There are questions you would like to ask Jesus. But have you ever thought there are questions Jesus wants to ask you? Because there are answers that only you can give. Good morning again everybody. My name is Chris Paavola. It’s great to be with you, and a special welcome if you are a guest with us today. We know you had a choice in how you spend your Sunday morning. We’re just honored that you chose to spend us with us. Thank you so much for being here. It’s wonderful the way that God has continued to bless this community and build his church. It’s just awesome to be a part of it. So thank you for being here this morning.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
But we’re in a series called “Questions that Jesus wants to ask you.” We’re in this series for a few weeks now, so we’re kind of right in the middle. In our Sunday morning small groups when we gather for church in homes and coffee shops around the city, we’re processing and reflecting and discussing the Questions that Jesus. It’s been awesome.
It’s been awesome because the Questions that Jesus, it’s more than just his questions like, “Hey, I’m running this store. Do you want me to get you something?” That’s not the kind of questions we’re talking about.
We’re talking about questions that are much deeper, much more profound. Because Jesus was a teacher, and one of his primary teaching tools was to use questions. This rabbinical teaching style. He used questions all the time to draw people to a deeper answer. Questions to challenge, encourage us, inspire us, guide us, direct us. He asks questions all the time. In fact, there’s over 300 questions that we have record of in the biographies of Jesus that we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These questions that are in the Bible, there’s over 300 of them. So it’s been really hard actually to choose, like which questions do we choose from and which questions we don’t. And the reason I’m so excited about the series, the reason I loved this, is it’s the life of Jesus from a purely historical perspective. Just not even from a faith perspective. Just pure history. The life of Jesus transformed the world. But it’s the questions of Jesus that transformed the lives of the people who answered them. And we thought, why wouldn’t we do the same?
Now when you have 300 questions to choose from, it’s kind of hard and we’ve picked through. We’re going to have questions to take us all the way up to Easter and Good Friday. We’re going to ask questions during the Good Friday service, like the questions he asked during his final hours. Just a powerful experience. And we’re going to ask questions during Easter. Questions that he asked after what we believe is when he rose from the grave. But today when we gather it’s like, well what do we do? Here’s a large group gathering. This is different than a small group. This is a large group. And it needs to be said, one of our value statements as a church … You can see it on the back wall there … is to be a church for people who don’t go to church. Right? We’ll be a church for people who don’t go to church. And if you’re somebody who’s never been to church before or you don’t go to church, or you’ve given up on this thing called church, well, why would you care about the questions of Jesus? Why does that matter? Why would you flipping care about this? So if you’re all in, sure you care about the questions of Jesus. But if you’re not at all in, why would this matter? Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. But wherever you are, you already belong. You are welcome here, because we are a church for people who don’t go to church.
AN ANSWER ONLY YOU CAN GIVE
So we thought today what would be best is to ask a question that you can answer regardless of what you think about Jesus. Regardless of your opinion of him. Regardless of your conclusions about him. We thought okay, you can answer this question. This is a good question to answer. And what’s so interesting is when you answer this question, it actually helps you draw a better understanding and identity of who Jesus is.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
So we thought, let’s go ahead and use this question that we find in the biography of Jesus that we call John. It’s written by a man named John. He’s a first century follower of Jesus. He’s probably one of, if not the, closest follower of Jesus. So he’s like Jesus’ BFF. Right? And at the end of his life John is like, “Man, I should write this down. He’s changed the world. I need to write this down.” So he’s writing about what it was like to follow Jesus. He’s living on a desolate island. He was banished there. So John is writing this letter, and in his biography he gets to this moment-he’s touched by this scene that happens where we get this question of Jesus.
ABOUT THE SETTING
And John tells us that this happens in the city of Jerusalem, so in the heart of Israel this city called Jerusalem. And then in the heart of the city at this place called the temple, the Jewish temple.
So Jesus is in the Jewish temple and John tells us … Here’s a replica. You can see it on the screen. John tells us that Jesus was at the temple courts. So picture Jesus hanging out up here in the corner. He’s just doing his thing. And it’s at dawn, okay? So just picture like there’s a blue light over the whole city. Roosters crowing. Dogs barking. Marketplace wakes up. There’s a din in the city a little bit. And there’s Jesus sitting up in the corner. And he’s got a little semicircle, horseshoe, of students, sitting around him. And he’s teaching there in the temple. And as Jesus is sitting there in the temple teaching, he’s talking. And all of a sudden there’s a commotion. Over here by the gates of the temple, there’s a commotion. And he’s like, “Oh, my goodness. Something is going on.” But he keeps on teaching. He keeps on teaching. And some of the students turn their head to look back at what’s happening. And it gets a little bit louder, and a little bit louder. And then finally there’s the sounds of a woman screaming. And bursting through the gates is a mob, of religious leaders dragging a woman by the arms, kicking and screaming all the way across the courtyard up to Jesus.
