"Adulteress, Jesus and Abraham:

Not Your Typical Kingston Trio“

W hy carve out two hours a month to hassle traffic and parking for this lunch when we could all be out chasing a buck? Good question!

Each month I’m struck that what we’re doing here is what really matters. Sure, we all stay tuned-in on our work and our world, but nothing’s more crucial than hearing God speak in His Word. “Heaven and earth will pass away but,” says God, “my Word will never pass away.”

True wisdom, wrote King Solomon, is found in knowing God’s Word: “Nothing you desire can compare with (it).” (Prov. 3:15)

Who’s Talkin’?

Our narrator in John is the author, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, who was with the Lord throughout His 3-year career on earth. John wrote four other New Testament books: 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and Revelation.

Writing in about 90 AD, he recalls epochal events of 60 years earlier for his readers, many of whom were born after Christ had exited to be with His Father. He describes an era when Tiberius-run Rome ruled Palestine, and his puppet, Pontius Pilate, was governor of Judea.

Jerusalem, nexus of the Bible and nerve center of Jews worldwide, is 33 miles east of the Mediterranean, strategically perched on five hills atop a ridge. It rises to 2,600’ above sea level. 14 miles east is the simmering Dead Sea, 1,312’ below sea level, the world’s lowest body of water. Israel (old Palestine) is 150 miles long, 75 miles wide, about like New Jersey, lying along the same latitude as our southern U.S. This tiny nation, ringed by deserts, mountains and sea, will, predicts the Bible, be center stage as the world’s drama plays out to its epic and bloody climax.

In Jesus’ day it was a jambalaya of Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman cultures. Surely God had this culture stew in mind when John wrote, “God loved the world (all races) so much that He sent His only sired Son” to save those who place their faith in Him.

Now Where Were We?

In ch. 7 Jesus leaves northern Palestine where He grew up in “Joe’s Woodworking of Nazareth.” It’s early October, and with faithful Jews far and near He heads “up” (in altitude, ‘though He’s southbound) to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Without an OK from the religious power brokers, He beelines for the Temple and begins teaching.

His audience is stunned by His ease with the Old Testament. “He’s an obscure carpenter; how’d He get so smart?” Jesus explains that He’d learned from His Father while He was in heaven.

He’s no darling of the city’s top guns; yet strangely He’s free to teach in public. Some say He’s crazy; others follow Him devotedly. Much like today, John writes, “The crowd was divided in their opinion about Him. Some wanted Him arrested, but no one laid a hand on Him.” (7:43) Once Jesus declared, “He who is not with me is against me.” No fence-sitters or dimpled ballots. A “no” decision is a decision against Him.

In this era of pregnant chads when “the people’s will” is litigiously pursued, the Bible discloses Who will prevail, that it isn’t up for a recount, that there’s no election for Sovereign of the Universe; only one name’s on the ballot since there’s salvation in no other name than His.

John tells us Jesus’ arrest was repeatedly thwarted because “His time had not yet come.” As fiercely as the authorities hated this man who claimed to be their Messiah, and desperately wanted to kill Him, they were temporarily powerless. Why? Because it wasn’t yet God’s time.

Last month we had a brilliant, widely-respected rabbi as our speaker. I briefed him earlier that we wanted him to tell us how Judaism differs from Christianity. I’d suggested several topics including why the Jews do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah.

But he chose to focus on the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and Jewish “oral traditions” which were codified about the time of Christ into the Talmud, their second holy book.

However, we can get those questions answered by another Jewish super-scholar who studied under the top Jewish teacher of his era, Gamaliel, and was the pride of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish supreme court).

