If you have ever written something like an article for a magazine or a dissertation for a Master's or Doctorate degree or if you've ever tried to write a book, you know what a daunting and exacting task that is. When I was first faced with my first book, I thought how in the world does somebody do this? It's a daunting task. John R.W. Stott said the nearest thing a man will ever come to having a baby is to write a book. Of course, he was a single guy when he wrote that. There was a young man who wanted to become a great writer and somebody said well define what great is. He said I want to write the kind of stuff the whole world will read, the kind of stuff that really brings people to an emotional response. I want to write the kind of stuff that makes you scream and cry and howl in anger and pain. Well he got his wish. He works for Microsoft writing error messages that come up on your computer. He moves people emotionally. John chapter 8 is probably, to most people, a familiar text of Scripture. It's one of the most loved or beloved stories of Jesus in the New Testament because it's a story of a woman brought to Him who was caught in adultery, brought by religious people and Jesus extends such mercy to her. But it's also the story of Jesus writing something. In fact, it's the only occasion the Bible ever records that Jesus wrote something down. Now it wasn't permanent. He didn't write it on paper or vellum or parchment or in a computer. He wrote it on the dust of the stones of the temple courts. It's long been blown away. But it's there nonetheless. And we're gonna focus on what Jesus did and what Jesus said to both these people who brought the woman and the woman herself. Before we do, I want to read something to you written by Phillip Shaff, one of the great historians of the church. He says Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon. Without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined. Without the eloquence of the school, He spoke such words of life as never were spoken before or since and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet. Without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. I wanted to start with that quote because that goes along with what John has in mind when he wrote what he wrote. The theme of this story, along with the rest of the Gospel of John, is Jesus Christ. Who is He? What is He like? What did He say? What did He do? Why is He so great? So that's what I want you to keep in mind here, as in the rest of the Gospel of John, this really isn't a story about scribes and Pharisees who, in their hypocrisy, come to Jesus. That's included but that's not the central focus. It's not really a focus story about a woman caught in adultery, though she was and she is in the story. But that's not the principle focus. This isn't a story about let's figure out what Jesus wrote on the ground and we'll write books about it. He did write something. We don't know what it was. But that's really not the focus. The focus of the story is how Jesus handled hypocrites, how Jesus handled people caught in gross sin, and what He did and what He said. And that is why we go back to the theme of this book--Believe 879. 879 verses with that constant recurring theme of faith. So that this and other stories would elevate the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily thinking. Now before we jump into our text, verses 1 through 11 of John 8, we have a problem with the story. The problem is it's not found in all of the ancient manuscripts. It's found in quite a lot but it's not found in all of them. Moreover, it's not placed here in every manuscript. In some it is, but in other places, for instance, this story is placed immediately after Luke chapter 21 verse 38. In another manuscript it's found right after John chapter 7 verse 36. Then another manuscript, after John 7 verse 44 and still in another manuscript it's tacked at the end of the Gospel of John. Having said that, you should also know that most every scholar believes it is biblical, inspired by the Holy Spirit and to be considered part of the biblical text. Moreover, it fits the pattern of John. Have you noticed that John is developing a pattern? For instance, in chapter 5 there is an event, an incident, followed by a message based upon that incident. Chapter 6: incident, message. Chapter 7: incident, message. Same pattern here. There is an incident and then a message. If you take out the incident, it leaves you scratching your head about the message. So rather than trying to argue and spend a whole morning trying to figure out where this thing fits, we'll just fit it right where it lies and read it as part of this text in John. John chapter 8 verse 1: "But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear." I love that. "So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Now what I'd like you to notice this morning is three aspects or characteristics about Jesus Christ in this situation. Number one, Jesus is meek with people. You'll see a fine example of that in the first couple verses. Second, He's masterful with hypocrites. The way He handles this group with one sentence destroys their argument. And then finally, He's merciful with sinners. Those three characteristics will occupy our time this morning. Now I want you to go back to chapter 7. Look at the last verse of chapter 7. It says, "And everyone went to his own house." I don't know if you're like me, but sometimes I read a text of the Bible and I go, who