Monday, October 31, 2016

 

Exposed--John 8:1-11

On September 18, I had the honor of preaching at Gospel Community Church in Lynchburg, Va. My sermon was on John 8:1-11 and the woman caught in adultery. I entitled the sermon "Exposed". You can find a link to watch the sermon here: Exposed--John 8:1-11. The notes from the sermon are below (and I should note that I read several sermons and commentaries in preparing this material. I am grateful for their wisdom and help). Thanks for reading!

Exposed 
John 8:1-11

Technical Issues: If you have a modern translation of the Bible (i.e., after the KJV), then you will likely find this account in a footnote or in brackets. Many scholars feel that it has been inserted into the Gospel of John at this point. In many ancient manuscripts it is found in different places. Some place it at the end of the Gospel of John (or in other locations in John); some place it after Luke 21; and some omit it entirely. As a result, there is some question as to whether this account really occurred at the time we find it in John's gospel. Scholars generally agree, however, that this event did actually occur, and that it was part of our Lord's ministry. It may be put here in John because it illustrates so well the statement of Jesus in Chapter 7, "Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment." (John 7:24 HCSB). Suffice it to say, even though John may not have written this story, the consensus of scholarship and the early church is that this location is best. So we will deal with this passage as an inspired text that provides some kind of insight into how John presents Jesus in this Gospel.

Introduction—Numbers 32:23 “. . .  behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.”

Luke 12:2-3: “There is nothing covered that won't be uncovered, nothing hidden that won't be made known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”

Proverbs 28:13 “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.”

A story of someone being unexpectedly “exposed” as a fraud. Sam Hurd: “He seemed like a great guy, quoting the bible and always friendly,” said an official with the Chicago Bears—the last team to which the former wide receiver Sam Hurd was signed. Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Sam Hurd was a state football star in high school and a standout at Northern Illinois University, placing in the top five in many of the categories in their receiving records. In 2006, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys. He was released five years later and signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears in July 2011. In December 2011, Hurd sent shockwaves through the NFL when he was arrested after purchasing cocaine from an undercover agent, set up by his friend and an informant at a Chicago steakhouse. Hurd was a man with bible scriptures tattooed on his torso and a drug baron who made an alleged $700,000 per week. According to the official affidavit, a man connected to Hurd’s drug trafficking referred to as “T.L.” set up many deals with and for Hurd. Police found $88,000 cash and marijuana in a car T.L. was operating during a routine traffic stop. T.L. said that the car and money were not his and that it all belonged to Hurd, claiming that he performed routine maintenance on his cars. The authorities seized the money and released T.L., who later tried to broker a deal with an informant on Hurd’s behalf to traffic 5-10 kilograms (11-12 lb) of cocaine and 450 kilograms (1,000 lb) of marijuana per week. Authorities met Hurd at the steakhouse, where Hurd told the undercover agents that he currently trafficked 4 kilograms (9 lb) per week in Chicago. The undercover agent provided Hurd with a kilogram (2 lb) of cocaine and left the steakhouse. Hurd was arrested once he left the restaurant. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013. (from http://listverse.com/2014/10/29/10-people-who-lived-shocking-and-conflicting-double-lives/)

“Be sure your sin will find you out . . .” God reminds us in his word that taking a path opposite of what he wants will result in exposure at some point in our lives. When we least expect it, the things we’ve tried to keep hidden will spring up and be revealed. There is an old saying that “If our thoughts were broadcast on our foreheads, we’d never remove our hats.” Many of us here this morning would probably agree with that. So, what is it we hope will NOT be exposed? What is it we hope no one finds out? Our passage today shows the experience of some folks who were exposed, and the end results were not always pretty. Let’s see what happens when the things that were covered become uncovered in John 8.

Read John 8:1-11

This passage reveals to us three kinds of exposure. Sure, there is the exposure of the woman caught in adultery, but she isn’t the only one exposed here. In fact, during preparation for this sermon, I concluded that there are three kinds of exposure here:

Unrighteous Exposure—(John 8:1-6) 
Righteous Exposure—(John 8:6-9) 
Redemptive Exposure—(John 8:10-11)

Let’s explore these a bit to see what hidden things are exposed.

Unrighteous Exposure—(8:1-6)—the Pharisees—the first exposure we see here is the sin of the woman. Jesus is going about his usual day of teaching in the Temple. Nothing hidden and nothing exposed. He is simply behaving like a Rabbi teaching those who will listen. During one of his class sessions, the Pharisees interrupt to bring a woman in who they say they caught in the act of adultery. They demand a verdict from Jesus on the woman. Should she be stoned for her offense?

Let’s be honest about the situation. This woman is guilty of adultery. Now, adultery is a terrible sin, but it is no worse than any other sin (cf. James 2:10). In fact, none of us in this room can claim innocence of sin, we are all guilty (Rom. 3:10; 3:23; Gal. 3:22). Like this woman, we are deserving of condemnation and death. We have sinned, even if our sin has not been exposed like hers. Nobody gets away with sin! (see Rom. 6:23; Eze. 18:4) For all who sin, there will come a payday someday!