A Jew by birth and training who’d become a radical Christ-follower, Paul writes to 1st century Christians in western Turkey, “Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders by birth. You were called ‘the uncircumcised ones’ by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it

affected only their bodies and not their hearts. … You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far from God, now you’ve been brought near to Him because of the blood of Christ. … By Christ’s death He ended the whole system of Jewish law that excluded the Gentiles. His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new person from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” (Eph. 2:11-16)

Paul bottom-lines it for believers in Rome: “There’s only one God, and only one way of being accepted by Him. He makes people right with Himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.” (Rom. 3:30)

With that, let’s turn to our “Play of the Day” and read John 8:1-59.

Caught In The Act!

John 7:53-8:11

Most biblical scholars say these 12 verses were not written by John, and were not in the original Greek manuscript. But they’re included in the Vulgate (the Roman Catholic Bible produced in 383 AD by St. Jerome, the leading Catholic biblical mind of his day). Although my high school Latin is in rigor mortis, I checked the Vulgate online and found “est in adulterio” right there in the text, by Gaully!!!

This riveting account of the adulteress brought before Jesus was retold so often that copyists placed it in this chapter since the context finds Jesus rebuffing people who judge others based on appearance only.

The Jewish leaders haul her before Jesus, crashing His temple class. Her partner had jetted while she’s held on an airtight crime of open sexual sin! These self-righteous prigs want to shaft Jesus in a lose-lose deal, expecting he’ll say Moses’ law is written too harshly, implying that it must be re-interpreted through oral tradition. If He condemns this poor lady, causing her to be stoned, the Jews hope the public will think less of Him. But if He condones her, He’ll contradict Moses, an equally tough jam.

But Jesus is all over it: “Okay, stone her. Rock on! Whoever’s never sinned goes first.” As her accusers slink away, the only One with power to forgive her acknowledges her sin, and commands her to leave her life of sin, giving her a second chance. After all, He’d come to save, not condemn.

Jesus knows this is a set-up; her adversaries are willing to let the woman be stoned just to trap Him. As He gently forgives her sins, Jesus reads her mind too, seeing her true repentance. Because of that, He sets her free, pardoned, unpunished. It’s what Christ did for each of us on the cross. Thanks to His death and resurrection, the debt we owed God for our sins has also been paid in full. All that remains is for each of us to, by faith, agree with God that as sinners we individually need to receive His forgiveness. Then we, like this beleaguered lady, will escape eternal death.

Got Light?

John 8:12-20

The religious Festival of Tabernacles commemorates the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, some 1,500 years before Christ. A major part of this celebration was the lighting of the temple’s two, 70-foot high, golden candelabras, or menorahs. They shed a soft light over the city, dispelling the darkness, a biblical metaphor for sin. The light symbolized how God led the Israelites through the Sinai desert for 40 years, using a cloud by day that turned into a ball of fire at night.

Jesus seizes this moment to announce that He’s “the Light of the world!” Not just for Israel, but the whole world -- Jew and Gentile. Light not only for the afterlife, but for our daily path. Ancient prophets had referred to the coming Messiah as “the Light.” The Pharisees were a sect of 6,000 who nit-pickingly interpreted the Law and oral traditions, forming the basis for Talmudic Judaism. Imagine their double-barreled rage at hearing the dude who claims to be their Messiah also declare He’s come to bring salvation to those Gentile mongrels as well!

Bingo, the Pharisees brand Jesus as a liar, demanding to know who His “Father” is anyway. Jesus jabs them for not knowing God the Father. If they did, He nudged, they’d surely recognize His Son! As Ray Stedman points out, “They claimed to know God, to study and keep His Word, to teach and lead people in their understanding of God, yet they couldn’t have been further from God.” And they arrogantly refuse being introduced to Him by the only One who could. Like many, they reject Jesus because they’re too busy, too distracted or too unwilling to examine the evidence.

They Just Don’t Get It.

John 8:21-30

Like a Jimmy Stewart movie, this nervy, unschooled, small town tradesman-turned-teacher faces off against the religious elite. He has

the brass to tell them He’s going where they can’t find Him, and that if they don’t believe He’s who He says He is, these self-righteous keepers of God’s Law will “die in (their) sin!” TV’s intrepid Crocodile Hunter would say, “Whooooa, mate!” This ain’t how you suck up to the local apparatchik.

