Taking the opportunity to examine a passage that most conservative scholars feel was not part of the original manuscript, Todd discusses textual criticism and solid proof of the Bible's reliability. The story itself - the woman caught in adultery - offers several points about grace, condemnation and legalism.
The Light that will Put You on the List: How to be One of the Most Spiritually Powerful People Today
My Favorite Bible Story that's not in the Bible
The Division, the Defense, and the Duty: Breaking the Spiral of Silence
John 7: The Bible Collapses Here
The Decision that Leads to Division: Who is this Jesus?
The Sovereign and All-Satisfying Jesus: Will You Follow Him?
The Most Grumbled About, Argument-Inducing, Difficult, Disciple-Losing Message Jesus Ever Taught
What Must be True in Our Lives if We are Going to Say "Christ is Enough"
The Danger of Loving the Provision More Than the Provider
The Perfect Shepherd. For Green Pastures and Violent Waters.
Gary mentioned how there were some folks who were at a health club who were fighting over a close parking spot. The only thing worse than fighting over a close parking spot at a health club is fighting over a close spot at a church, where we're arguing about who gets to be closest when we're supposed to be a place that's trying to develop disciples, folks who have the same attitude in themselves that was also in Christ Jesus, who did nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.
I want to take a moment this morning and remind us and encourage us to always suppose that that person whose spot you want more than they need is a person who is journeying back around a supposed fellowship of believers for the first time in years. Every week, we have a lot of folks who visit with us for the first time, and they're believing us when we say we've made room for them and that we want to love them and serve them, and we don't want anything we do to get in the way of them meeting Christ, including be offended by his people.
Just be aware of this. That person who cut you off and took that spot may be coming for the first time in 20 years just like you. It's not necessarily an elder or a senior staff member who just did that. It might be. If they are, take a picture and send it to me. We'll have a chat. But every week, we have folks who come, and we always ask you to share with us your first impression so we can get downwind of ourselves and know what folks are up against.
I want to read with you a few we got just last week and use this to drive a point home as we get ready to start this morning. I'll just share three. Here's one. This is what we get a lot. "I get overcome by the size of the church and how I'm ever going to fit in." We hear that increasingly more and more. Let me just say this. I am always amazed at how some folks are here for three or four days and totally assimilate and get connected, get in community, take off, find a way to use their gifts, discover their gifts, develop their gifts, and are just tracking within weeks, and there are folks who are here for years who somehow just can't seem to figure it out.
What I would share with you is that we try to do everything we can to take away the excuse. That's why you have GroupLink this afternoon. That's why we have that little perforated section. We'll call you personally. We'll hold your hand. We know this can be a big, intimidating place, but we want to help. You just need to know if you've been here for a couple of months that there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of people who have gotten here since you who somehow have figured it out. So let us help you.
Here's a second one that came. Similar. "It's huge but a beautiful space with lots of opportunities to get connected or involved with a high regard for biblical teaching." We always hope you get that sense. "Because it's so big, though, it's a little bit scary and intimidating." We admit that it is, so we do what we can to give you a chance to meet somebody, and when you meet somebody here, we pray you do more than just fly through that but you really engage.
If you've been here for a long time and you're secure, sit somewhere else, and when you meet somebody, really get to know them. I can't tell you how many stories we've had of folks who sat next to somebody, met them during that short meet and greet time, and then when the service was over said, "Hey, any questions you have about today, I'd love to engage you. We're going to lunch" or "My friends are going to lunch. Do you want to go with us?" and how that has led to radical life change and connectedness.
So don't ever underestimate what you can do. The way you treat people often has much more to do with the person's response to Christ than anything else, because it's what's going to soften their heart to the word that hopefully wants to go in. Then here's this third one. This one is just a tip of the hat and an encouragement to so many of you who are already doing this. First impression: "Big! Duh! But very welcoming. Even a random regular member helped us find our way." They remembered the name. They wrote down, "Thanks, Andrew. You walked us all the way to the kids' check-in. That was awesome."
We have a lot of Andrews who go to Watermark. I don't know which Andrew it was, and we have a lot of folks whose names aren't Andrew who do the same thing every week, and to you I want to say, "Way to go." Don't ever underestimate your kindness, your concern, you having your head on a swivel and remembering what it was like when you walked into a place full of 7,000 folks and didn't know anybody and felt like everybody else was deeply connected and went to high school with everybody who's here. And here you go.
You're concerned you're dressed wrong. You're not sure what kind of craziness you're going to run into when you get inside, and an Andrew shows up and says, "Hey, man. How can I serve you? Let me walk you where you need to go. Come sit with me, and then I'll leave you alone if you want, but how can I help you?" So, Andrew, and all of you other Andrews whose names were never written down, way to go. That's what it means to worship.
You're going to see a change in the name of this. Blame me. We wasted a little bit of money on a W-O-R-S-H-I-P that we hung outside this room. This is not the worship center. This is the worship center. Your lives are the worship center. We say all the time when you leave, "Have a great week of worship." Some of you guys have done a great job of worshiping before you've ever come in here.
So there are going to be little signs on this side that when you leave remind you that worship is really beginning. What we do here, corporate celebration, corporate reminder, remembering the greatness of our God and the right way to respond to him… That's what this is. We're getting a little R and R in here. I don't know if that's a good name, but maybe we'll just call it the R and R center, where you remember who Jesus is, what he has done for you, and you remind yourself the right way to respond to him.
