The last couple of weeks, we’ve been discovering the bold, audacious hope we can have that God is working in our lives every day. It’s a hope that things don’t have to remain the same tomorrow as they are today. It’s a hope that there is rest from the heavy burdens of life, a hope that broken things can be mended, a hope that we don’t have to be afraid of what’s next, and a hope that we are loved by our Creator.
Having hope is having a promise that is unbroken and never forgotten. Hope is a sturdy foundation that never changes, is strong, powerful, and always true. Therefore, there’s always hope no matter what the situation.
The first week, I mentioned that hope happens right here in church because church is a wonderful place to find God’s plans for our lives, to find His never-ending love for us, and to find the ability of His strength.
Last week, we looked at how Jesus invites us to find rest in Him when we are weary and burdened, and how we can share these burdens with one another so that we don’t ever have to walk alone. Hope is found in a relationship with Christ and in relationship with one another.
The truth is, we all find ourselves in need of hope from time to time. In fact, I believe the greatest need we and most of our world have right now is a sense of hope. If that’s true for you, you’ve come to the right place. Perhaps today your need for hope doesn’t stem from a weariness like we talked about last week, but instead from a sense of brokenness. Maybe from something you did or from something that has happened to you. Today, I want to focus on the brokenness from things we have done.
Our lives are fragile. The choices we make matter, and our decisions certainly have consequences. We have all had times when we have chosen poorly. And we all have made mistakes that lead us to fall into sin. When this happens, it often feels like things break.
POINT #1 – WE ALL HAVE EXPERIENCED BROKENNESS
Because of our choices, a relationship falls apart, we lose a job, our finances suffer, or our marriage is strained. It can leave us feeling hopeless as we try to pick up the pieces. We can feel abandoned by God and judged by those around us. And there is truly no worse feeling than when our sin comes to the surface and people find out. Being exposed causes us to feel shame and guilt. But this does not have to be the end of the story.
There is a story of a woman in the scriptures who knew exactly what it felt like to be broken and in need of restoration. It takes place in John chapter 8 as Jesus was traveling to the temple to teach. And as He sat down and a crowd gathered around Him, His teaching was interrupted by an angry mob of religious leaders who was dragging a woman along with them.
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
It’s like, okay you’re a teacher so you know what the law says, but since you are teaching against many of our laws, what do you say about how she should be punished.
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him…
The woman in this story is brought before everyone with the accusation that she had been literally caught in the act of adultery. She was cheating on her husband with someone else, and these men apprehended her in the middle of the scandal. How embarrassing! How humiliating!
She would have been fully aware that the consequence for this sin, according to the law which God gave to the Israelites through Moses found in the Old Testament, was for her to be stoned to death. Not a fine, not jail time, but death. By the humiliation that she felt, she probably wanted to die. But a stoning would be a terrible way to die. This is what rock bottom looks like. This is what brokenness looks like. A broken marriage. A broken reputation. A broken woman.
What is most shocking about this story is that the woman seems to have been used as a pawn in the religious leaders’ plan to get rid of Jesus. Here, sin was being exploited in front of everyone in order to harm Jesus. This woman just happened to be caught in the middle, therefore exposing her sin to everyone in a public place, with people walking by let alone every eye tuned in that was sitting with Jesus. Can you picture this? There was a crowd circled up around Jesus to hear His teaching, then these men of religious law and the Pharisees barge to the front of the crowd. And all eyes are on her.
When I was a kid, I remember playing in the snow longer than my hands could handle. It was inevitable that slowly my fingers would grow cold and numb, and eventually be painful enough to force me back inside. When I finally did go back inside, I would put my wet clothes by the woodstove and hold my hands over the top of the stove trying to warm them up. My hands would tingle and burn at the same time, and it was extremely painful. But over time, that exposure to the heat would thaw my cold skin until it felt warm again.
Our sin being laid bare is one of the worst and best feelings possible. On one hand, it is horrible because everyone knows the truth about you. On the other hand, it is wonderful because finally, everyone knows the truth about you.