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis says, “If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity (sexual sin) as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual. The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me...they are the animal self and the diabolical self; and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But of course it is better to be neither!”

The reason we call this exposure “unrighteous”, however, has little to do with the nature of the woman’s sin. It has to do with the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees. They brought this woman to Jesus not to find out about righteousness, but to try to trap Jesus in saying something they could use against him. Did they think he’d let her go? If so, then they could say “See, he doesn’t keep the law!” Did they think he’d offer to kill her? Maybe then they would talk about his insensitivity and his lack of compassion. Knowing that Jesus hung out with people like this woman, however, the leaders probably wanted him to let her go. The problem is this: the people trying to spring a trap by exposing this woman’s sin, will end up exposed themselves. "Be sure, your sin will find you out . . . "

But we get ahead of ourselves. Here we simply want to see that these leaders wanted to use this woman’s failure to further their own cause. They exposed her to shame and condemnation in order to trap Jesus and get him in trouble. They were unrighteous in their exposure. They wanted to make the woman look bad, to make Jesus look bad, so that they could in turn make themselves look good. This is why this is unrighteous exposure. They do not want to help anyone become right before God, they want to look like they are right while everyone else looks wrong. Unrighteous exposure looks to reveal the failures of others simply to make ourselves look good in contrast. Sin may be exposed, but at what price? We see the results in the next section when Jesus shows us what righteous exposure looks like. "Be sure, your sin will find you out . . . "

Righteous Exposure—(vv. 6-9)—Jesus and the Pharisees. The second exposure is a contrast to the first. The scribes and the Pharisees think that they have an advantage over Jesus because of the woman’s sin. They think they’ve exposed Jesus to a problem--one that he will not be able to work out. The problem is that they have also exposed themselves by their unrighteous exposure of the woman. Those who wanted to trap someone now find themselves in a trap. They who wanted to expose another’s wrong find themselves uncomfortably exposed. "Be sure, your sins will find you out . . ."

After they set a trap for Jesus, he responded by stooping down and writing on the ground. What did he write? Wouldn’t we love to know? Maybe he wrote out the 10 commandments, or Lev 20:10/Deut 22:22 (which deals with the sin of adultery), or the names of the girlfriends of the leaders. He may have written Jer. 17:13 (“LORD, the hope of Israel, all who abandon You will be put to shame. All who turn away from Me will be written in the dirt, for they have abandoned the fountain of living water, the LORD”). We don’t know what he wrote, but the impatience of the leaders is clear as they pressed him for a decision: “We’ve exposed the sin of this woman, what should we do with her?”

Jesus never answers their question. He exposes their own sin. He stood up, and he challenged them: “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her." He isn’t advocating that one has to be sinless to judge. No, Jesus is pointing out the failure of the scribes and the Pharisees to follow the law they seem so zealous to enforce. You see, Deut 22 reminds us that in cases of adultery, two people are to be judged and then condemned if the charge is true. But here the leaders bring only ONE person—the woman! Where is the man with whom she was caught in the act of adultery? Was he one of the leaders? Did they allow him to escape? We may never know, but we know that they are genuinely guilty here of failing to keep the law. 

They want to condemn the woman (without her lover) and to use that condemnation to trap Jesus. Jesus turns the trap on them. These sanctimonious prosecutors were themselves in stark violation of the law. Had Jesus been under a commission to render a civil judgment in this case, he could not have countenanced this “kangaroo” procedure. The thrust of Christ’s statement—“He that is without sin . . .”—was this: “None of you is in a position to stone this woman, for you have disregarded the very law you profess to honor. It is a travesty.” The Pharisees’ inconsistency had been laid bare. Jesus exposes them. They were breaking the very law that they claimed to uphold when they did not include the man to be stoned. They are guilty of sin, they are trapped, they are exposed! Proverbs 16:2: “All a man's ways seem right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the motives.”

What happened then? The exposed leaders, caught now in their own trap, begin to leave one at a time. As they realize that they have been exposed, they decide that the better part of valor is to leave. Turning away from Jesus (who they wanted to trap) and the woman (who they wanted to expose), they walked away defeated, done, exposed for their own unrighteousness. Let's at least give them credit for the fact that when they saw themselves as they really were, they stopped calling for the death of this woman. "Be sure, your sin will find you out . . . "

Seeing ourselves as we really are is one of the hardest things we can face! However, when we see ourselves in our sinful state, then we can do something about it. When we are convicted of our sins, then is the time to come to Jesus. After all, He is the only One who can deal with our sin problem! The guilt of the Pharisees is exposed in their failure to bring the man and their intention to “trap” Jesus instead of pursuing justice and righteousness. When you are intent on “trapping” someone, you will often find yourself snared. Selfishness and self-righteousness may lead to exposure and ensnarement. This poem by Elton Higgs illustrates the predicament of the Pharisees well:
"Convicted" 
We slink away, heads hung in shame,
With tongues and hands disarmed
By flash of sin reversed;
Not one of us had conscience clear
Enough to start the slaughter.
We came to trap him in his words,
Yet our words became our snare.
He turned on us the double-cutting sword
Of Law-based righteousness,
And bleeding now we leave the field,
Our cleverness in ashes.
Jesus showed righteous exposure here when he revealed the true nature of the Pharisee’s actions. Jesus exposed them to their own sin, and they walked away. Righteous exposure reveals sin for what it is—a falling short of God’s glory, a turning away from God’s expectations and plans. But if we respond to that exposure by turning away from Jesus, we have missed the third kind of exposure: Redemptive exposure. This is what we find in the end of our text. "Be sure, your sin will find you out . . . " 

Redemptive Exposure—(vv. 10-11)—Jesus and the Woman. The end of our story today is the end that many of us have encountered. We look up and there is no one there but Jesus alone. The woman’s accusers have left, they are not there to condemn her. She is left alone with Jesus. 

