Staying Silent: John 7:53-8:11

Focus Passage: John 7:53-8:11 (CEV)

53 Everyone else went home, 8:but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. Then early the next morning he went to the temple. The people came to him, and he sat down and started teaching them.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd. Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn’t her husband. The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”

They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.

They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.

10 Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?”

11 “No sir,” the woman answered.

Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.”

Read John 7:53-8:11 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While reading John’s gospel, specifically the passage that describes the woman caught in adultery being brought to Jesus, I am amazed by a detail that John includes in this event. When the law was clear, and when it would have been easy for Jesus to clearly answer the challenge that the religious leaders bring, Jesus does something unexpected; Jesus doesn’t actually respond to the challenge.

John describes this by saying, “They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.” (v. 6)

Tradition says that instead of answering the question, Jesus starts writing the sins of the accusers in the sand. According to this line of thinking, Jesus chose to write in sand to subtly suggest that forgiven sins are easy to erase – because everyone who has chosen to write a message in the sand of a beach knows that the wind and waves erases everything equally.

However, Jesus could have simply bent down and begun to write out Old Testament passages that relate to God’s love and His forgiving character.

Regardless of what Jesus chose to write, the religious leaders wanted a clear direct answer to their clear direct challenge. The leaders “kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, ‘If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!’

Jesus only speaks after being pressured to respond. I believe this is because Jesus was more interested in avoiding condemning the woman who was hurting than He was in proving a point to those who brought the woman to Him.

In our own lives, Jesus is familiar with all the times we have failed, and all the times we have done things worthy of God’s condemnation. However, Jesus didn’t come to condemn people. He came to show everyone God’s love and His forgiveness. Jesus forgave the woman, and He offers forgiveness to each of us as well.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — Forgiven in an Instant: Luke 7:36-50


Read the Transcript

Part way into Jesus’ ministry, Luke records an event that all three other gospels appear to include as well. The big difference is that Luke seems to place this event much earlier in Jesus’ ministry, which prompts me to think that something like this might have happened more than once. If we compare Luke’s version of this event with the other gospels, while there are several similarities, Luke seems to focus more on the teaching opportunity Jesus takes, while the other gospel writers focus on how their similar events foreshadow Jesus’ upcoming death.

Let’s read how Luke describes this event, and what he wants us to learn about Jesus from what happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 36, we read:

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Part of me is fascinated by how this passage ends. Before hitting on a huge truth Jesus shares, we can see Jesus challenging these religious leaders regarding the nature of forgiveness.

Jesus tells the woman that her sins are forgiven, and this startles the group of people present. Forgiving of sins is something that only God does, and since they are the religious leaders, they likely believe they have the ability to determine for someone whether God has forgiven a sin or not.

When Jesus comes and pronounces this woman has been forgiven, and there was no sacrifice taken to the temple or offering given, the idea that forgiveness has been granted doesn’t make sense.

However, Jesus focuses us on a different truth from the Old Testament, and that the sin in our past doesn’t matter as much as our decisions in the present. Forgiveness is available for everyone who turns away from sin. This idea is challenging for those living in the first century and for those living today.

While it is great news that God saves sinners who turn away from their sin, this idea seems too simple. It must be more complicated. Perhaps it is, but I have yet to see it. Perhaps the only catch in the whole salvation process is that only through focusing on and having a relationship with Jesus can we truly move away from sin in our lives. While we can move away from some sins and towards better habits, the sin of living for self rather than for others is one that is so subtle and hidden in our lives that without Jesus shining the light on it, we are unlikely to realize its presence.

However, what big truth does Jesus share leading up to this. We find this truth in verse 47 where Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

The twin ideas that being forgiven of a lot will prompt a lot of love, while being forgiven of a little will only prompt a little love, is fascinating in my mind. These ideas imply that if there is a group of people who have always lived pretty good lives and who only have one or two “socially acceptable sins”, then they are in greater danger than someone who has sinned more times than they can count. This also means that someone with a decent life and not many sins is more likely to grow callous and unloving over time, even when they have been forgiven, than someone who has been forgiven of a past consisting of more sin than not.

While this doesn’t mean that we should go out and sin in as many ways as we can think of so that we can be forgiven and love more, this does mean that we should never brush over anything that might be a “socially acceptable sin” because in God’s eyes, sin is sin, regardless of its severity.

We discover how to love more and how to live a life that shows we have been forgiven by focusing on Jesus first, intentionally making and spending time with Him each day, and by seeking to do His will in our lives. How we choose to love Jesus demonstrates how forgiven we really are.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Choose to place Jesus first in your life and intentionally love Him with our lives. We can do this by loving others and by focusing time each day on spending it with Him learning from His word.

While a devotional or podcast can help give you ideas or things to think about, be sure to study the Bible for yourself, because an author, pastor, or podcaster shouldn’t be your only connection to the Bible. Be sure to open and study the Bible for yourself to discover God’s truth for your exact situation.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 13: Discover several things we can learn about Jesus from Luke’s gospel when a woman pours oil on Jesus’ head, seemingly early in Jesus’ ministry. Learn what Luke teaches us about how Jesus responded.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Enjoying Our Presence: Mark 10:13-16

Focus Passage: Mark 10:13-16 (GW)

13 Some people brought little children to Jesus to have him hold them. But the disciples told the people not to do that.

14 When Jesus saw this, he became irritated. He told them, “Don’t stop the children from coming to me. Children like these are part of God’s kingdom. 15 I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive God’s kingdom as a little child receives it will never enter it.”

