Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Sinful Woman

I want to play a game of Odd One Out. I'll show you four pictures, and then ask which one is different. Pictures are a thief, a rioter, an adulterer and a Bishop. Which is the odd one out? You'll probably say the Bishop. The others are bad characters, getting involved in badness.

The Sinner. Tonight in John 8, we're introduced to a sinner, someone who is doing wrong. Jesus is in the temple and the scribes and Pharisees bring along a woman caught in the act of adultery. She was having sex with someone who was not her husband. Sin. Against the Law. The Pharisees rightly point out that the woman is a sinner, she has broken the law and deserves to die- to be stoned (which I quickly realised means something quite different to our young people). So what will happen?

Jesus does something unexpected and perhaps slightly strange. He bends over and writes in the dust. So they keep asking what he's going to do - she deserves to die. It's then that Jesus turns things around.

The Sinners. "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." There's a few issues going on- the men wanted to use the situation to trap Jesus, so they could accuse him and kill him, but more than that, it takes two to tango, so why had they only brought the man? The big question is: who is without sin? If there's one person without sin then the stoning can go ahead.

Yet there aren't any sinless people among the accusers. They accuse her, but they're sinful themselves. They look down their noses at someone who is worse, as if it's a league table of sin, and they're doing better. We have a tendency of doing this too- I'm not as bad as her. He's badder than me.

The Pharisees slink away, one by one, seething as their sin is exposed. None left, just Jesus and the woman.

No one condemned her, but she's not yet in the clear.

The Sinless Saviour. Jesus, the one without sin who could have chucked a stone, does not condemn her. It's not that she had done nothing wrong, just stitched up by the mob, innocently caught up in it all. She was a sinner. She was in the wrong. But Jesus invites her to receive his forgiveness, not giving her condemnation, but offering a fresh start.

Jesus doesn't condemn her, but neither does he want her to continue in her sin. "Go, and from now on sin no more." This incident allows us to see John 3:17 in practice: 'For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.'

The Odd One Out round at the start wasn't quite right. It's not that the three criminals are different to the bishop. All four are sinful. We don't condemn you here- the leaders are just like you. But we have been and we are being changed by Jesus. There are only two categories of people in the world- the sinful and the saved. Which are you?

This talk was presented at SET (St Elizabeth's Teens) on Sunday 22nd November 2009. John 8:1-11.

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