Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
As we continue on in John, we need to keep his purpose in mind. John had people in mind that he was writing to, and he was hoping that these stories about Jesus would help them understand who Christ is and invite them into a relationship with Jesus.
John had experienced and lived these stories. He saw how these stories impacted himself and others--life changing moments that were so impactful that he couldn't help but invite others in.
He put words and experiences together with the themes he had seen in Jesus’ life. He couldn't include every story, miracle, and moment, but he included what he believed to be the most important. The moments that most deepend his own understanding are the stories that he shared and that have been preserved over time for us.
Along with the lived experience, there was also John’s understanding of Biblical history, his endless hyperlinks and the connections he made between Jesus and Biblical characters.
As we start processing today, why do stories focus our attention? In class, in church, in any teaching moment, things could be presented as lists of things you need to know, or as facts and figures. How does that feel? But then if a story is shared, that’s different. Why does a story have so much power and pull?
Why are stories powerful in building relationships?
One of the most important things I’ve realized about my own stories is that, as powerful as they are, they don’t have the power to carry you through the rest of your life. The most powerful stories in my own life haven’t sustained me moving forward. They’re things I can look back on in amazement, but I still have life to live now and decisions to make now. I don’t want to be stuck in the past with either the good or the bad.
Stuck in the bad past can make me think there’s no hope moving forward.
Stuck in the good past can cause me to look back when I’m experiencing hardship now and think “if I could just go back to that one moment.”
But we see God and Jesus through scripture showing up in different ways in each unique moment or situation.
There is a disconnection between the early hearers and us today. Time has passed, culture has shifted, languages have come and gone. Translations, retellings, commentaries and sermons and writings all try to give insight into what John is communicating in these stories.
We’ve already talked about John’s objective in writing his letter that we’ve been talking about for the last 13 weeks, but just zoom out for a moment and have this conversation.
What do you think John’s purpose in writing these letters are? As we’ve been in our series, how have you seen John’s objective playing out?
This part of John we are having conversation in today hasn’t been found in the earliest manuscripts of the text. It could have been just missing; it could have been part of an oral teaching that was added later; we don't really know.
Next week we'll be diving into the remainder of chapter 8, and an important precedent is set in this narrative today, the precedent of multiple witnesses. Next week we will dig into the complex claims that Jesus makes that His Father, God, is His witness.
John is walking us through this process of relationship with Jesus, moving from seeing Jesus as a special guy or someone who is different, to seeing Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. We want to move Jesus’ identity from being intellectual to being practical and relational.
So here’s the story.
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11)
They bring a woman who was caught in the act of adultery before Jesus. By the religious law of the day, this was considered a death sentence. She would have been stoned to death for her failures. This alone is difficult to wrap my brain around. Sure, I don't think adultery is a good thing, but a death sentence seems a bit brutal.
Here is this moment of self-righteousness. We are going to go deeper into this, but process this part of it first: how does self-righteousness cloud how a person sees others?
How have you seen self-righteousness hinder a person's ability to have a relationship with others?
They bring this woman to Jesus and tell Him what she did. They reveal her shame publicly and ask Jesus what they should do.
This moment was not about justice or about this woman’s life. This moment is about the religious authorities trying to entrap Jesus.
They hope that He will do one of two things. Either He affirms their authority and understanding of the law and sides with them, agreeing this woman should be stoned, or He goes against the law and essentially blasphemes, forfeiting His claims as the Messiah.
So how does Jesus respond?
“The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.”
Jesus invites them to place the judgment they are having upon this woman upon themselves instead. He is inviting the self righteous to be self reflective.
They came into this question on their high horses and with the anticipation of both condemning this woman and Jesus, but Jesus invites them to evaluate themselves first.
Remember the conversation about the impact of self-righteousness on the ability to see value in others.
How have you seen self-righteousness hinder a person's ability to have a relationship with God?
We are going to end pretty abruptly with a complex conversation that needs to be processed. Here is this moment, Jesus is grace. He doesn’t stone the woman. He doesn’t stone the Pharisees.
But conviction is still part of the story.
The religious authorities feel conviction and “those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”
The woman caught in the act of adultery is told by Jesus, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John is not done. We are not done. The objective is that we would walk in the process of seeing Jesus as the Messiah. This isn’t a pass/fail, yes/no, one-and-done thing. It is a process. And the objective is that we would see that there is life in relationship with Jesus.
And so we continue in the process of John and now I invite you to dig deep into this. Self-righteousness is an option. It has a huge impact on how we see others and how we see God. But on the other side of the spectrum is conviction and experiencing grace.
Think about the different perspectives in this narrative and how often we can identify with them:
The Pharisees--in their best intention moments, AND in their worst manipulative moments.
The woman caught in adultery--in the moment when she’s set up and has no help to turn to, or when all she’s experienced is being used by men and used by a system, AND in the moment where she’s made a mistake and is just fearful of retribution.
We’ve all experienced one or more of these perspectives. But Jesus invites us to experience something different.
In the moment of self righteousness, experience a focus shift to look at yourself. In the moment of self condemnation, experience a focus shift to look at Jesus.
And in the moment where it’s easy to just react as we humans normally do, instead ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk like Jesus and to be one who, in full humility, stands up for the one who doesn’t have a voice or is being manipulated, and to communicate the truth of freedom in Him.
How does experiencing conviction and grace impact your ability to have a relationship with God and others?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read John 8:1-11
- When you were a child, were you ever tattled on or did you ever tattle on someone else?
- What was motivating the pharisees to bring the woman before Jesus?
- How does the way Jesus treated this woman help you face your sins?
- How does the way Jesus treated the religious authorities face your sins?
- Why is it easy to ignore our own shortcomings and focus on the shortcomings of others?
- How do you see Jesus responding to people trying to entrap Him today?
Bible Reading Plan:
- Exodus 24
- Exodus 25
- Exodus 26
- John 7
- John 8
- John 9