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!
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.
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
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.
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:
Righteous Exposure—(John 8:6-9)
Redemptive Exposure—(John 8:10-11)
Let’s explore these a bit to see what hidden things
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
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 . . . "
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 . . . "
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
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
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:
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 . . . "
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:
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.
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
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.
are you exposed? Jesus is there—cling to him alone.
Labels: "be sure your sin will find you out", "go and sin no more", Exposed, Jesus' grace, Jesus' mercy, john 8:1-11, redemptive exposure, righteous exposure, unrighteous exposure, woman caught in adultery