cares? I actually think that or I think why is that there? Why is that written? Because, I mean, you could said that about every day. At the end of every day, everybody goes to his own house. So why is that put here? it really doesn't make sense until you read the first verse of chapter 8. And that's, by the way, where the last verse of chapter 7 belongs because it says, "But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." It's an odd way to begin a chapter, isn't it? The word 'but'? You wouldn't open a novel and have the first word 'but' because you'd go, but what? What does it refer to? But now compare them. read them together. "Everyone went to his own house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." Stop there. The Mount of Olives is just east of the old city of Jerusalem. The Garden of Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives. If I ever take you to Jerusalem, if you ever come on a tour, one of the first things I'll show you in Jerusalem is the view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Breathtaking. Stunning. The whole layout of the city was there. But here's the point of the passage. Everybody that day at the Feast of Tabernacles went home to their own home but Jesus, the God of the universe, God in the human body, didn't have a home to go to. He went to the Mount of Olives. He could've probably just climbed up the narrow, winding path, found a place to camp out, and just slept out under the stars in communion with His Father. Another possibility is that He kept going up to the Mount of Olives and just over the other side is a city called Bethany, on the Mount of Olives. It's where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, his friends lived. He could've stayed with them. But here is a little snippet of His whole life: humility. It sort of fits in with what Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 2. He sort of summed it all up by saying Jesus, who was in very nature God and didn't think equality with God anything to be grasped or held onto, He emptied Himself and came in the likeness of men, was in the body just like of a bondservant. Here's a little example of that. Everybody went home; Jesus went to the Mount of Olives because He didn't have a place to go to. It's just another example of His humility. His whole life was like this. Have you ever thought of the humility of leaving heaven and coming to earth? Have you ever thought of what a culture shock that would be? You're in heaven, there's angels, they're singing, they're worshiping You, You're in constant communion with God the Father and then You come to this earth. It's like--culture shock! And when Jesus was born, He wasn't born in Rome General Hospital with gold sheets and the best of attendants. He was born in a feeding trough in Bethlehem. He lived His life that way. When somebody came up to Him, a would-be follower and said, we'll follow You, I'll follow You wherever You go, Jesus said well, you ought to know something. Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. And then when He died, where did they bury Him? Not in the family burial plot. There was none. In a borrowed tomb. The tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. He didn't own it. He just borrowed it. It's probably for the best. He only needed for a weekend. But here is an example of His humility, where He stayed. Also, notice how He taught. It says in verse 2: "Now early in the morning," the language designates at sunrise, at dawn, "He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them." Did you get that? No fanfare, no press agents, no bodyguards, no angelic messengers saying, "Ladies and Gentleman! Jesus!" There's the absence of that. Here and in His entire ministry. He simply took His place among men and came in as any rabbi would and found a place and just sat on the ground and let people come around Him. Have you ever tried to imagine how He could have presented Himself? I mean, He could've had a billboard outside the city of Jerusalem: "This Week, Come to the Temple. Jesus Speaking". Uh, He could've just sort of hovered 150 feet, 250 feet up in the air over all the people in the temple, right? He could've done that, just sort of preached at them from way up there. People would go, wow! None of that. He didn't hand out flyers and say, "Come to My Bible study." He just sat down and whoever would come, came. And He served them and He taught them and He ministered to them. Humility. There's a story of a man who, in the early days of our country when only the stagecoach was the mode of transportation, he noticed that there were three ticket prices: first class, second class, and third class on the stagecoach. He peeked his head inside the coach and all the seats looked identical so he bought third class, congratulating himself that he saved a lot of money. Why buy first class? And so the stagecoach went along until it came to a steep hill and it stopped. And the driver announced, "If you're in first class, keep your seat. If you're in second class, get out and walk. If you're in third class, get out and push." Now he got it. My point: when Jesus came to this earth, He didn't come first class. He came third class. The Son of Man came to give Himself as a ransom for many. Not to be served but to serve. And this is a beautiful example here. Something else I want you to notice. Would you go down to verse 20 of our chapter? We're told exactly where He was: "These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come." The