Worship is what we do when we get out of here. The problem with the church in America today is it goes to worship for an hour and then gets busy with self-love when they park cars and everything else they do, and that is repulsive. This is the worship center, and what we are here for is to remind ourselves how to respond rightly to that King. Amen? All right. Way to go, Andrew. Let me pray for us all.
Father, thank you so much for a chance just to be together today. As Paul wrote to the Romans, after 11 chapters of reminding them of the greatness of God and what he has done, he calls them to remember how to respond. He says, "I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, because of all that he has done for you (the great love he just wrote about for 11 chapters), to present your lives as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, so you can experience how good life with God is, how right life with God is, how perfect and how true life with God is."
Remember him. He is good. No good thing does he withhold from those who love him. O Father, would you remind us of that this morning? May we see your beauty and your glory. May we see you for who you really are, and seeing and being reminded once again, maybe being introduced for the first time, may we respond in all appropriate fullness. For your glory and our good I pray, amen.
Last night, I had some fun on Twitter. I fired something out there. It hit also on my Facebook page, which I don't check out and respond to, so don't be offended if I don't respond to it there. I posted a little thing out there that said, "Hey, tomorrow at 9:00, 11:00, and 5:30, I'm going to tell you my favorite story that's not in the Bible." I said, "It's going to surprise you, but I welcome all guesses." So here they came. People started pinging me back, and I got all kinds of guesses.
It's a good way to find out a lot about yourself when people tell you what they think is your favorite thing. The very first response I got was "Pinocchio." I don't have any idea why they thought that was my favorite story outside the Bible, but they were confident enough to fire back in like 15 seconds. Just because I have a big nose that's a little crooked doesn't mean I like Pinocchio. I do like him. Fine story. Just not my favorite.
Rudy was one. Good story. I liked it. I got The Princess Bride, because I've made reference to that before. There's a lot of truth there that you can pull from, and it's witty and creative. I like that one. I had some folks who said, "It's probably some farkle story you have." If you don't know what Farkle is, it's just a game that does no long-term (key word) damage to your reputation but just a small game of chance that creates some fun and laughter. No, I have some good farkle stories, but not my favorite story outside the Bible.
Then somebody shot this. They said, "I bet it's your story of grace. I bet it's your story of how God worked graciously in your life." I thought immediately, "That wasn't what I had in mind, but that's a better answer than what I had." That should be my favorite story outside the Bible. So I humbly acknowledged that and said, "No, that's not what I'm going to use." Then somebody shot back an even more spiritual answer than the other person and I.
"Todd, we know you. You love to celebrate good that happens to others. You're going to share stories about our story of grace. That's your favorite story." Again, I thought, "Wow. That's also better than what I had thought, but no, not my favorite story that is not of the Bible." So I had some fun with that with them. So I'm going to share with you my favorite story that's not in the Bible. Are you guys ready? I think you'll be encouraged. Open up to John, chapter 8. Here we go.
"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?'
They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'
Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.'"
That is my favorite story that's not in your Bible. Now, immediately, you're going to go, "What are you talking about? What do you mean? We just read that in our Bible." All right. Let me just show you, those of you who brought your Bibles. Start at John 7:53 and look down at John 8:11. You're going to see a bracket that starts in 7:53, and that bracket ends in John 8:11.
There might even be a 1 there, and if you go to your margin or your footnote, if you have a Bible worth its salt, you're going to see something along the lines of, "The best manuscripts do not include this section of the text in John's original work." What I'm going to share with you this morning, and I'm going to talk about it just briefly, is this thing called textual criticism. I'll tell you what textual criticism is not.
Textual criticism is not being so critical of the Bible that you can eventually explain away every text and do what you want and not have to believe anything. That is not a good use of textual criticism. Textual criticism is a form of scholarship that helps us understand exactly what the Bible says is highly valuable to us. There's lower textual criticism, higher textual criticism, but they all work together to look at internal and external evidences within the Bible for us to know that the Bible we're reading is the Bible God intended us to have.
What I want to share with you, just as a setup for this morning, is as a pastor, I love this text. As a theologian, and I dare not call myself a scholar, but as somebody who has studied the scholarship, I, along with the gross majority…everybody, conservative and especially liberal folks…don't believe this story should be in your Bible. Now let me tell you what I do think about it. If you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to speculate, I'm going to tell you I think this story really did happen.
I think this story is one of those stories that John 21:25 talks about. Well, what does John 21:25 talk about? At the very end of the gospel of John, he wrote, "There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written and have those stories in them." I think, for what it's worth, if it matters to you, that this story did happen.
Let me share this with you. Even if this story didn't happen, everything I'm going to teach you this morning I can support from stuff that's in the Bible that we do know is Scripture, which begs the question, "Todd, how do you know what's in and what's out?" See also this thing called textual criticism. It's good for you to know this, so when somebody comes up to you and says, "Hey, you know that story about Jesus and the woman? Nobody believes that was really in the Bible. That was just inserted later…"
In fact, the earliest manuscript (a manuscript: manual writing), the earliest copy of the book of John that we have that has John 7:53-8:11 in it is about the fifth century. No church father comments on it until about the twelfth century. The best manuscripts, the ones that we believe have the least amount of variance in them (I'm going to explain all this), all keep this text out of there. What's interesting is of the manuscripts that do have it, it appears in five different places: where we have it this morning, a couple of times earlier in John 7; some put it at the end of John 21:25, and some put it at Luke 21:38 and following.