They’re his opponents, and they’ve found an opportunity to trap him. And they drag this woman up to Jesus, and they stand her up right in front of him. Her clothes are torn, hanging off her shoulders. She’s breathing heavy. Her hair is frazzled. The dust in the air is mixing with the tears on her cheeks. They stand her up in front of him. And then the mob leader of these religious men says to Jesus, “Teacher,”–as in teacher of this law that we’re about to talk to you about–”Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. Fornication. She was sleeping with a man who wasn’t her husband. And we caught her.
Now it’s interesting, is in this moment they decided not to bring the dude. They brought her. (Religion has a way of picking on the marginalized and the weak, doesn’t it? Just being honest.) So they capture this woman. They bring her to Jesus. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery.” And then they lay the trap. Watch this, “The law you’ve been teaching about, the law commands us to stone her. What do you say?” And Jesus looks, and in their fists they hold stones with a white-knuckle grip. Not to bruise her. Not to break her bones. Not to knock her unconscious. But to kill her. To throw these stones over, and over, and over until she dies.
Regardless of what you think about Jesus, I’m so glad that he brought about so much change in our world. That this kind of barbaric brutality isn’t commonplace anymore. And if you think about it, it’s a brilliant trap, right? Think about it. Because he’s a teacher of the law. So if he upholds the law, she loses her life. But if he pardons her, he loses his credibility. It’s a brilliant trap. The law commands us to stone such a woman. What do you say?
THE TEACHER OF THE LAW
And Jesus is sitting there. He’s been interrupted in his teaching, his lesson. These guys are just chest out, ready to attack. And John tells us that Jesus in response, bends down and starts to write in the dirt. He’s just… doodling. And these guys, these religious leaders, they think that he’s stalling. This is a delay tactic. So they repeat themselves. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law says to stone here. What do you say? What do you say?” And finally he stands up, brushes off his hands, looks at them with an impossibly knowing gaze, and he says, “All right. You can stone her. But the first one to stone her, let it be the one without sin. Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then he sits back down and keeps drawing in the dirt. And they all stare at each other in disbelief. This tension that was sitting and resting, the silent tension that was on Jesus has now shifted back to them in a masterful move, and the tension is on them. What do they do? And what he just used was the very same scripture that they weaponized against this woman. It’s the very same scripture he used against them. They know the scripture. This scripture that says there is no one righteous before God, not even one. The scripture that says your sins are as deep as scarlet. This scripture that says even your good deeds are like filthy rags in the presence of holiness. And they know it.
You sin because you are a sinner. You’re not a sinner because you sin.
THE CHARGES DROP
And they’re looking at each other. “What do we do?” And then John has this really, really incredible note. He says that they’re standing there in stunned silence. Suddenly the oldest among them, the man with the most gray in his beard. (I guess age has a way of bringing about self-awareness and wisdom.) The oldest one among them drops the charges, drops the stone, and walks away.
[Sound of a stone falling.]
And she flinches because she thought the stone was about to hit her, but it falls to the ground.
And then another elder drops his stone.
[Sound of a stone falling.]
And then another.
[Sound of a few stones falling.]
And they walk away. And then men with a little bit less gray in their beards start dropping their stones. And then finally all the stones drop. All of them.
[Sound of many stones falling.] And there’s now a monument of mercy next to the only man who could throw a stone. But he’s drawing in the dirt.
And this woman is now standing there. And the people holding her arms let go, and they walk away. And everyone eventually, the crowd disperses. And it’s just her standing there. Stunned. Frozen. And Jesus is doodling. He’s writing in the dirt. We don’t know what he’s writing. We don’t know how long he’s writing. But eventually he looks up and he realizes everyone is gone.
QUESTIONS JESUS ASKS
So for the first time he speaks to her, and he asks her our question for today. He looks at her and he says, “Where are your accusers? Is there one to condemn you?” And she says, “No one, sir, they’re gone. No one.” “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Not “Go now and prove your worth.” Not “Go now and try to earn this.” But “Go, you’re pardoned. Go, in grace go.”