treasury is in the court of the women. I thought it would be helpful if you had a little visual example of that so here's a picture on the screen of the court. At the lower bottom is the court of the women where the treasury was. And so this is the setting where Jesus was with that crowd: the court of the women, the treasury. I bring that up because, in a minute, they're gonna bring a woman to the temple precincts. Had Jesus taught in the court of the men, they couldn't have brought the woman in. There's only two places you could've been: the court of the Gentiles or the court of the women. And He's in the court of the women by the treasury. That's where He spoke this. Let's go on, verse 3, notice His masterful approach with these religious hypocrites. "Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery," now notice this: "in the very act." Keep that in your mind. "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned." Oh, they are so self-righteous. "But what do You say?" That's the heart of it: what do You say? "This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him." Little background. The scribes were the guys who copied the Law on scrolls. They were professional secretaries. Some translations call them lawyers. They wrote and copied and wrote and copied and argued the meaning of the text and they were attached to the Pharisees who were the dominant religious influence in the land. There's only 6,000 Pharisees at the time of Jesus but they controlled the religious atmosphere. In chapter 7, do you remember the Pharisees tried to arrest Jesus but they couldn't? They sent officers, temple police, to arrest Him, to seize Him. They couldn't do it. The officers came back without Jesus and when the Pharisees said, well where is He? Why didn't you bring Him? Here's what they said: boy, can that guy preach! Nobody ever spoke like He spoke! They were just amazed at what they heard and they didn't bring Jesus so now Plan B is we have to trap Him. Let's trap Him in something He says Himself. So they bring to Him what they consider an impossible, unanswerable question. A woman caught in adultery. It was typical if you faced a problem or you had an impossible situation, you'd bring that situation to the rabbi and you asked the rabbi what should be done. So here's the situation, all made up, she may have indeed been caught in adultery but it's all a trap. And they come to Jesus and ask the rabbi about what to do. Now the problem is there is a woman. It says, verse 4, "caught in adultery". The seventh commandment is you shall not commit adultery. It was considered one of the three biggies to the Jewish people 2,000 years ago. Idolatry, murder, and adultery were the three biggies. In fact, it was such a heinous sin in God's eyes because it destroys the very fabric of the family that it's one sin in the Old Testament that they command capital punishment for. Two places: Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 22. Capital punishment. There's no exact wording as to how it should be carried out, although there is a little part of Deuteronomy where it says if there's a gal engaged to a guy and she goes out and has an affair with somebody else, she should be stoned. But the mishna, the Jewish commentary, they practiced something called death by strangulation. When any adulterer was caught, they even wrote about how it was to be done, they would place that person in three feet of manure, then they would put a soft cloth around the neck followed by a harsh cloth. The reason they wanted a soft cloth at the neck is this was supposed to be divine punishment. They didn't want to leave any human evidence that it was done that way. Soft cloth, harsh cloth, rope tied around the neck, two people at each end, and they would pull as hard as they could until the person died. It's actually written about in detail in the mishna. So picture the scene. Sun is rising, Jesus comes to the temple, people notice it's Jesus, gather all around Him, I imagine He had quite a crowd, and then suddenly there's a commotion as angry clergymen drag this woman and shove her into the crowd and call her an adulteress. Can you imagine how humiliating and degrading that would be for her? And then they pop the question. Why do You say, Jesus? Moses commanded death. What do You say? Now they have a problem. The problem they have is the Jews had not practiced capital punishment on adultery for 1,000 years at this time. So, so sanctimonious. She ought to be killed! Really? You haven't done it for 1,000 years and now you want the death penalty? Moreover, the Romans occupy the land. They stripped the Jews of having the right to take anybody's life in capital punishment. Only the Romans could do it. Um, one source even says that these Jewish rulers of the Sanhedrin were so involved in adultery that no one would dare bring this up--but they did. The other problem with this is, um, they have a very one-sided misinterpretation of Leviticus chapter 20. It says in Leviticus 20 if there is adultery, listen to the text, both the adulteress and the adulterer are to be put to death. So what's wrong with this picture? Where's the guy? We caught this woman in the very act! You did?! The very act?! Well it takes two to act. So where's the other guy? They just brought the woman. That is so typical the case, unfortunately, in many parts of the world and even in history. The gal gets blamed and the guy goes scot free. They brought the