It makes sense if you fit it in all of those. It also makes sense if you read your Bible and go from John 7:52 and then pick right back up in John 8:12. It makes complete sense there. So why is it in your Bible this morning? Well, because about 150 years ago or so, when textual criticism was really taking off (again, I'm going to explain that), a lot of folks go, "You know what? We really shouldn't have this story in the Scripture. Even if it is a true and accurate story of Christ, it's not in the original autographs as best as we can tell."
We believe all Scripture is inspired by God and it alone is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God might be equipped in every good work. We believe the Bible is God's Word, inerrant, infallible, and perfect. That's why textual criticism is so important, because if that's exactly what the Bible is, what did the Bible say?
We believe, by the way, that that is true of the autographs; meaning, the original works of John, of Peter, of Luke, of Paul, of Moses, and others, that God used them, and the Scriptures are clear how he did it. It wasn't always dictation. Sometimes it was, but most often, God in his perfection worked through imperfect men to produce a perfect book; in his eternal nature worked through finite men to produce eternal insight; in his infallibility, he worked through fallible men to give us a book that is infallible. We believe that was true when they originally wrote it.
We don't have any copies of the original documents that became our Bible. There are zero, and I think there's a reason for that: because we're idiots and we would worship them and idolize them, charge money to go see them, and believe we'd get some special, sanctifying presence in our lives if we got near them. See also relics within other large denominations. So there are none. So how do we know that what we have is what God intended? Excellent question. Through textual criticism.
The Bible is so unique in human history it is not a reach to say the Bible is as separate from other books (that's why it's called the Book) as Jesus is from other men. There's only one guy who all of human history pivots on: Jesus. There's only one guy whose grave is empty who is raised from the dead…not who was resuscitated for a while, not who was removed from earth, but one guy who was raised from the dead. His name is Jesus.
There's only one book that has so much evidence to support that the original document has been accurately transmitted. In fact, let me just say this. I teach more on this in a series I did called Why where I walk you through the whole story of the Scripture. If you're a young believer, grab the Why story in the Watermark app and listen through it. When I get to the tenth one, I go back and wrap up the whole thing with a message called Why the Bible Can Be Trusted. I give you an apologetic for why our Bible can be trusted.
One of the reasons I make a case that it can be trusted is through its preservation. It is unique in the history of ancient documents in its ability to give us confidence that it says what it says. Let me give you a quick example. Old Testament first. We primarily rely on what is called the Masoretic Text. What does that mean? There were a bunch of Jewish scholars from AD 500 to AD 950 who were incredibly obsessed with detail in transcribing from one generation to another on different forms that we could have the Word of God. They would copy it.
They would do things like they would never let one letter touch another letter. They would separate them by the length of a hair. They would count the letters in each sentence. They would count the number of vowels in each sentence from the original and the copy. If there was one mistake, they would destroy the entire document wherever they were. They would count the letters and get the middle letter in this document. They would count the letters to get the middle letter in that document. If it didn't match, they'd throw it away.
There were numerous catches and numerous quality control checks to make sure that when they made a copy, a manual writing copy… There was no printing press until Gutenberg, so before that, everything came down through oral tradition and, specifically, through the written copies of the originals. When the letter came, they went, "That's good. That's biblical. We think it's right. It's from an apostle." They would write it, they would copy it, they'd be distributed, and they would preserve it.
Our Old Testament was primarily derived from these documents. The oldest copy we had of the Old Testament was from AD 950 until 1947, and then a shepherd in the Qumran valley of the Dead Sea region was looking for one of his goats, and he fired a rock up on top of a little cliff (I've been there) and heard a soft thud. It didn't sound like a rock bouncing around in a cave. He threw another one and heard it again.
He climbed up there and found these jars that had scrolls in them, and they were worth millions. It turns out that in those Dead Sea Scrolls (this is why they're such a big deal) we found a copy from 100 BC of much of the Old Testament and almost the complete book of Isaiah. What was amazing to scholars is when they took our AD 950 copy and compared it to the copy that now was from 100 BC, they found out that our Isaiah was 95 percent identical.
You go, "What about that 5 percent? There's a lot of error that could come in 5 percent." Absolutely. Except that all 5 percent of those errors are simple pen strokes and misspellings. There is not a single doctrine or matter of faith that is called into question. They say that our Isaiah… They could not believe it. They didn't even think it was possible.
The New Testament is even more embarrassing than that in terms of its wealth of riches. Let me show you. When you were in high school or college, probably, and they asked you to read Homer's Iliad or Homer's Odyssey… When you read the CliffsNotes to Homer's Iliad, the teacher didn't say, "Look. We're not going to quiz you too hard on this, because we're not really sure what Homer said." No. They go, "This is what Homer wrote."
Well, here's the deal. Of all ancient documents… Let me just show you this one picture. This is a bunch of books of antiquity from Lucretius all the way down to Sophocles, Aristotle, Tacitus, Livy, Caesar. You'll see on that right-hand column the number of copies we have and the approximate time between the original autograph and the earliest copy we have. We only have two. That's really a problem. When you get down to Homer's Iliad, you'll see there are about 643 copies of Homer's Iliad, and the earliest one we have is 500 years from when Homer wrote it.
