables and directs the judgment against themselves:
“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Now they had to answer for themselves. Not only for their actions but for their heart.
To the woman, who was caught in the act, with no way to escape, Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” Very often I think that we are not getting the full impact of this. These verses from the Bible are very often quoted and they are very often used to say that we need not take sins and trespasses so seriously. Because there is no condemnation.
But wait a minute. How many sinless persons were present at this incident? Obviously, no one, except Jesus himself. How many sinners were present? Obviously, quite a few. To how many was it said: neither do I condemn you? Only one.
Imagine the woman. She was caught in the act of adultery. There was no denying the fact. And the law of God was crystal clear: the one that does this, shall die. When the scribes brought this woman to Jesus, it was one of their vicious ways of presenting him with an impossible dilemma. Jesus claimed to be coming from God, not only that, but to be the son of God. If he said anything other than passing a death sentence on the woman, he would be caught in contradicting the very word of God. And how would that square with him being the son of God?