Sermon October 27, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1417

October 27, 2019 John 8.2-11

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Mercy and Grace”



2 Early in the morning he [Jesus] came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”


We have been encouraged by Jesus in our series of sermons on conversations with Jesus that might help us to have conversations about Jesus. In addition, these passages might help us have our own conversations with Jesus in prayer and when we interact with Scripture! To this point we have been looking at how Jesus interacted with people, for instance, sometimes telling a story, other times giving a warning, and we have been seeing not just what Jesus said, but things He did like showing hospitality. Today I want to include those two things, what He said and what He did, but also look at the roles He served in conversations. In this passage from John, the primary role is that of teacher. In this role Jesus teaches us about how we might say things, what actions we might take, and how we also become teachers in conversations. The other three roles Jesus has in John 8 are particular roles of His that we point to as teachers, Jesus as a merciful judge, Jesus as forgiver, and Jesus’ as the One who calls us to holiness. So let’s go!


  • Jesus as Teacher


It is quite obvious in all of our passages in this series that Jesus is a teacher. In the Gospels He was addressed as a Rabbi. It is one of the main tasks of the Rabbi or the Pastor to be a teacher. (It is also one of the roles of Ruling Elders!) And in the same sense that we are all called to proclaim the message of Jesus, we are also called to teach others about Jesus. We might never be called to step into the classroom to fulfill that role, but we will all have opportunities to teach others in everyday conversations. Teaching is inevitable when talking about Jesus especially to those who know little or nothing about Jesus and perhaps even more important when talking to people who have an inaccurate understanding of who Jesus was and is.

Jesus is our ultimate authoritative teacher. He told the disciples and us in John 14 that the Holy Spirit would be our teacher as well (John 14.26). One and the same! One reason Jesus and His Spirit teach is so that we too would teach. It is a part of what it means to follow Jesus and to teach others to follow Him as well. What we are looking for in all of Scripture is what it teaches us about what ever topic it speaks. And through that Word the Spirit is at work as teacher.

It is interesting that the scribes and Pharisees address Jesus as “Teacher”. They know. They know even if they are there to trick Jesus into saying something wrong. Jesus was and is a great teacher. He teaches multiple lessons in this story. Things like: hypocrisy is just as serious a sin as adultery; forgiveness requires something of the one forgiven; not everyone is going to like what the gospel has to teach. There is more, of course, and we should seek those things out in every part of Scripture. Everything we can learn from Jesus will help us in life and in conversations.




  • Jesus as Merciful Judge


Jesus is asked to judge this woman who was accused of adultery. It is certainly not the role of these men to judge this woman. Others would have had that role. But their intent as not about her, it was to trap Jesus. They probably knew that if Jesus had said stone her, he would have broken Roman law; if he let her go he would be violating God’s law against adultery. They suspected that they could get Jesus in a jam, a no win situation. There are those who try to catch us that way as well. They try to pose some situation or question just to stump us in defending our hope.

Sometimes I think it wise on our parts to ignore such people, or at least ignore their attempt to trap us. It is interesting what Jesus does here. He stoops down to write on the ground and writing on the ground would have been seen as a symbol of His refusal to answer their question. Perhaps He knows they are only interested in trapping Him, to find fault in Him. When He does stand to address them, He does not answer their question of the legality of the offense against Moses’ law but goes beyond that to the sin of all. After He speaks to them, He then goes right back to to the ground. This would have been another gestures that He is finished with them! Jesus is not concerned about political correctness or offending or even being all that nice. What He is concerned about is sin, the woman’s and that of the scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus takes control of the conversation. He does not let their question of Mosaic law or her sin dominate the scene. Jesus is in control and He will do what Jesus does! What He does in the conversation is to lift the wrongdoing of the scribes and Pharisees at least to the level of her adultery. In the Mosaic law the male would have also been brought before a governing council. Where is the male who would have also been guilty of adultery? Jewish law would require both to be put to death. Things just don’t add up here with this accusation even if she is guilty. These men have brought the most defenseless of people before Jesus. Hypocrisy is as much at stake here as adultery. In that sense Jesus is lifting the woman and the men on equal terms even if that means equally sinful.

Now, I am suggesting here that we become teachers and not judges. Jesus is the judge and we are called to teach others that Jesus will judge with truth and mercy and justice. There are times when we are called on to judge, but never of those who are outside of the church. Never of outsiders, only of insiders (1 Cor 5.9-13). Instead we are to show mercy to non-believers in showing them the merciful judge. This we should pursue all the time. Point people to Jesus.


  • Jesus as Forgiver


Jesus’ judgment is to show mercy and thus forgive. Forgiveness as a way to repentance and knowing the Gospel. One thing this passage shows above all is the opportunities for mercy and grace to sinners. She receives both while the scribes and Pharisees walk away without any change in their hearts. Forgiveness is one of the main reasons we are who we are, because Jesus has forgiven our sin and made us whole. It is one of the main reasons we want so much to see other come to Jesus. It is one of the main things we teach others when we have conversations about Jesus. To say that Jesus died so that you might live is the basis of forgiveness.

For some people this is also one of the most difficult concepts to accept. Some believe that they have done too many sinful things or things too deeply sinful and they are not worthy of forgiveness. And they are right in the sense that they are not worthy, but none of us are worthy.


  • Jesus’ Call to Holiness


Mercy and forgiveness are not license to go on doing whatever we want, but it carries with it the responsibility to go and sin no more. That is, go and do not live for sin. Do not live in sin. Do not consider sin as a way of life. This is what is being called on in our society today, that we allow sins as a way of life. Jesus forgives the adultery and yet He calls her to much more than just being forgiven.

The purpose of the story is not to show her wrongdoing as much as it is to show that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. The Bible clearly shows that there are consequences for sin. This story also shows that once caught in sin there is opportunity for forgiveness and responsibility to repent. While she does not say a word about her guilt or innocence, she is shown that no one is left to condemn her, not even Jesus. So He tells her to go and sin no more. This is a command to turn away from adultery and not do it again.

To sin no more (also in John 5.14) means to start anew with a life that breaks free of sin’s hold, no longer living in a lifestyle of sin. In essence Jesus offers everyone in the story and everyone who reads the story an opportunity to break free from their sinful ways and find life in God’s grace and mercy. What the scribes and Pharisees are unwilling or unable to do is break from their self-righteousness and admit they need the Savior. Grace abounds over the sin of religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees and the adultery of the woman. What that grace and mercy then requires is a life of faithfulness. This is what Jesus teaches. This entire story teaches multiple lessons for life and for life in Christ and what we can do in our conversations about Jesus is offer these same lessons of mercy, forgiveness, and responsibility.

This is what forgiveness, mercy, and grace require...accountability, holiness, righteousness, commitment, devotion, love, that we also show mercy and grace as a way of calling people to Jesus. That is part of our testimony, a call to holiness, to righteousness, to discipline, to joyful obedience.

The call is to us and to others.


What then can we learn from this passage to help us in conversations about Jesus?

  1. Remember that Jesus and the Holy Spirit teach us and we become teachers as well.

  2. We are to point people to Jesus who is, among many other things, a merciful judge, the One who forgives, and the One who calls us to live holy lives.

  3. The more engaged we are with Scripture, the more capable we will be in conversations.

  4. All of this is supported by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Trust that above all else.

  5. Know that we are all teachers! This is one of our roles in proclaiming to gospel.

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