Compare that to the New Testament. We have about 5,800 (that needs to be updated) copies of the Greek New Testament. If you put in lectionaries, which basically are forms of worship, if you put in Syrian writings and Coptic writings and Latin writings, it's about 25,000 different copies. In fact, if we had no manuscript and you just went back and studied the early church fathers, every verse in the New Testament except for 11 verses is written there in early church fathers.
Watch this. Homer's Iliad, 643 copies. The earliest copy is 500 years from when that was originally written. The New Testament, we have 5,800 different ones, many of them from less than 100 years from when they were originally autographed. Now that's the good news. In fact, if you would stack up some of the best books from antiquity, the manuscript support for them would be about four feet high. The Bible's manuscript evidence and support that what we have is what we think we have is about a mile long.
In other words, there's something supernatural about this book. It has been preserved like nothing has been preserved. If you can have any confidence about anything that happened earlier, you can have confidence about this. If you want to throw out all of ancient history and say, "We just can't know…" By the way, this book is inspired history. That's one of the things that makes it different from the Qur'an and other books that maybe have great spiritual thoughts and poetry but do not dare to be anchored in the context of history where you can test it and verify it.
God says, "Go ahead and test it. See if there was a Caesar Augustus. See if there was a Pilate. See if there was a David. See if there was a city called Jericho." And you can archaeologically, and on and on, support the text. Anyway, go listen to the Why series, why the Bible can be trusted, how this relates to today. The best manuscripts we have don't include John 7:53-8:11.
By the way, when you take all of those different manuscripts we have, there are about 300,000 to 400,000 errors, depending on who you talk to. "What? Did he just say there are 300,000 to 400,000 errors?" Yes, I did. Let me explain that to you. If I'm making a copy and no matter how much I count, no matter how diligent I am, if I misspell a word and the next guy copies my deal and then misspells a word, that turns into another variant.
So in 25,000 different copies, when you look at all of the different languages put together, what you'll see is that there are that many errors, because every copy is a new error. Those 300,000 to 400,000 represent 10,000 different places. The good news is about 9,600 of them the village idiot can deal with. It's a misspelling. It's a missing word in one particular copy.
The beautiful thing about having a lot of different copies is we can go, "Look. There are these 30 copies that spell it this way or these 30 copies that have that word. These two don't. It's clear that the word was supposed to be there. It was just a mistake, and then every copy that was made from that became a mistake." So, 9,600 of the 10,000 or so spaces are easily written off. Of the 400 that are left, 360 of them are just a matter of word order. Does it say "Jesus Christ our Lord" or "Our Lord Jesus Christ"?
That takes us down to 40 spots that there's really serious scholarly debate about what the original autographs intended us to mean with such incredible certainty that you go, "This book is unique." What I would tell you is of those 40 spaces, there's not a single matter of doctrine or central tenet of our faith that is not completely supported and clarified in other sections of Scripture that are without a doubt understood as true to the original autograph. There is no question.
They say this text is 99.5 percent pure, and that 0.5 percent changes nothing. You have your Bible. The problem is John 7:53-8:11 probably shouldn't be in it. Then why is it in there? Well, because when they first did this scholarship about 150 years ago, many Bibles took it out. In fact, if you go and look at all of the commentaries, there are a lot of commentators who just stop at 7:53 and start back at 8:12. They don't even acknowledge it, which I think is a mistake.
I think this story happened, if that matters to you, and I'm going to show you why it can be trusted: because everything that's taught is taught somewhere else about Jesus, and somebody thought, "This story that we're all believing… We don't know if it goes in Luke, if Luke wrote it, if John wrote it. It has been floating around. Everybody believes it. We're sticking it in." When people quit putting it in their Bibles, those Bibles didn't sell, so publishers who wanted to sell Bibles put it in there, but because of their integrity, they bracket it.
So what am I supposed to do? I don't think this belongs in John. I want to teach the Scripture. How do I handle it? Well, I'm going to show you how to handle it this morning. Like I said, the first thing I'll do is show you why I use it. First, let's read it. "Everyone went to his home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." That's typical. We see that all throughout the Scripture. That's what Jesus did often. He would go and hang out in Jerusalem.
We find that very clearly in Luke 21:37-38, which is why some people put this text after Luke 21:38. It says that when he went, the next day people were coming to him. He sat down and began to teach. Well over 60 different times in Jesus' ministry, you find him, when people come to him, teaching them. It's what you do. You teach people if you are a lover of folks who are trapped in foolishness and ignorance. You enlighten them. So he always did that. No problem so far.
"The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, 'Teacher…'" And they go on. We find down there in verse 6 that they did this testing him. Well, no less than five or six other places in the Scripture do we find exactly this. Whether he deals with a man on the Sabbath, how he heals him, or whether it's "Should we pay a poll tax to Caesar?" it talks about them always coming to Jesus looking to trip him up and test him.