Jesus continues to align Himself as the Son of the one true God, predicting that the truth of His statements will finally dawn on them when He’s crucified. Many witnessing this heated exchange catch Jesus’ drift and give their allegiance to Him, including even some hard-shelled Pharisees!

Showdown At Abraham

John 8:30-59

Ignoring His enemies, Jesus turns to the crowd and utters one of His most famous sayings, promising that by sincerely believing in and following Him, they’ll get to know the truth and be “set free.” But these yahoos are under Rome’s heel –- and have been slaves to the Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians, and they have the memory-deprived audacity to reply, “We’re self-sufficient! We’ve never been anybody’s slaves! Whaddya mean ‘set free!?” But Jesus was referring to being spiritually liberated from the power and penalty of sin -- free to be all they were meant to be.

When they flaunt their genetic pedigree as “children of Abraham,” Jesus says, “Hey, I was around before Abraham was born. I know Abraham, and trust me, you’re no Abe’s kid! You’d believe Me if you were. Nope, your father is that murderer, the devil.”

Bam! Honeymoon’s over! Cue the race-baiting name-callers! They label Jesus “a Samaritan devil!” What’s all that about? Well, during four centuries prior to Christ’s birth the Jews turned their backs on the Samaritans, calling them “fools” with “no nation” -- Gentile “dogs” unfit for human interaction.

Undeterred, Jesus still offers eternal life if they’ll believe and obey Him, if they’ll only judge Jesus not based on what some university prof says, or on the slimy sin of a disgraced TV preacher. If they’ll only evaluate Jesus based on His life, His words, and the Bible. This is a decision they can’t download from parents or friends; they must make it themselves.

But the crowds and their leaders are fresh out of patience with Jesus who’d challenged their spiritual roots, and called Himself “I Am,” the Hebrew word for the continuous, ultimate character of God! So, having run out of arguments and insults, and, God forbid, choosing not to worship Him, they reach for stones to snuff out this no-good Nazarene. Quicker than you can say “bipartisan,” mysteriously Jesus “hides Himself,” disappears from sight, and leaves the temple.

Choosing Freedom is a Stone’s Throw Away

When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, He saw her repentant heart –- and anticipated His imminent, sacrificial death. Sin can only be forgiven at the cross where Jesus died in your place and mine, paying the penalty of death for us. Every person stands convicted. Paul writes, “No one is good, not even one. No one has real understanding; no one is seeking God. All have turned from God; all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12)

The Bible forecasts a time when Jesus will sit in final judgment over all who’ve ever lived. He’ll say to some, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.” To others, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.” There is no Plan C. (Matt. 25) If that were today, would He say to you “Enter” or “Depart?”

If you’ve been stiff-arming life’s #1 decision, one that’ll determine how you’ll spend eternity (which is even longer than a Seahawks’ season), why not make sure you’re secure in God’s hands now and always? You may have a great career, family, financial security and possessions. But if you miss spending forever in God’s presence, instead of eternally separated from Him in a fiery hole the Bible calls hell, all you now are and own, the Bible says, is worth no more than filthy rags. Please receive God’s free gift of forgiveness. Just silently tell Him right now…….

“God, I’m a sinner just like that woman nabbed in the adultery sting. I too need a Savior. I can never, on my own, measure up to Your standard of perfection in order to enter heaven, so right now I accept Your full and complete pardon for my sin, paid for –- in my name -- by Your Son’s death on the cross. Thank You for clearing my slate, giving me a fresh start, assuring me that I’ll live forever with You. Help me now, Father, to get to know You, to walk with You, to live in a way that’s pleasing to You. I want my life to count for You. In Jesus’ name I ask this. Amen.”

His Deal

January 9, 2001


Focus on forever.

Copyright © 2009. George Toles. All Rights Reserved.