Jesus asks her if there are any witnesses against her. Is there anyone left to condemn? She responds with “No one, Lord.” Maybe at that moment she realizes that the only one who could condemn her was standing in front of her. As Paul notes in Romans 8:33-34: “Who can bring an accusation against God's elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.” We may never know what the woman thought, but we know that Jesus looks at this sinful, guilty, and rightfully condemned woman and says, “If there are no witnesses to condemn you, then neither do I.” Jesus isn’t overlooking her sin, he is acknowledging the law--if there are no witnesses, she cannot be stoned. Jesus didn’t see her commit this sin, and none of those who claimed to do so are there, so Jesus acknowledges the redemptive truth that no witnesses means no condemnation. (cf. Rev. 12)

The Greek word for “condemn” is a strong one and suggests handing down a judgment, passing sentence. The Lord was informing the woman that she was not judicially sentenced. As Bloomfield observed, Jesus was simply making “a declaration that, since his kingdom was not of this world, so he would not assume the office of a temporal magistracy.” He was not sanctioning adultery, nor minimizing the woman’s wickedness—quite the contrary. Christ was commenting upon the legal aspect of the situation. With the accusers gone, there was no case left! The witnesses were required to throw the first stones (Deut 17:7); without them the matter simply could proceed no further.

The woman had reached a place in her life where it was just her and Jesus. It always comes down to that! Eventually, somewhere, someday you are going to have to face Jesus. Eventually, somewhere, someday you are going to have to bow to Jesus! The beauty of the woman’s situation is that she is now face-to-face with the one who can redeem her. She is alone with Jesus, and he tells her to “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus addresses her sin, and then addresses her need. This is redemptive exposure. Jesus will not command us to do something he will not give us the ability to do. So when he commands her to sin no more, he intends to provide her what she needs to accomplish that. By coming to Jesus alone, by recognizing him as Lord, she could walk away not condemned but redeemed! We don’t know the rest of her story, but we can be sure she was never the same. Here is another poem by Elton Higgs to explain the woman's situation: 

"Reprieve"   
Only when He spoke did I meet His eyes,
Full of beautiful severity.
As ugly the sin as it was before,
But condemnation gone!
Reproach was swallowed up
In “Go, and sin no more.”
 No backup plan for being stoned,
I walk toward home to find my way again.
Old way of life must now be buried,
As--rising from forgiveness—
His love replaces carnal lust.
Unjust escape from penalty say those
Who hide behind the Law,
But blissful boon to her who heard
The quieter voice
Replacing heartless rage.

What about us? Are we being exposed? Is someone taking advantage of our failure or sin to trap us or to further a selfish agenda? Has the Holy Spirit exposed sin today that needs to be addressed? Will we respond like the Pharisees and walk away, or like the woman and receive redemption? "Be sure, your sin will find you out . . ."

This beautiful story brings us to that place this morning. We understand that when our sins are forgiven, it is to free us that we might begin to live a different lifestyle and never to go back to the things that we have left behind. Sometimes we may. Sometimes we are weak, and need again the forgiving grace of God. But forgiveness is always designed to set us free. That is why it is given. When our Lord forgave this woman that is what he did: He set her free to be a different kind of person than she ever was before.

Conclusion/Application

How do we respond? Here is what we need to do:

1)    Take inventory. What is being exposed in our lives? Where are we trapped? Where do we need Christ to free us? Today do real business with God and the Holy Spirit. Do not walk out of here without dealing with the exposure God’s Word has brought today.
2)  Take heart. No matter what your situation, Jesus can bring redemption.
3)  Take note. Are we looking to Jesus alone, or are we looking for ways to justify ourselves? We cannot find redemption without Jesus, and he alone will not only expose our sin but give us the means to walk in freedom. Remember, we are not destined to lives of condemnation but to lives of freedom. How we respond to exposure is as important as the recognition that exposure is a possibility.

As we leave here today, let us commit ourselves to living in the light of redemptive exposure. Let us deal with each other as Jesus dealt with this woman. He did not use her sin to his own benefit, nor did he hold it against her in a way to keep her from progressing to holiness. We need to learn redemptive exposure today—to expose the sin in our lives in a way that leads us to embrace Christ and each other. This week, look for opportunities to expose truth and to be people of redemption. No sin is too big for Jesus.

Where are you exposed? Jesus is there—cling to him alone. 

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