That is a consistent tactic of the Sanhedrin, of the Sadducees, of the Pharisees. So it's completely consistent with this text that an event like this would happen for this purpose. Then you go down to probably the most important part in verse 11, the one that makes us all love this story. By the way, the reason I love this story so much is because this truth that Jesus teaches here has led to my story of grace and has led to your story of grace if you have one. So I have to make this my most favorite story outside of the Bible, because if this story wasn't true, if these truths about Jesus weren't there, then I wouldn't have a story of grace.
What's the story? It's that God, Holy God, very God of very God, who no man has ever seen or beheld until the Word, which was with God and was God from the very beginning, became flesh and dwelt among us, and when he came we found out he wasn't here to condemn us but he was here to give himself up for us, to make himself sin that we might receive from him the gift of life; that God would be, through Christ, just and completely faithful to his holiness in judging sin and still the justifier of those he loves and wants to reconcile without compromising his nature.
Jesus says, "I don't condemn you. Go and sin no more." Let's talk about that for a second. In John 5:14, I taught you about the guy who was by the pool at Bethesda who had been crippled for 38 years. Jesus said to him the exact same thing. In John 5:14, he looked at that young man and said, "Behold, you have become well. Do not sin anymore so that nothing worse befalls you."
What could be worse than being lame for 38 years? What could be worse than having a bunch of guys ready to stone you because you were caught shacking up with somebody? Answer: you could be healed from some physical malady but still be spiritually separated from an infinitely holy God. Jesus was here to deal with situational evil and sickness and death that were never supposed to be a part of his creation, and he redeemed them from that.
He said, "Look. If you don't deal with who I am, if you don't have a regeneration of your soul where you stop living your own way, something far worse is going to come to you. Not lameness creeping back into your life, not sickness creeping back into your life, but the sickness of sin never being dealt with, so when you meet the holiness of God you'll be eternally separated from him.
Woman, you think your problem is a bunch of angry old Jewish men who are going to fire rocks at your head, that you've been shamed publicly. That isn't your problem. Your problem is when you truly stand before a righteous one, if your life isn't transformed by a relationship with me and by my grace available to you, you have real issues. So please, don't keep sinning. Know who I am."
I think Jesus, as he always did, like he did with the woman at the well, came to her and spoke words of hope and said, "I'm the one you've been looking for. Reconcile with me, and righteousness will reign in your heart." You see, everything that's taught here is taught other places in Scripture, so it's a great thing to teach.
There are a couple of other things I'll just make notes of here. As I was reading through this, I wrote, "Note to self: never get into a battle of wits with omniscient deity." That's what these guys were going to do. They were going to try to embarrass him and shame him, so they go, "Let's bring the woman over to him and get him set up."
I do want to note this. Isn't it interesting that these guys brought the woman? Adultery is a hard mistake to make by yourself. It says she was caught in the very act. Really? Well, how come Jack ain't here with Jill? Because these guys weren't concerned about justice. They didn't really want to stone this woman; they wanted to stone Jesus. We've already seen that. This is a setup. So Jesus goes, "All right, boys. We'll interrupt this teaching session, disciples, to humiliate the Pharisees further."
So off they go. They dive in. They say to him, "Hey, man, are you going to set yourself up to kill this woman by agreeing with us in our righteousness or are you going to set yourself up as higher than Moses and say we don't need to do what Moses said? Or are you going to go ahead and pronounce judgment on her in a way that Rome says is really theirs to do or those they put in authority, which is the Sanhedrin? Which one is it, buddy? Are you going to lose public favor or bring about public rebuke and be accused of sedition?" No problem for Jesus.
He stoops over and starts to write down. So what did he write down? Everybody wants to know. No one really knows. We're not sure if the text belongs in there, so how can I speculate and conject on that which isn't in the Bible about what we don't know the Bible that's not there says? I don't know. I'll tell you what I think nonetheless. Note to self: this is Todd speculating. I think what he probably did is he began to write down some things he had already covered.
I think he started to write down, "You're right. There's Deuteronomy 22. It does mention that. There's Leviticus and the verse that says what you said. There's also a little comment I had with you up on the shores of Galilee where I reminded you that even if a man looks at a woman with adultery in his heart he has committed adultery with her." I think they're like, "Hey, hey, hey! Pay attention. Up here. Up here. We want to know what you want to do with it."
It says that Jesus at that point straightened up and said, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." That pretty much gets me out of the stone-throwing business right there. Probably his relevance to this was, "Hey, I'll let one of you guys here who has never violated the true standard of righteousness that I've already taught you that God and Moses intended fire a stone at her." They're all still there.
After he said that, no one left, but he went back down. So what did he write the second time? I'll tell you what I think. In verse 9 it says, "When they heard it…" But he was writing. By the way, this is the only place in all of Scripture, or late manuscript insertions into Scripture, that we have any record of Jesus writing anything down. He wrote it on dust, because he didn't want to, again, make his writings more important than others. He spoke. God preserved it through the Holy Spirit, through his disciples, and through others, and that's enough.
I think what he wrote down this time was probably some names to where everybody in that particular room or everybody in that particular setting knew, "You know what? I probably have committed adultery with her, at least in my mind, if not in that long weekend getaway in Ephesus." Psalm 90:8 talks about the fact that our secret sins are no secret to God, and we're dealing with God here.