She walks away from the courtyard that she was drug into.
QUESTIONS JESUS WANTS TO ASK YOU
It’s a question that absolutely transformed her life. I promise you. So why shouldn’t it be the same for us? Why can’t we take this question out of this moment, across the miles and the millennia, and bring it here today to ask it. And for you to answer it for yourself. Are you ready:
Where are your accusers?
Your haters? What do they say? What do they say? Where are your accusers?
Even if you don’t follow this idea of Judeo-Christian worldview, ten commandments, right/wrong moral code, you have your own moral code that you live your life by. You have a sense of right and wrong. You do. It’s that you haven’t gone on a killing spree this morning and robbed every store on the way here because you have some sense of right and wrong. You have a moral code you’re trying to live by. And even by your own laws you are a law breaker. You are. You lie. You cheat. You steal. You make promises that you break. You have double standards, and you over-indulge. You are a law breaker of even your own law. And the people who know you best, they know you best. And you get found out. You get called out. And they’re right, and you have no defense. You are guilty as charged.
Who are your accusers? Where are they? What do they say?
I’m going to ask my volunteers to come up. We’ve got some boxes on the ground here. We’re going to pass out some stones. This is going to take a quick minute. And we’re just going to pass these stones down. Just grab one from the basket, pass it down when the basket gets too heavy to pass down the rows. And get a stone in your hands. Once you have a stone in your hand, just take a look at it. Feel it. Squeeze it tight. The first thing you notice is that these are large. The offense that you’ve caused to the people in your life, you think it’s small. But to the people you’ve hurt, the people you’ve offended, it’s not small. Second, it’s hard. It’s cold. And it’s rough. Just like the law that condemns you. The law is unrelenting. Unforgiving. And you are condemned. Even by your own law. As you hold it in your hand I just want to give you a train of logic. So just hop on this train with me for a second. If there’s a heaven and that heaven is perfect, then the laws of heaven would protect that perfection from imperfection like you.
I’m going to say that again: If there’s a heaven and heaven is perfect, then the laws of heaven would protect the perfection of heaven from imperfection like you. It would. Otherwise it would compromise the whole thing. It’s not longer perfect. And that’s a problem.
You may not believe in a devil, or evil, or spiritual forces, but Jesus did. And just follow this logic here–But Jesus, one of the names he used to describe the devil, one of the names he called the devil?
The Accuser. The idea being that he is standing next to the judgment throne of heaven and as all creation comes before him, he accuses them by the laws of heaven over, and over. Day and night. Relentlessly.
Not that they aren’t good enough to get in. Not that they aren’t great enough to get in. But that they aren’t perfect. Because heaven is perfect. And he accuses them with the law. And we are without defense. He’s right. We’ve nothing to say.
You hold that rock in your hand. Where are your accusers? What do they say?
You have no defense, except a man who refused to throw a stone: Jesus.
Do you know that when Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you,” it’s not because he didn’t think the law was good, the law didn’t matter, the law isn’t important. It’s not that at all. He said, “Neither do I condemn you” because he didn’t want her to die. He wanted to die in her place.
That’s why he claims that he came to die in her place for her sins. A substitute. He says, “Neither do I condemn you” because he condemns himself. To pay her penalty. To serve her sentence. To die her death that she may live. It’s what he says. To pay her penalty. To die her death. To serve her sentence. And do you know what’s so interesting about this moment?
This same angry, religious mob that captured her would capture him in a few days when he was betrayed. This same angry mob that held stones in their fists would strike him with their fists when he was found guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God. This same angry mob that shouted for her death would shout for his death saying, “Crucify him. Crucify him. Crucify him.” And when he died their shouts fell silent. Because he was dead. And they had nothing left to say, because Jesus silences all accusers.
The penalty is paid. The sentence is served. Justice is complete. The death, it’s over. And now she can live in freedom. And that’s what Jesus says he does for her. And my friends, it’s what he says he wants to do for you.
Where are your accusers? What do they say?
In just a moment I’m going to give you an opportunity to walk up here carrying the law that condemns you. To walk up here carrying your guilts, carrying your condemnation, and to give it to him instead. And lay it at his feet. And now from this moment in the eyes of heaven, Jesus silences all your accusers. It’s over. We’re gonna’ play a song. You don’t need any more instruction. Whenever you’re ready during this song, come on up and lay it down.