woman to Jesus. They believe that He is in an impossible situation, on the horns of a dilemma. Now you might think well what's the big deal? Just answer the question. Here's the big deal. If Jesus were to say well, no, don't stone her, then the Pharisees would've said ah-ha! You're going against the Law of Moses. You're going against the Bible. You're giving adulteresses and adulterers a free ride. And that would've quickly turned the crowd against Jesus. If, on the other hand, Jesus were to say yes, I agree with Moses and the Bible, stone her, that would've instantly ruined His reputation as being the friend of sinners. The compassionate Christ. The One who was merciful and forgave. The One who said, come to Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest. He might as well have said, come to Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I'll make sure you're stoned, if He would've said stone her. Moreover, moreover, and here's really the crux of it, I believe those guys came and they had stones in their hands and they're trying to fast-track this. They probably had stones in their hands and they said, Moses commanded her to die, what do You say? If He would've said, I agree, they would've pelted stones so fast she would've died, the Romans would've come in and said, who did this? And they would've said the rabbi told us to. So Jesus would be in trouble with the Roman government. That's why they thought Jesus was on the horns of a dilemma. And notice in verse 6 what happens: "But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear." Question: what was He writing? Answer: I don't know. Doesn't say, right? Doesn't say what He's writing. But He's writing on the ground something as if He's not even listening to them. There may be a little hint as to what He wrote. I can't be sure but I do know the word catagraphan is used for writing. Catagraphan. It's two words combined. Graphan or grapho is 'I write'. Catagraphan is 'to write something against someone' and could be translated 'to write a record or an accusation against'. One manuscript even translates it that way: He wrote the sins of each one of them. So I don't know if He, like, knew who they were and just started writing their names. Like, Schlomo, March 17, and then wrote a girl's name afterwards and he would've thought, I'd forgotten all about that. How did He know? Or, Ehud, greed. Or just sort of naming the people and something about them. Can't be sure. I found, though, an interesting prophecy in Jeremiah chapter 17 verse 13. I'll read it to you: Those who turn away from You will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water. Ok, so now why didn't Jesus just answer their question? Jesus? What do You say? And He goes Hmm... hmm... hmm... didn't even answer the question. What's that all about? It's called a strategic pause. It's called making the moment your moment. Waiting for the right time. They're chomping at the bit. In fact, look at verse 7 because He didn't answer them, He just ignored them, "So when they continued asking Him". It wasn't just a onetime deal. They asked Him. He didn't say anything; He just wrote on the ground. And they said again, so what is it? He just wrote on the ground. So what do You say? So what's the verdict? And all of these incessant pleas to have her killed simply showed the crowd how hateful they were. Now Jesus speaks and this is the heart of the story and this is what I want you to see. One single sentence and it decimated their argument. It devastated them. Now this shouldn't surprise us, because when you're talking about Jesus Christ, you're talking about one powerful mouth, right? With, with one command He can create the world. With one command He will dissolve the world. So for Him to argue a little thing with scribes and Pharisees, it's like, whatever, one sentence, I don't even need a paragraph. And this is what He says: "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." That is a devastating answer to their argument. It suddenly raises the issue from a legal issue to a spiritual issue. He's not arguing about the Mosaic Law, He's not arguing about the seventh commandment, He's not arguing about Roman versus Jewish justice. He is saying, um, you lack the qualifications to be her judge and her executioner. There is one qualification that you need. If you want to do this, you have to be without sin. Anamartetes is the Greek word--without sin--and it means one who has not sinned, one who cannot sin, in fact, one scholar says it means one who has no desire to sin. As I see it there's only one person qualified in that group to do that and to be that and who's that? Jesus. All of them are disqualified. He who is anamartetes throw the first stone at her. You don't even have the desire. Now it could be, whatever He was writing, brought things to mind, maybe they had certain desires He knew about because that's where it all begins, does it not? Didn't Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount, maybe they even remember it: You've heard that it was said by those of old, you shall not commit adultery but I say unto you if you look at another woman and you lust after her in your heart, you have already committed adultery in your heart. Starts with a desire. Verse 8: "And again He stooped down and wrote," I just love this! He said what He said and He just went back to writing. He was scribbling, said one sentence, went back to scribbling. Why'd He do that? He wanted what He just said to