He just got through saying, "There is a standard that says this. Let he among you who hasn't sinned cast the first stone." They're like, "Get on with it. What are you going to do?" I think he started scribbling some things down. I think he started with the oldest, and I think some guys are going, "I don't know. He's writing down here, uh, 'Shelly.'" One guy starts walking away. "There's a Rebekah." About the third name that rings a bell, I think the guys in the middle said, "Let's get out of here," and I think the young guys probably hung around longer.
This reminds me of a funny story, by the way. It's the story of a guy who was prosecuting in a little trial, and this small-town attorney said to this lady on the stand, "Miss Jones, let me start by asking you, do you know who I am?" She says, "Why, yes, I know who you are. Mr. Williams, I've known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people, you talk about them behind their backs, you think you're a rising big shot when you don't even have the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know who you are."
The guy was kind of stunned, on his heels. He said, "Well, what about the defense attorney? Do you know who he is?" "Why, yes, I know who Mr. Bradley is, since he was a young boy. I used to babysit him for his parents. He, too, has been a real disappointment to me. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. The man can't build a normal relationship with anyone. His law practice is one of the shoddiest in the entire state. Yes, I know him."
With that, the judge hit his gavel and said, "Counsel…" He got them both up there. He said, "If either one of you guys asks that woman if she knows me, I'll jail you for contempt of court right away." I think we have some of that going on here. I love it. One more story, because stories are fun. I love the story of the attorney who was trying to get his client off from a murder charge, so he was going to take a run at the coroner who was on the stand.
He said, "All right. Before you signed the death certificate, Mr. Coroner, I want to know this. Did you take a pulse?" "No, I didn't take a pulse," the coroner said.
"Did you check the heart?"
"No, I didn't check the heart."
"Well, did you check for any breathing?"
So the attorney said, "Well, then, sir, is it fair to say you weren't sure the man was really dead?" The coroner said, "Well, let me just say this. The man's brain was sitting in a jar on my desk, so I guess it's possible that he could have been practicing law somewhere." I like those stories. Not my favorite stories that aren't in the Bible. I'm teaching you that in John, chapter 8. But this is who Jesus was. You don't jack with him. He's better than a coroner, and he just gets it.
You'll find out that every time they tried to set him up, they walked away with their tail between their legs and went, "We have only one thing we can do with this guy, and that is kill him, because he's killing us. People aren't following us anymore. He's exposing our hypocrisy and error, and I don't like my hypocrisy and error exposed." Do you know who the people are who get well? It's folks who are exposed in their hypocrisy and error, women caught in the act of adultery.
Do you know why I love this story? Because she is me. Again, let me just make this comment. That just drives me crazy. Here are a bunch of guys, and they found a woman, and they bring the woman but not the man. It would be like me walking up and going, "Teacher! Will you tell these women to quit taking their clothes off and standing in front of cameras? Would you tell these women to quit taking their clothes off and dancing on stages? These wicked women!"
The teacher might say, "Well, Todd, it's interesting, because the reason women take their clothes off and stand in front of cameras is because guys like you have an insatiable appetite for objectifying women and living for your own pleasure and not treating them with dignity. Women don't just go around taking their clothes off and dancing naked for no reason.
They do it because you, as a leader in this society, have pushed them to that to survive. You've so thoroughly abused them that all they think they are is sexual creatures who can make a living, and maybe a good one, by acting like they enjoy what they're doing for you. Why are you bringing these women before me?" He might write that in the dirt in front of me.
I was in Uganda last week, and as we did this graduation for these kids we're pouring into, the district coordinator of education stood up there and gave a pretty good message for about 30 minutes exhorting the different folks in the town to do the right thing, but then it was really interesting. At one point, he goes, "Hey, let me just say something to you women. Quit getting pregnant and having children you can't afford to feed."
I thought to myself, "Does that seem odd to anybody?" Actually, Rick Howard, an attorney, is the one who heard him specifically specify women. It isn't like gals are walking through the bush and going to the pregnancy shop and buying some sperm and inserting it in themselves through some ancient in vitro process just so they can be pregnant.
I thought to myself, why not say, "Hey, guys, why don't you remember what God intended, which is that you're not the sum of your desires and you shouldn't be baby daddies (like many of the guys in Africa are) or you shouldn't be polygamists (like many of the guys in Africa are) or you shouldn't be an individual who moves in and out of relationships like you're trying on a pair of shoes. You treat women with dignity, and when God brings a woman and you together, you love them, and when God blesses you with children, you labor diligently to support them and don't just sit there all day while she fetches water for you."
That probably wouldn't get you reelected as district coordinator of education. Isn't it funny how our convictions are often very convenient? "Teacher, fix these people." It always bothers me when I see the church really passionate about sins the church doesn't struggle with. Most married folks in the church make a big deal out of divorce. To you I say, hey, God's prohibition was not against divorce; it was for oneness. How are you doing loving your wife as Christ loved the church? Let's focus there.
We love to make a big deal about homosexuality since the large majority of us don't struggle with homosexuality, but God didn't say he has a problem with homosexuals alone; God said he has a problem with anybody who perverts the beautiful, holy perfection of sex, which was his idea. Let's quit picking off stuff we don't struggle with. Let's bring the male and the female before him, and let's realize we're the ones who need help, not them.
