HOW SOON, AFTER WE REPENT,
DOES JESUS FORGIVE OUR SINS?
And the scribes and the pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery, and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, and when they had sat her in the midst.
They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned, but what sayest Thou?
They said, Tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, with His finger, wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not.
So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin, among you, let him cast the first stone.”
And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out, one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last, and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those, thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.”
This is a gentle and quick forgiveness of a woman caught in a sin that at that time was punishable by stoning. Jesus is confronted by some treacherous, judgmental Pharisees, who want Jesus to condone the stoning of a woman caught in adultery. He is gentle with the woman, and asks her where her accusers are, and she realizes that Jesus sees her heart, understands her repentance, and is not going to Himself accuse her, and the consciences of the accusers formerly present, has chased them from the scene.
Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned, but what sayest Thou?
A woman, caught in adultery, is brought before the Lord, as He is preaching this sermon. A charge against her is made, and Jesus is challenged for His opinion on what should be done to her.
Leviticus 20:10 (KJV)
10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
The law was plain. Yet, even these accusers were neglectful. If she was ‘caught’ in the act, there had to be a male accomplice. He too was guilty of adultery. Where was he? Perhaps it had been a set up, and one of the accusers was the guilty one. Perhaps they lured this adulteress, set her up, so they could present her to Jesus, hoping this loving Man would be merciful, and let her live. Perhaps the male accomplice was a friend, and they were merciful to him themselves. Whatever the story, they had neglected to hold the man to the same standard, the same possible punishment, as the woman.
I have ministered many years. There are always a group that want to catch, or discern, sin in others. There are some who want sins punished, and the sinners rejected for life. Forgiveness following repentance is partial, at best. And some never will forgive nor forget certain sins in others. Some are judgmental and want judgment applied, denunciation pronounced, upon whom they find to be guilty. They are often merciful to themselves in the same sins, but to others, they want judgment announced, and hope to see the Lord perform unmerciful wrath upon the sin they find.
I have often had to deal with such ‘judgmental’ people. I have counseled more times than I can count, that the sin that they feel is revealed in another, should first be taken to the Lord in times of intercession. Mercy should be prayed upon the guilty, if they are truly guilty. Counsel from the Lord is first to be garnered, for sometimes, innocent ones are ‘discerned’ with faulty discernment to be guilty. Trying to calm down from desire for ‘wrath’, the ones who are locked in the idea that sin needs judged here and now, is not easy. Many people claim the gift of discernment from God, and actually only have the devils’ gift of judgmentalism.
We need to take our thoughts of others’ guilt, or even our proof of their sinfulness, to the Lord Jesus in prayer and in intercession. We are called to be merciful as we see Him here to be, not called to be stoners, fault revealers, judgmental bigots. In my many, many attempts to calm, and to counsel such bigoted, agenda driven, hot headed, people of the church, it is often fruitless and a never ending job to get them to not want spiritual stonings of whom they deem guilty.
These judgmental ones wanted Jesus to stoop to their level, and help them stone this woman. In the end of this sermon, they attempt to stone Jesus. This is also typical of things that happen in today’s church. If the preacher counsels intercession and mercy, the judgmental ones turn on the preacher. The bigoted, judgmental ones often will seek vengeance on the preacher, and all the preacher has truly done is be merciful, seek salvation not vengeance, on the sinners that the judgmental ones want to see punished.
Anyone who has been in ministry knows the circumstances of the sermon in John 8 is often repeated in this world. We need to look at this sermon, see what Jesus preached, how He handled these kind of people.
tempting him, that they might have to accuse him
Had Jesus contradicted Moses, contradicted the law of Leviticus 20:10, He would have been condemned to be a false prophet. They could, at that point, have stoned both Jesus and the woman. Had He judged the woman, the woman to be worthy of death, then Jesus would have been accused to the Romans as taking authority only given to them by their law, and be crucified by them for murder of the woman.
Jesus bowing, pretending not to be paying attention, writing with His finger on the ground, was a tradition of that day of embarrassment. Finally, He speaks to those who were the accusers, and speaks directly to their inner spirit. Their consciences are quickened, resurrected from the deadness of callousness. Convinced of their own sins, knowing that they were as worthy of death as was she, they began to slip away. The eldest went first, probably having the most sins due to their more years.
Since they had continued to ask, Jesus said the sinless ones should first cast a stone. What He had been writing upon the ground must have awakened their consciences. Their sins may have been what Jesus wrote, or the laws that they had broken may have been the text of that handwritten sermon on the ground.
Whatever it was, it was a concern for them, and they quickly began to leave the scene.