settle in and then He's gonna watch the reaction. And here's the reaction. It was deep conviction. "Those who heard it, being convicted," it's not embarrassment, it's true conviction, "convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last." Why the oldest first? They had the most to remember. "And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." Jesus meek with people, masterful with hypocrites. The best part of the story, the last two verses. He's merciful with sinners. "When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." First, notice that Jesus doesn't talk to her until they were alone. He always deals one on One with people. It's not like you're in a big line and He would ever call your sin out and embarrass you. Remember on that day when you did that? They're alone. He deals one on One. That's what we talk about a personal relationship with Him. This is a personal issue. Second, notice what He calls her. Woman--that's a term of respect. He called His mother 'woman' at the marriage supper of Cana. Now by calling her woman it put a little bit of dignity back in her life. He didn't say hey, harlot! Or adulteress. He said, with respect, 'woman'. What a story. The only one qualified to throw stones had none in His hands and didn't throw any. He was without sin. Now you might be thinking well, boy, Jesus is sure easy on sin. By the way, that's why some people think it was left out of some manuscripts. Some scribe, legalistic scribe, might have thought, we better not put that in there. People are gonna read that and think, I can just do whatever I want. He was not at all easy on sin. He wasn't condoning her lifestyle. He didn't say I don't condemn you. Go! He did two things. He called it sin, first of all, right? He didn't call it a hang-up or a disease or an alternate lifestyle or a mistake--He called it sin. It's an offense against God. And He also gave her a command. He said, "Go and sin no more." Not go and sin as little as possible. Go and stop the lifestyle that is marking you and that is this sin of adultery. Sin no more. Why would He say that? Because any encounter with Jesus Christ will involve transformation. You see, a true believer, after coming to Christ, would never think to presume upon the grace of God. A true believer would never say well, I'm gonna go ahead and go through with this. I know it's wrong. I know it's sinful, but I can always repent afterwards. Excuse me? Paul wrote in Romans 6: What shall we say then? Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Now who hasn't wanted what this lady got? A second chance. A do-over. A new start. A clean slate. That's what Jesus gives. In closing, there's just three little things I want you to take away. Number one, will you notice how sinners treat sinners? They treat them brutally. That's how sinners treat sinners--brutally. One group of sinners, Pharisees, religious sinners, are gonna kill this woman. They treat them brutally--especially when we can smell or see our sin on somebody else. Looks so bad on them! We don't see it on us but on them, oh, it's horrible! It's like the guy driving through the woods. He ran over a skunk but he didn't know it and he goes man, there must be a skunk in these woods. What a horrible place to live. He drives 20 miles down the road, he still smells skunks, and he goes there must be skunks everywhere in this state! No, there's one on your car, dude. You're taking the smell with you wherever you go. And when a person realizes, I have been forgiven by Christ, He has forgiven my sin. I'm no better than this harlot. He forgave me. That takes you out of the stone-throwing business really quick. Number two, notice how the Law treats sinners. The Law says the soul that sins shall surely die. That's the standard, God's holy, righteous, perfect standard. That's the Law. The Law of Moses. The Ten Commandments. The Law sets the standard but it can't cleanse the soul. But third, notice how Jesus treats sinners. "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." I think of Romans chapter 8 verse 1: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Do you know why? Do you know how that can be? In fact let me just crystallize the question better: how is it possible that you can uphold the righteous, holy standard of God and, at the same time, have sinners who've broken that Law be forgiven? How can you have mercy and righteousness at the same time? Because righteousness and mercy meet in Christ--on the cross. He was perfect. He lived a perfect life. He died the substitutionary death. God put all of our muck and junk and sin on Christ and He took it away so that He can extend forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God in Him. That in a nutshell is substitutionary atonement. That's how Christ treats sinners. She was caught. She was brought. Jesus came to blot out her sins and everyone else's. I was reading this week about writing and signatures and I discovered that the most expensive piece of writing in existence today is the writing of William Shakespeare. In fact, if you maybe in your closet have an autograph of William Shakespeare, it's worth five million dollars. And I read about things that Lincoln had written and letters of different people and how valuable they were and I thought, I would argue with them. I think the most valuable thing ever written was when Jesus wrote something in the dust of the temple stones that gave this woman a second chance. It's the gospel of the second chance.