John Lesson 18 - Judging the Judges
Judge not, lest ye be judged, has become one of the world's most quoted Bible verses. But what does it mean? Are we as Christians not supposed to judge each others' actions in light of Scripture? Find out in this message, "Judging the Judges."
Judging The Judges
MISSING A PORTION . . .
This woman was caught" -the word "caught" means "seized, overcome, overtaken"; it suggests that the men literally pulled the adulterous couple away from each other, and the tense of the verb suggests that those who pulled her away were the same ones who were still holding on to her when they came to Jesus.
How could they have missed grabbing the man?! I happen to believe that he was deliberately allowed to go free. Why? Becuase the religious leaders weren't concerned about moral ethics, they were concerned about trapping Jesus.
I tend to believe that the leaders have already arranged with the adulterous man to allow them to capture the woman - perhaps the leaders had discovered this illicit affair and schemed their plot; now perhaps telling the man that if he went along with the trap, they wouldn't reveal to his wife that he had been commiting adultery. And so the man slips away, the leaders capture the woman and drag her to Jesus.
Now here's where it gets sticky.
5. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
6. And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.
Here's the dilemna
The Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, was not in the regular practice of condemning people to death. In fact, one paragraph of the Mishna records, "If the Sanhedrin condemned to death a person as often as once every 7 years, they were to be considered a slaughterhouse.
One of the reasons capital punishment didn't happen very often was the strict requirements laid down by the Rabbi's for someone caught in adultery. There had to be an iron clad case - numerous witnesses - in fact, they had to literally be caught in the act.
And here was just that kind of case!
It was open and shut!
Can you imagine this woman. . .publicly exposed, standing their perhaps not even fully clothed before the sneering hostile religous leaders, the crowd of people are whispering, gasping, gaping at her, she stands before the holy teacher of Nazreth who many believed was the Messiah. . .
What an illustration of the coming great white throne, where all who've rejected the Savior will stand before him - exposed, guilty, the case of sin is iron clad; the difference is there will be no forgiveness offered then, but today there is.
Look at verse 7. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
Before we uncover the implications of Jesus' words, I believe we need to address an important subject.
I don't know how many times I've heard someone refer to Jesus' words as a justification for allowing sin to go undisciplined in the life of the believer and in the life of the church.
How many times have you heard someone say, "You have no right to judge that person. . .remember, 'Don't judge, lest you be judged..."
Let's answer the question:
WHEN IS IT RIGHT TO JUDGE?
#1 When someone openly rebels against scripture
I Corinthians 5 Paul writes, "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you. . .and you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent
in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as thoug i were present."
In the Best seller, "Looking out for Number 1", the author wrote, "Don't be intimidated by another persons council about what is right...especially watch out for the moralists; forget the moral standards others have tried to cram down your throats."
Our age resists moral accountability! And the believer or church which stands and judges sin as sin is asking for it.
I read of a church that disciplined out of its membership a woman living in immorality...she sued the church saying it had no right to judge her...and won the suit."
The disparity between the church and our culture is ever widening, and the opportunity for persecution is ever nearer.
It's also right to judge ...
#2. When someone openly denies the doctrines of scripture
Our culture and increasingly, the church at large is resisting more and more the idea of doctrinal or theological absolutes. They are too black and white - too divisive! We've replaced the word "sin" with problem.
The popular message of today is; let us lay aside our doctrine, and unite in love.
Listen to Paul - "Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who . . . are in opposition to the doctrine - the teaching which you have been taught. I warn you to turn aside form them, to avoid them."
Listen to John, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds."
Doesn't sound very loving does it...wonder how popular John would be today to those who say, "Set aside doctrine for the sake of unity and the cause."
Paul wrote in Galatians, "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preached to you contrary to the gospel which we have preached to you, let him be accursed"
So the minister who preaches that Jesus Christ didn't literally resurrect from the grave - is accursed.
So the religious leaders who deny efficacy of Christ's atonement alone - are accursed.
So those who deny the divine inspiration of scripture - are accursed!
So those church leaders who preach a gospel of salvation by grace plus works, plus baptism, plus, plus, plus - are accursed!
Doesn't sound like Paul is calling for open and loving dialouge - Doesn't sound like Paul is ecumenical - NO! he's calling for division. . .on the grounds of doctrine.
And so, while the church at large is setting the absolute truths of the Bible aside for whatever reasons they so choose, our world is, like never before, groping for the truth.
It's also right to judge...
#3. When we evaluate our own walk with God
I Corinthians 11 has the idea of judgment occuring 5 times in 3 verse as the beleiver approaches the Lord's table.
Again, our Christian culture is erasing repentance and self-evaluation for the life of the believer. Too depressing...we need to focus instead on the power of positive thinking.