They seem to be back by the end of the sermon in John 8. They are back with a vengeance, and attempt to inspire and commit another stoning. This time the victim is not the repentant woman, it is the Lord Jesus Himself. They stir up the crowd, they twist the truthful message of Jesus, and attempt to turn the crowd against Him, as they had tried to turn Jesus against the woman.
This sermon in John 8 has two attempted stonings. One against the woman, which Jesus hinders by letting the consciences of the perpetrators be stirred to realize they were needing mercy themselves. They wanted no mercy, no intercession, for the woman, but they were not willing to let the handwritten sermon of Jesus be testimony against their own sins.
They returned with a vengeance. Pastors, teachers, trustees in churches have often since been confronted by judgmental people, who, when stopped by interceding, counseling pastors, find the vengeance of the judgmental ones turns on them. Their anger is indescribable. Their blindness to truth, to the mercy of God, to the love of the Lord, keeps them from seeing that their vengeance against the pastor is revealing of their inner judgmental nature. Instead of humbly seeking the Lord’s forgiveness, as did the woman, they seek to kill Jesus before He reveals what the handwritten sermon on the ground had said about them.
lifted up... without sin cast a stone at her.
Jesus stood up, looked directly at the accusers, and challenged them to ‘cast the first stone.’ They could see the handwritten sermon on the ground, they knew in their own consciences that they were guilty of sins too. None of them could claim to be ‘anamartetos’ (G361), the Greek word for ‘sinless’. Humbled, perhaps soon to be stoned themselves, if the handwritten sermon of Jesus is revealed to the crowd, they are unwilling to start the stoning process themselves.
Capital punishment by stoning was lawful in the Jewish law. (Ex. 19:13; Dt. 13:10; 17:5; 22:21). The Jewish method of stoning was to throw the sinner from a 10 foot scaffold, with their hands tied. The witnesses of the sin, did the pushing, and then one of the witnesses would take a large stone and cast it upon the chest of the sinner. Then all the ones present were to throw more stones until the sinner was dead.
Often times, in reality, the scaffold was omitted, and the stones were cast without even a witness present to confirm the guilt. Had Jesus picked up a stone and cast it there in the Temple, the crowd likely would have joined in willingly, and sinfully. The anger of many today against the sin in others, is often as wicked. We live in a day of mercy, yet many want to cast stones at others. We are to pray for even our accusers, we are to seek to defend and counsel toward Jesus, those the judgmental ones in the congregation want to see embarrassed and condemned.
convicted by their own conscience
Conscience is a true blessing. It is the inner awareness of one’s own sin and wrong doing. These men of judgment, were really having designs to kill Jesus, not just the woman. The woman was only a ploy to try to get Jesus to do or say something that either the Jewish leaders could use to kill Him, or that the Romans could use to condemn Him. The man they failed to bring, who was as guilty as the woman, was probably in the crowd, un-condemned by the judgmental ones, probably due to him being their friend. The writing of Jesus on the ground, the handwritten sermon, was likely stirring their consciences. The challenge to claim sinlessness, which no honest person can claim, likely stirred their conscience. The hypocrisy that was evident to the whole crowd there was stirring their conscience.
and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
The accusers, the ones who were judgmental, departed, leaving the woman in the midst of the disciples and others who were present. The disciples seemed to have found Jesus by this time. Others there who had been unwitting victims in this attempt of the accusers to trick Jesus so they could kill Him were standing there. Jesus now is going to finish the sermon. The message is going to upset many.
Jesus is dealing now with a crowd of complicit sinners, and soon to be joined again by the attacking, judgmental ones who had just rushed away to get the subject changed.
where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? ...Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more
These words caused early Christians to avoid reading this story in the days of the early church. This story is found in John, and in the Hebrew gospel of Matthew called the Logia, but it was not preached, in many of the early churches. They debated this story and feared it would sound too easy on adultery, and their children might be affected. Some early Christians thought Jesus was not condemning adultery enough here, but in reality, what He was doing was showing that no matter what the sin, mercy is preferable over judgment, and He came to save, not to condemn.
We too have a mission from Jesus to preach the gospel, the good news, not seek to condemn to hell those we think we discern or can prove evil. Jesus was not going to pass sentence on the woman, or to execute the law of Moses. If that woman had gone out and sinned more, not repented, not found salvation, she will someday stand at the White Throne judgment, and be condemned to eternal judgment in the lake of fire. But Jesus detects a change in this woman, and tells her to ‘sin no more’. Her sin was not justified by Jesus, it was identified as sin, but hope of forgiveness, and of justification is what Jesus wants to offer all of us.