16 Jesus put his arms around the children and blessed them by placing his hands on them.

Read Mark 10:13-16 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While reading from Mark’s gospel about Jesus inviting and blessing the children who were brought to Him, a verse stood out to me in a way I had never noticed before. In this event, Mark tells us that “Jesus put his arms around the children and blessed them by placing his hands on them.” (v. 16)

Mark is the only gospel that describes Jesus putting His arms around the children. In Mark’s gospel, the picture I get is that Jesus gives these children a hug (if they were old enough to walk), and if a baby happened to be among those who were brought to Jesus, Jesus didn’t shy away from holding the child.

When I read this last verse in Mark, I get the impression that Jesus first showed how He enjoyed being around the children who were brought (people don’t voluntarily hug those they don’t want to be around), and only afterwards does He place His hands on the child/children to give them His blessing.

I believe the order is important. Jesus is most interested in building a relationship with us – where we are in life right now – and only after a relationship is formed does He inspire change from within us.

While human nature tries to get us focused in on requiring visible change on the front end as evidence that we are moving in the right direction, Jesus knows that only after coming to Him will we be able to change the inside – and internal change will ultimately become external change as well.

Jesus’ invitation for everyone, regardless of age, is to come to Him and receive His love.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Faith to Forgive: Luke 5:17-26


Read the Transcript

As we move forward in our year looking at Jesus’ miracles, we come to one of my favorite examples of Jesus healing while also challenging those present. This miracle is probably the single greatest example of persistence that we find included in the gospels about how far some men would go to get help for their disabled friend. Not only do we find an amazing example of persistence in this miracle, we also discover one amazing way that Jesus challenges the religious leaders regarding who He is.

Let’s read about what happened, and specifically about this incredible miracle that happened only because of the persistence of a group of friends. Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 5, and we will be reading this passage from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 17, Luke tells us that:

17 One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, 18 and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.

20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking that? 23 Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? 24 But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.”

25 At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. 26 Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, “We have seen a great miracle today!”

In this passage and event, we discover that Jesus took the faith of this man’s friends and He used it to challenge everyone present. Jesus knew that the friends had displayed enough faith in their creative and unusual way of getting Jesus’ attention to heal their friend. We have no idea what Jesus was talking about at that moment leading up to this miracle, but it is fascinating to pay attention to how this passage opens.

Luke begins the passage by saying that “One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

This marks the point in Jesus’ ministry when enough things have happened that people, specifically the religious leaders, have taken note of Jesus, but before enough has happened that the religious leadership as a whole had condemned Jesus.

While the faith of the men bringing their friend to Jesus is amazing, the phrase I want to point out in this episode is the one the Pharisees challenge Jesus with. In verse 21, the Pharisees and religious experts argued among each other saying, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.

This statement is logical on one hand, while causing challenges on another.

When we sin, the act we commit may affect another person, but the sin we committed is against God. Forgiveness only means something when the persons involved in a sin do the forgiving. It doesn’t mean much if I say that I forgive someone else for what they did to someone else. Unless I was affected in some way, giving third-party forgiveness doesn’t work. When we sin, it is against God, and because of this, only God can forgive sins.

However, in John’s gospel’s great commission to the disciples, Jesus gives His followers an unusual ability, and that is the ability to forgive sins. John chapter 20, verses 21 through 23 tells us that:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

On the surface, these two passages and ideas conflict with one another, but when we look closer, we see something amazing. When Jesus claims to have the power to forgive sins in this passage, it is because He has the Holy Spirit, and when He gives the disciples the commission to forgive sins, it is only after they have accepted and received the Holy Spirit.

The proof Jesus gave for His claim of sin forgiveness is a miraculous healing. This wasn’t healing to prove a point, even if a point was proved through it; this healing was to validate the faith of this man’s friends, and perhaps the faith of this man who might have been injured while doing something sinful.

In this miracle and Jesus’ response, we also see that talk is cheap when compared with action. A miracle is significantly more difficult to do, and the challenging thing to think is that if Jesus came for Himself, and for His own glory, He could have made claim after claim and they all would have fallen flat. Without the Holy Spirit supporting His ministry, Jesus would have done nothing miraculous. It is because Jesus came to glorify God that we see the Holy Spirit so visibly present in His ministry.

At this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, I don’t think it was accidental that all these religious leaders were present, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that these men brought their friend on a stretcher with the faith that Jesus could heal their friend. Everyone present praised God and declared that they had seen a great miracle, but with this miracle is the challenge we all must grapple with: Will we believe that Jesus had God’s authority when He was here on earth – including the authority to forgive sins?

This question divided the religious leaders regarding Jesus, and it divides people living today. Will we accept Jesus’ difficult truths and claims because we see God moving in a strong way validating His ministry, or will we reject Him and all the claims He is recorded making?

And if we accept Jesus at His Word, will we realize and remember that only God can forgive sins, but when God, specifically the Holy Spirit, is living inside of us, we have the power to validate God’s forgiveness of sinners? Forgiving sins and validating God’s forgiveness may be one of our highest callings as followers of Jesus while the Holy Spirit lives in and works through our lives.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always continue seeking God first in your life. Choose each day to live within His will and to do things that will grow His Kingdom. Know that forgiveness is a big part of God’s character, and He has called us to live lives of forgiveness as well.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and move closer to Jesus. When we grow closer to Jesus, we can know Him better, and we can more fully receive the Holy Spirit in our lives. Always use your time spent in the Bible as a filter on your life and the world we live in. The Bible is the best guide we have to navigate the crazy lives we live.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 13: When four men bring their friend to Jesus for healing, Jesus attributes this miracle not just to the faith of these men, but to His own ability to forgive sins. Discover what we can learn about Jesus and our own responsibility as Christians regarding forgiveness and forgiving sins.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.