Yes, the pursuit of holiness will create conviction and the need for confession.
It is also right to judge. . .
#4. When we evaluate our own world in light of Scripture
Listen to I Cor. 2:15 - "He who is spiritual judges all things." What's he talking about - the amplified Bible renders it, "But the spiritual man tries all things -that is he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things."
He's not critical, but he is thinking critically!
I was standing in the line at the grocery store - it was one of those rare moments when my wife sent me to the store, trusting that I'll come home with what she sent me for - I always come home with a different brand along with chocolate covered doughnuts - you send me to Winn Dixie and I'll always come home with something related to the item I was supposed to buy and chocolate covered doughnuts. Well, I was standing in line, surrounded by all those magazines - with all those wild headlines - "Gorilla gives birth to giraffe"
"Elvis seen selling Amway in Tennessee". "Outer space aliens communicate with White House" - I can believe that! Makes the wait in line really entertaining. But one headline caught my attention - "Do you believe in miracles? If you do, you're not alone. From visions of the Virgin on a hillside in Yugoslavia to the face of Christ on a billboard in Georgia, signs of a divine presence are touching millions." I bought the issue - Life Magazine; and I couldn't believe what people were buying into -
WHY? Becuase they weren't judging things in light of scriputre!
I read about Muslim gurus are said to be able to perform mystical healing. A growing group of people in Bayside queens believes it can capture the Holy Virgin on film by aiming polaroid cameras into the air. In New York I read there were Hasidic Jews who believed that scraps from their Rabbi's table could cure illness and guarantee happy marriage...so they jostled about vying for his leftover food.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a day when spiritual discernment is of paramount importance. This church must be capable of judging experiences and trends and beliefs in light of scripture.
The author of Hebrews called for a level of spiritual maturity wherein Christians "becuase of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
I think of William Tyndale who in 1526 judged the current religious thought wrong that declared the Bible was only to be owned and read by the priests - he went on to give his countrymen an English translation . . . he paid for that with his life.
I had a seminary professor who often said, "In every generation, the Christian community has been wrong somewhere. . .do you know where it is wrong today?"
Now I'm not proposing that we become hypercritical of everything; truth is, a hypercritical person is a hypocritical person.
I'm not saying, become critical, I'm saying, begin thinking critically.
There are times and reasons when it is right to judge! Now the question. . .what are you judging today? Are you discerning or naiveley open to anything and everything. . .
WHEN IS IT WRONG TO JUDGE?
#1 - When judging occurs before you know all the facts.
John 7:51 - Our law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing."
#2 When judging condemns another persons personal convictions.
This goes both directions - those who legalistically condemn those who allow certain things and those who snobbishly sneer at the those who live a stricter life.
What a difficult lesson it is to learn that God blesses people I disagree with.
#3 When judging attacks another person's motives.
I Cor. 4:5 - "But do not go on passing judgement befreo the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts"
We have to be careful to give people the benefit of the doubt!
The Rabbi's taught what they considered to be the 6 greatest works a person could do:
!study the scriptures !visit the sick
!show kindness to strangers !pray
!teach children the scriptures !think the best of people.
It's also wrong to judge when . . .
#4 When judging becomes a display of self-righteousness
Jesus said in Matthew 6 "Do not judge lest you be judged."
Now he can't be talking about discernment and the other forms of judgment we seen validated in scripture. . .He's referring to the judgment typical of the religous leaders. . .censorious, pietistical, critical, form of judgment that exposed sin without ever proposing a solution!
Verse 2 of Matthew 6 reads, "For in the way you judge, you will be judged. In other words, self-righteous condemning judgment builds it's own gallows.
In ancient Persia a certain corrupt judge often accepted bribes to render a false verdict. Finally, the King, Cambyses discovered this corrupt judges practice and had him executed. He then ordered that the judge be skinned, that the skin be treated as a cows hide and turned into leather. The high court judges chair was then covered with that skin, and subsequent judges who rendered their judgments while sitting on that chair were reminded every day of the consequences of perverting justice. It's dangerous, as an sinful person, to sit in a chair that only God can occupy sinlessly!
These men were playing God!
And here in this passage Jesus is about to skin their hides!
8. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
Twice he's written now - Warren Weirsbe suggested that this was a subtle reminder of the two tablets of stone that God wrote upon with his finger.
There are some who believe that Jesus is scribbling in the sand becuase he's embarassed! There are those who've held that Jesus stooped down becuase he didn't know what to say.
It's interesting however that this is the only time in the New Testament that Jesus is writing anything. The normal word for write is graphein; yet twice in this passage the word used is katagraphein, which means "to write down a record against".
The same word appears in Job 13:26, "Thou writest (katagraphein) bitter things against me."