Jesus came to save, not to destroy. Forgiveness of her sin is offered by
Jesus then and still now. If the accusers, the judgmental ones repent then and now, we find Jesus is still offering mercy. The judgment day will come, but till them we offer mercy and forgiveness to those who repent and accept Jesus.
1 John 1:8-10 (KJV)
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The woman caught in adultery, and Jesus reaction to her, and to her sin, illustrates Jesus and His mercy. This event reveals in the accusers here, the action of the conscience. The conscience of man, can be awakened by the rhema word. Jesus spoke those to these men. The conscience is made to alert us to actions of right or wrong. The untrained conscience in man is able to convict for things not in God’s law, the mis-taught conscience in some has allowed them to do the worst of crimes. When God speaks to the conscience, His rhema words convinces of sins, overriding the untaught and mis-taught of man.
“... the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing them witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another... Who (Gentiles who know not the law) show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing them witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.”
Most, if the conscience is allowed to work, will remember that they are guilty of the same kinds of sins, of which they accuse others.
“Therefore, thou are inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest, for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things...”
The ‘rhema’ that they heard from Jesus was, ‘Let him that is without sin, cast the first stone’, and it awakened their consciences. Conscience can be stirred. God’s Word was heard calling from amidst the trees of Eden. Man often seeks to hide, as did Adam and Eve in that time (Genesis 3:8). The blood of Abel cries out to heaven from the ground, speaking of the conviction that came upon Cain (Genesis 4:10). Judas went out and hung himself in conviction over what he had done.
Sometimes, a sin can be hidden in the memory. The pain of conscience may be assuaged by rational arguments, by the repression of thought. The rhema word of God awakens the dead, or deaf conscience. It stirs the buried memory to the surface.
The fact that there is a ‘day of judgment’ is an event that the certainty of is ingrained in every person. We do not need to convince of the fact of the ‘day of judgment’, but rather we speak about it, showing the way to avoid judgment for sins that are repented. The proving that there is a ‘day of judgment’ is unnecessary.
When Nathan spoke the word to David, ‘thou are the man’, the conscience of David was awakened, and he knew that he would be judged for sin.
If one says ‘I’m not so bad.”, the conscience needs awakened. The awakening needs continuing until one says ‘I’m not so good, except for Jesus.”
The conscience is like a court of law. It tells you that you are the culprit. God is the Judge, and He knows. Your own memory recalls as a witness the sins you have committed. You must either repent or lie, deny, and thereby add to the sins.
How foolish it is to run from one’s conscience as did these men in John 8. They had Jesus right there, and could have repented, been forgiven, and started a redeemed life free of condemnation. Yet, they left, took condemnation with them, and left the blessed, forgiving Savior behind.
Conscience is an intuition of moral law. Some do not know Jesus, or the Bible. Their conscience in that case registers God’s disapproval if they sin. Even those who doubt God’s existence, when confronted with rhema word, find a conscience awakening in them. The sentence of guilty is realized, and convinced upon the sinner, and only repentance to the Lord will change that sentence.
Yes, the sin of which the woman was accused is serious. Jesus does not lessen the sin nor make it sound not very serious. Christianity still denounces the sin of adultery and fornication to be serious. Society may be lax toward the sin today, but though it is condoned and joked about, given pretty names, the Lord still gives the same advice about it, ‘go and sin no more.’
I Corinthians 6:9-11
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither, fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God.”
The Word of God is plain, and adultery is sinful. The early church struggled with this story, and some copies of Scripture after awhile omitted this passage about the woman. Older copies show it was originally included, but later, they feared misunderstanding of the verse ‘Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.” For many years, certain churches forbid this story to be read in the church.
No witnesses stayed, so it would have been illegal for Jesus to have her stoned. When someone repents of sin, it is forgiven. Jesus knew her heart, and could see her repentance and sorrow for her sin. So, for Jesus to announce that there was no condemnation on her, was not condoning her sin, but it was recognizing her repentance. The fact Jesus added ‘go and sin no more’, shows that Jesus did not condone her sin.
The ones, whose conscience made them flee, returned by the end of the sermon. They were not there to repent of their evil judgmentalism, but were there to finish what they had truly wanted. The men will attempt to stone Jesus.
We see that kind of thing happen today. The judgmental ones will slink off in shame of conscience for the bad words, the evil accusations, made against others. Their lack of mercy, their lack of repentance is evident to all. But in a time, a bit later, perhaps the same day, or years later, they come back with the same judgmental, fault finding, accusing intent that was there in their hearts previously. They are unchanged.
When we are repentant of our sins, the Lord will step in and shoo away the accusers, and at the throne of our merciful Savior, we find justification and righteousness. This woman left the scene totally justified and righteous in the eyes of the Savior.