Let me teach you through this text, as if I haven't already. I love it. Here are a couple of quick things. Are you ready? How about this? If you want to say you are a follower of Jesus Christ, if you want to say you are an imitator of him, then you have to be somebody who teaches people. You have to teach them. That's what Jesus did every time they came to him. Again and again, 60 different times in his ministry, you'll find that Jesus taught them.
Now look. To teach somebody, you have to have something valuable to say. I'm going to say, if you have something valuable to say, it's because you've heard it from the only one who can teach, reprove, correct, and equip. It's the Father. You have to learn to communicate the Father's truth. It's amazing how many times, when God himself was here, he quoted himself in what he already said in the Old Testament.
One of the things that qualifies you as a leader… If you aspire to be an elder, it's a good thing. Elders, Titus 1:9 says, must be able to teach. It doesn't mean God has given you gifts to maybe communicate on a large scale in a way that blesses other people. It does mean that when you sit down with your son, your daughter, your lost friend, your culture, you can communicate to them in a compelling way truths that grab their hearts and move them toward that which will be life to them. You have to be a student of the Word.
When I'm in Africa and we hand out Bibles, they always applaud. When we're here and we say, "Open your Bibles," we roll our eyes. Which culture do you think is on a better track? When you wake up, if you don't devour truth and put it in your heart so if somebody asks, "What do you have for me today…?" If you can't share something fresh from God's Word, then don't call yourself a follower of Jesus. Just don't do it.
Jesus says this at the end of his ministry. He summed up his whole ministry. He said, "I'll tell you what I want you to do. Having received from me what I've given to you, go. You go and baptize." The word means identify. "You have people identify with the Father's love for them through the provision of the Son, enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. You have them relate totally to God through me." Then he says, "And you teach them to observe everything I've commanded you." Are you a teacher? Do people look at you as a source of life and instruction?
Is there value coming from your lips that's rooted in God's Word? If not, don't call yourself a follower of Christ. That's what he did. He was a teacher. Early in the morning, it says, he went to the temple and sat down (this was a custom of rabbis), and they gathered around him, and he taught. You teach with your life. You teach with your words. You teach with your confession. One of the most powerful teaching gifts I have is "Hey, that was not Jesus there. That was Todd Wagner. Will you forgive me?" Teach.
How about this? Don't make the mistake of believing that because Jesus at the end said, "Neither do I condemn you…" It's true. Jesus didn't condemn. This is my application for you. Jesus didn't come to condemn, but that doesn't mean he is not the condemner. Let me say it to you again. He did not come to condemn the first time. He came to offer life and offer it abundantly. He came to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, but this is the Lion of Judah. This is the one who will rule with a rod of iron. This is the one who will call people into account.
This is what he taught all through his writings. We studied this exhaustively in John 5:19 down through the end of the chapter, where Jesus said, "There's going to be a resurrection, some to a resurrection of life, some to a resurrection of judgment. I'm the one who will resurrect you to life, and I'm the one you'll meet when you get resurrected to judgment. Respond to who I am in my grace and kindness on this tour through earth so that something worse doesn't befall you."
Jesus doesn't need to heal you from your health or heal you from your poverty. That's not your greatest need. Your greatest need is the heart wound and the soul wound. So mark it. Jesus did not come to condemn. It's John 3:16-17. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." That's true. Verse 17 says, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."
Keep reading, and you'll find out he's going to send the Son back into the world eventually to condemn the world in sin, and he tells us why he hasn't condemned it yet: because he's patient toward you, wishing that none should perish but all should come to repentance. If you're here and you're an adulterer this morning, this is your moment. Come to the one who came not to condemn but to rescue you from sin and darkness. This is truth. Even if John 8:11 doesn't belong in your Bible, that truth belongs in your heart. I can support it all through Scripture.
I made some other notes as I wrote this down for myself. "Meet him as the Lamb who came to die for your sins or you will meet him as the Lion who consumes those who sin against him." It's a fact. I wrote this down: "Don't mistake his unwillingness to judge here with his aversion to judgment." That day is coming. I love you. I want to tell you that. You'd better reconcile with this gentle Jesus, meek and wild, who went to a cross for you. Because he has been ascended from that cross, the tomb is empty. He has been given a crown, and the Father has given all judgment to the Son.
Do you want to know why this is my favorite story? Because when God showed up, his first words were, "Fear not," not "Brace yourself forever." It led to my story of grace. If it weren't for the provision of Jesus Christ, I have nothing. Let's get an application by learning what Jesus did not say. Track with me. Two more things for you here. He said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."
So what did he not say? He did not say, "I condemn you. Go get your life together, come back, and I'll consider you afresh." Isn't that great? But isn't that what most of us…? I can't tell you how many people I talk to and say, "Come and see," and they go, "I can't. My life is such a wreck." I go, "Perfect." You can't clean yourself up enough to enter into his presence without needing to shrink back. He wants you to be caught in the very act of adultery. Again, not that you have to go commit adultery to get the grace here, people. Track with me.
What I mean is you are adulterating yourself in your heart. The God, your first love, the one who created you and gave you every good thing… You have found another lover called self and the world and the Enemy. He's jerking you out of the sack of sin and disrepair, and he doesn't want you to shower before you come, because it's not about your flesh; it's about the mark on your soul. He says, "Come here. Let me cover you in my blood. Let me take your punishment." He doesn't say, "Clean up, show up, and I'll consider you."
If you are here this morning and last night you did it again, and you're so filled with guilt and shame you feel like you may as well have been wearing a scarlet letter A when you walked in here this morning, I want to tell you something. Jesus is looking for you, and he wants to tell you he loves you. He doesn't want to condemn you. He was condemned for you, but you have to acknowledge that you need saving and that he's the Savior.
Let me tell you what else he didn't say. He didn't say, "I don't condemn you, so continue in your sin. Celebrate grace. I'll see you in heaven, and we'll make it all good. Party on." That's not what he said. What he said was, "Look. The reason you're in this predicament is because you keep living in a way that seems right to you. That's not a good way to live. Your biggest problem is not that society wants to throw rocks at you or calls you a homosexual, an adulterer, a divorcee, a porn addict, a materialist, or a selfish tyrant. That's not your problem.
Your problem is that I, the Holy One, who can have no fellowship with darkness, can have nothing to do with you in your current state. The good news is I love you and I've done something about that. I'm not going to sacrifice my goodness. I'm going to pour out my full justice. By no means will I let the guilty go unpunished. Guess what: I took it for you. In fact, it's a good thing I did, because I'm a perfect, eternal, holy God, so unless there was a perfect, eternal, holy sacrifice, nothing you could do could ever appease me, but the Son has come to die for you so you can be reconciled to me.
Here's the gig. If you're reconciled to me, it means we have a relationship and we have fellowship and you know that I am good and my Spirit indwells in you, so you're not going to live according to your spirit; you're going to live according to mine, and you're going to live according to what is holy, and you won't continue in sin. Because you're not perfect like me, there are still going to be moments where you regress back into the stuff you did, but when you do, you'll acknowledge it. You'll confess it to me. You'll confess it to others.
You'll not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers, but you're going to meditate on the law of the Lord and on that law meditate day and night. You're going to let me re-parent you and teach you how to think. You're going to put good in your heart so you can be instructed. You're not going to love sin. You're not going to hate sin because you might get caught; you're going to hate sin because I've made you good. I don't condemn you. I've reconciled you to me, so walk with me."
Folks, when you do that, it changes everything. This is why it's my favorite story that's not in your Bible. Listen. If I'm hanging around the fifth century and I know that story is floating around, I'm sticking it in right after John 7:53. Aren't you? But I want to let you know it probably doesn't belong there. It's probably more Lucan than Johannine, but we're not even sure it's that. All I know is everything in there is true. I've supported it with Scripture. I've been a good theologian and a good pastor, and I've been a good friend to you.
This Jesus will condemn, but this Jesus has been condemned for you. When you know that, it changes everything. Walk with him. Seek him. Run with his people. Be alive. He has come that you might have life and have it abundantly. I want to show you, as we close with this song with a little video behind it… The character in it you're going to see, the primary woman, is one of the women who rushed to the tomb that morning.
Who was it? It was a woman who was an adulterer. Her name was Mary Magdalene, the Scripture says. You're going to watch Mary rush into the tomb to see that the one she heard offer her life was alive so she could be a woman of hope, and I want you to see when she saw that what she had placed her hope in was indeed worth placing her hope in, and I'm going to challenge you to do it.
Father, as we are instructed through song, I pray that our hearts remain attentive for the next four minutes and that you'd grow us to love you the way all folks who have been forgiven from deep, dark, desperate rebellion have been. Thank you that you haven't condemned us. I pray that we would walk with you and in walking with you be righteous and sin no more. For your glory and our good I pray, amen.
Amen. He is alive, and he loves adulterers like me, and he loves adulterers like you. He has said, "Neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more so that nothing worse befalls you, something even worse than your wife finding out you've been unfaithful, society seeing you can't stand up to your vows. You might meet me in all my fullness and all my holiness and not receive what I have provided for you to be alive. I did not come into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through me," Jesus said.
If you're here today and you have never come, the good news is you don't have to leave and get cleaned up. You just have to acknowledge you need a Savior and he is here in the person of Jesus Christ. Don't leave until you come and let us explain to you how you can have a relationship with him. Check the box in that little perforated section that says, "I have to know this Jesus, how to have a relationship with God through him."
If you're here this morning and you, like me, deserve rocks thrown at your head and judgment coming from the King but he has lifted your head and kissed it and said, "I forgive you; I'm taking your rocks and your cross for you," then be like Mary Magdalene and go wake up everybody you can. You tell them what has happened. You tell them the good news.
If you're like Peter and you've said you're going to love him and serve him and you cratered on him again this week three times and you're here this morning, he's here to tell you, "Peter, it's not too late. I want to build the church, the next generation of believers, on men like you if you'll just walk with me. I don't condemn you, but follow me. Teach everything I've taught you. Be a student of my Word. You go. You've been reminded this morning who I am. It's time to worship." If you don't know this King, please, don't leave this morning without worshiping him. If you know him, please, don't leave here without worshiping him.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.
Who was Jesus Christ? A mythical man created to give a false sense of comfort after we die? Some sort of character that enables us to justify our own choices while simultaneously giving us the power to judge others? Or was He something much bigger? God, in the flesh, walking and living among His creation. A sinless man who became the sacrifice for our sins. The Gospel of John is more than Christology 101. It is an invitation to a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Come join us on this life-changing journey through the book of John: the story of Jesus Christ.