8–14 July 2018.
John 8:1–30 (click to read).
If, when driving down the road, you have ever had a police car suddenly start driving behind you, you will know how nervous that makes you feel! Even though the police aren’t interested in us, having them right behind us and watching us still makes us worry. So we make sure we aren’t driving too fast, and that we are obeying all the road laws, because the last thing we want is to get in trouble.
That’s not a good feeling to have, but sadly that’s how many Christians feel when they think about their relationship with God. That’s because they imagine God like a member of the secret police, always following us around, always spying on us, and just waiting for us to do the tiniest thing wrong so he can punish us and condemn us. The result of thinking this way is that people live in terrible fear of God.
On the one hand, none of us want to sin. Sinning is serious, and Jesus had to die because of our sins. We want to avoid sinning, avoid doing what’s wrong, and live a good life. But on the other hand, there is no need to live in fear of a God who will condemn us for every tiny mistake we make. We shouldn’t forget that Christ is our Saviour, the one who forgives us and loves us. He is not an angry judge just waiting for his chance to destroy us. That’s the good news we see in John 8.
The 3 stories we find in this scripture each talk about condemnation and judgement. In vv. 1–11, a woman is caught in adultery and brought to Jesus for condemnation. Even though it takes two people to commit adultery, and the law said both people should be punished, the Jerusalem elders are only interested in condemning and killing the woman. Should Jesus join them in this hypocrisy and sexism? The sinful elders want to condemn the woman, not seeing their own sin. But Jesus refuses to condemn her.
In the second story we see the same problem again. This time the Pharisees in their anger and sin want to judge and condemn Jesus himself. But in v. 15 Jesus distances himself from them. In their sin they are eager to condemn, but Jesus stresses that he doesn’t judge anyone.
In the third story, Jesus directly says to the unbelievers around him that he certainly has a lot he could say about them and a lot to condemn them on; they are very imperfect people. But again Jesus refuses to condemn (v. 26). We so often expect Christ to be an angry judge who condemns us, but in each of these three stories Christ refuses to condemn. Why?
It’s not because sin is unimportant. Instead it’s because sin is universal. The problem in our world is that too many people don’t understand their own sinfulness, and so they think they are in a position to proudly stand and condemn others. But none of us are pure. Jesus truly is the only one without sin, and yet in these stories we saw so many other people not aware of their sinfulness and arrogantly thinking they could even condemn the holy Son of God! In this ridiculous situation, Jesus hardly needs to condemn us, because it’s our own sinful behaviour and attitudes that are already condemning us and revealing to the whole world what arrogant sinners we are!
Again, the good news here is not that we can just go and sin as much as we want without fearing the consequences. Rather the good news is that we don’t need to live in constant fear of Christ – because Christ already knows we are imperfect sinners. In John 3:17, Jesus announces the good news to us: He didn’t come into this world to condemn us or destroy us for our sins, he came to save us from them. So there is no need to fear. The only one with the right to condemn us is the loving Christ who came to save us. That’s wonderful news.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis