Sermon Outline On John 8:2-11Â (NRSV)
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus says those very words to the scribes and Pharisees. We could talk about the sins of these church leaders. We could talk about the grace of Jesus in this circumstance. We could talk about the unique nature of these verses in John’s gospel. We could talk about the law and what is missing in the accusations of the Pharisees. We could talk about the sin of the woman brought before Jesus. We could talk about how the whole episode was a trap for Jesus.
We could talk about many aspects of this account found only in John’s gospel, but none of that is for today. This passage came to my mind this week strictly because of its closing line. “From now on do not sin again.” (NRSV) “Go and leave your life of sin.” (NIV) “Go and sin no more.” (KJV) Jesus could have said, “Go and do your best to never sin.” He could have said, “Go and keep the sin to a minimum.” But Jesus said, “Do not sin again–sin no more.” There is no doubt that Jesus took sin seriously.
The following story was written in “The Whittenburg Door,” in July of 1988. The author wrote:
I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here and, every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost. It’s a big deal because if you happen to hit (as in “drive into”) a lost cow, it’s your fault and you have to pay the rancher for his cow. (That is part of the rural culture — we have to worry about nuclear destruction and runaway cows.) Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, “Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.”
Now I don’t know if that is really how it works with cows, but I do know that is exactly how it happens with sin. Jesus knew the deceptive, spiraling nature of sin, and he took it seriously. How seriously?
“IF you right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out…” Matt. 5:29
“If you right had cause you to sin, cut it off…” Matt. 5:30
“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off…” Matt 18:8
If you cause someone to sin,
it would be better for you if a large millstone
was tied around your neck
and you were thrown into the sea. Luke 17:2, Matt. 18:6-7
Jesus was serious when it came to sin. As a matter of fact Jesus came to earth, God with us, and died on a cruel cross for our sin.
I read in a recent devotional that the Chinese symbol for “evil” is literally translated “self-centered mind,” or “my own mind.” It is when we try to live our lives according to our own will, in our own self-centered interest, that evil abounds. The nature of sin lies in our “own mind.” It is in those moments that we stand in direct opposition to the mind and will of God. Endnote
Folks, we are talking about our very relationship with the God who created us. We are talking about our relationship with the God who sent his only Son to be our savior. We are talking about sin that eats away at a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
We have all had things happen in relationships with others that cause the relationship to be strained, or tense, and in some cases ultimately destroyed. Oh, how much more does sin create a barrier in our relationship with our Holy God! It was sin in the Garden of Eden that caused all humanity to suffer separation from the perfect relationship God had with us. It is sin that produces separation from Almighty God today.
A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there, “If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?”
The fisherman had a good answer. “Naw,” he said. “Fallin’ into the water doesn’t drown anybody. It’s staying under it that does.”
Jesus knew that with sin comes death. Jesus knew the spiraling, deceptive nature of sin. Jesus was an early believer in the “slippery slope” theory, the “domino effect.” Jesus knew that one sin can lead to another and another. Jesus took sin seriously.
One of the Fred Craddock stories went like this:
“There was a certain man who moved into a cottage equipped with a stove and simple furnishings. As the sharp edge of winter cut across the landscape, the cottage grew cold, as did its occupant. He went out back and pulled a few boards off the house to kindle a fire. The fire was warm, but the house seemed as cold as before. More boards came off for a larger fire to warm the now even colder house, which in turn required an even larger fire, demanding more boards. In a few days the man cursed the weather, cursed the house, cursed the stove, and moved away.” Endnote
Sin can work at a level in our lives that is sub-conscious. We loose consciousness of sin. In a devotional the author wrote:
“People who do not waken to their spiritual consciousness are easily tempted to sin. Each successive sin closes off our consciousness a little more. One sin brings another, and the result of sin is death.”
Did you notice that in that statement of the problem is also the solution? He said, “People who do not awaken to their spiritual consciousness” fall into sin. Our spiritual consciousness, our awareness of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives is the antidote to sin. Thomas Merton once said, “We want to know more than the Word of God. We want to know the God of the Word.” It is by our knowing…knowing the God of the Word that we can keep sin from bringing death to our spiritual lives.
Jesus takes sin seriously, because it is sin that separates us from the love of God. It is in knowing the God of the Word that we conquer sin. And how do we do that? Through the disciplines of worship, study, and action. But then that is the subject of another sermon or three.
There is a story of a young skylark who discovered one day a man who would give him worms for a feather. He made a deal — one feather for two worms. The next day the lark was flying high in the sky with his father. The older bird said, “You know, son, we skylarks should be the happiest of all birds. See our brave wings! They lift us high in the air, nearer and nearer to God.”
But the young bird did not hear, for all he saw was an old man with worms. Down he flew, plucked two feathers from his wings and had a feast. Day after day this went on. Autumn came and it was time to fly south. But the young skylark couldn’t do it. He had exchanged the power of his young wings for worms.
That is our constant temptation in life — to exchange wings for worms.