What I believe is taking place, in the stillness of that court, these men heard the scratching of Jesus writing in the dirt
And what is he writing - I believe he's writing the list of sins that these men have hidden in the dark shadows of their private lives.
Jesus is about to judge the judges! He has seen them in the darkness; he has observed their sin. . .He knows them well!
Peter Marshall wrote, "Jesus Christ sees into their very hearts, and that moving finger writes on: idolater, liar, drunkard, murderer, adulterer, there is the thud of stone after stone falling on the
pavement. One by one, they creep away, slinking into the shadows, shuffling off into the crowded streets to lose themselves in the multitude.
Did these men think that they could fool God! Trouble is, they didn't know they were standing in front of Him did they - even thought He had already told them who He was.
I can remember in Middle School I had a lady named Miss Longnecker as a teacher in 5th grade. I remember getting into trouble in her class - I was normally a model student - this was one of the few times I remember misbehaving - I'll ignore that -As was the practice of Miss Longnecker, she sent home a note describing the error of my ways and then required that one of my parents sign it. It was an extremely cruel plan. I figured that I had two options - defect to the Soviet Union, or confess. I was in deep water. Then I thought of another option. . .I decided to forge my father's signature, no one would ever know. I tried to be scribbly like my father's signature - with straight lines on the K and curly swoops on the "h" and "d", I applied every ounce of skill at writing in cursive, Keith Davey. When I finished it didn't look anything like my father's signature, so I got a wet paper towel and smudged the ink so that it was barely readable. I would tell Miss Longnecker it had fallen in the sink. I never said I was a smart sinner. I was caught of course and all torture and punishment broke loose upon my poor soul.
Reminds me of another middle schooler named Tommy, I read about, who was playing hooky; he called the school that morning, the principal happend to answer; Tommy in his lowest voice said, "Thomas Bradley won't be in school today." The Principal was suspicious of this voice and said, "May I ask who is speaking?" After a long pause, the voice replied, "This is my father speaking."
Tommy and I had the same I.Q.
You know something more ludicrous than that?
Scribes and Pharisees standing before omniscient deity, thinking they themselves are free from sin!
Thinking they can forge the signature of purity, thinking they can play judge, jury and hangman.
Notice verse 9. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman where she was, in the midst.
Notice what Jesus does - v. 10. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" 11. And she said, "No one, Lord." Imagine this scene - the temple is silenced by the dissapearance of her accusers. Jesus alone had the right to cast the first stone. So here, in the quietness of this moment, a disheveled woman, shoulders stooped, eyes perhaps still feared with fear...he looked at her, and she looked at him, all around was the silence of the deserted temple. And Jesus siad, "Neither do I condemn you; go you way. From now on sin not more."
Two very important things to consider here:
First of all, Jesus Christ did not dismiss her sin, he will die for her sin.
The human judges wanted one thing - with relish they wanted to condemn!
THIS IS inconsistent with their function - they were supposed to restore sinners!
James Dobson reported once seeing a sign on a convent in Southern California which read: "Absolutely No Trespassing - Violators Will Be Prosecuted to the Full Extent of the Law"
Signed, "The Sisters of Mercy"
Jesus, the righteous judge wanted to forgive. . .and so he did, all the while knowing that that was one of the many sins he would die on the cross in order to pay the penalty.
He is therefore able to offer this woman another chance.
Jesus Christ will not only forgive her past, he will challenge her future.
Jesus confronted this womans life. He never said, "It's all right, don't worry, just go on as you are doing." Oh no, he said, "It's all wrong; go out and, if I am indeed Lord, stop living the life of an adulterous!
This is no easy forgiveness. . .Jesus confronted the woman with a choice that day - either to go back to her old ways or to live as a forgiven woman, with a new lease on a new life.
Ray Stedman told the story of sitting on the bus next to a young man who had just received Christ. Pastor Stedman spoke to him of what his new life would mean and mentioned that he could now be free from all fear of death. The young man turned and looked pastor Stedmann in the eyes and said, "I have never really been afraid of death. But I'll tell you what I am afraid of now - I'm afraid I'll waste me life."
Jesus said to this woman, "Go and stop wasting your life!"
You see, Jesus Christ has always been intensely interested, not only in what a person has been, but also in what a person can become.
This morning, you have a past, but with Christ, you have a future.
There is an old poem that read:
How I wish that there was some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again,
Where all our sin and all our heartaches
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never put on again!
There is a land like that - it's called Calvary - where the weight of your sin can fall off like an old heavy coat - the place where Jesus Christ will forgive your past - and challenge your future
The Bible never tells us what happened to this woman . . . here’s an unfinished story - so is yours.
What will you allow Him to do with your past: what will you allow Him to do with your future?
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