Here she was, caught in adultery and laying before Jesus, the Messiah, and all these people. She had lost hope that she could avoid death by a stoning. But then Jesus intervenes. It’s like thawing fingers from the cold winter snow; as the pain subsides, there’s the warmth of a fresh start.
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.
Pay attention to this. Many of us picture this story with just Jesus and her left, but scripture says “Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.” Lots of eyes are still on her.
But rather than agree to this woman’s death on account of the law, Jesus does something radically different. The scripture says that He stoops down and begins to write in the dust with His finger. We have no idea what He was writing. But we do know that He’s right in front of the men who brought this woman, and they very likely could see what He’s writing. Perhaps it was a list of the woman’s sins, or perhaps it was the names of the men who had brought the woman, or perhaps it was a list of their sins.
Regardless, when pushed by the mob for an answer, Jesus stands up and tells them they are free to proceed, but the one among them without any sin should be the first to throw a stone. Was it a list of their sins in the dust? He knows their sin. They know their sin.
Jesus is making a point here. He is teaching the religious group a lesson about something called grace. If you cannot throw a stone at this woman, it’s because you are guilty of breaking the law yourself. Which is why He bent down and continued writing in the dust. “Let me keep listing your sins.”
So, these men, one by one, drop their stones and go home. I love the detail that we are given here. First, the older men leave. Their wisdom causes them to understand the lesson first. Eventually the younger, and perhaps more stubborn men follow.
10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Can you hear it? Can you hear the Savior saying to you, “Neither do I.”
I imagine Jesus looking at this woman with such compassion and love. For the first time in this woman’s brokenness, which she may have lived with for a long time seeing how she was doing what she was doing, she must have felt hope. She went from the fear and reality of being stoned to death, to hope in a second chance to live and start new. Jesus is the only one in this story who does not condemn her for her poor choices. He is the only one who does not want to punish her for her wrongdoing. Rather, Jesus offers her something totally different. Grace.
Do you know the first word over us is love? The truest thing about you is that you are loved by God. God does not determine your value based on how well you preform. God does not decide your worth based on your reputation. God calls you valuable because He made you!
Your hope is found in a God who loves you just the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you that way. In fact, the last words Jesus speaks to the woman are “go and sin no more.” Jesus cares about how we live our lives. He cares about the decisions we make that leave us broken.
Jesus wants to expose the sin, but not for the same reasons as the religious leaders. Not to shame us, but to change us. You see, these men exposed this woman’s sin to shame her and mostly to trap Jesus. But Jesus exposes sin to make us whole. He wants to take the broken pieces and put them back together, and honestly, make something even more beautiful than it was to begin with.
POINT #2 – GOD PUTS THE BROKEN PIECES BACK TOGETHER
If you find yourself broken today, if you feel like you are surrounded by people who only want to throw stones at you, I have good news for you. Jesus is meeting you right here, right now in this place where there is hope.
Buy you have a choice to make, and it will determine the future that you will live into. You can choose to make no changes and continue on your current route that seems hopeless. Or the other option you have is to confess your sin to God and receive His forgiveness and walk in new life. When we confess our sin and believe in Christ, then we are found in Christ. Paul writes about this when he wrote to the church in Corinth.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
We’re made new. The old ways of living become things of the past, and it’s not us, but God does something new in us.
POINT #3 – THE CHURCH IS A PLACE OF HOPE
Now, you know that sin doesn’t happen like a vacuum, where it only stays within us. It often has collateral damage. It touches other people. It becomes common knowledge. And as important as it is for the sinner to respond rightly to a shameful mistake, it is equally important that the Church responds rightly as well. We receive hope in the midst of our brokenness when we acknowledge that we all have fallen short and all have sinned before God.
The beauty of the fellowship of the Church is that we are able to extend forgiveness and grace to one another because we are all broken people learning each day how to live under the grace of God. The Church is a gathering point for a whole bunch of sinners who don’t have it all together yet, but who are learning every day how to live into this new life.
The Church should be the place where grace is found more readily than any other place on earth. The grace of God, and the grace found from those whom we fellowship with, is the key to our hope. We heal best in community.
And may I just say, how we interact with people around us who have made mistakes says a lot about our personal relationship with Jesus. Because look, since you have been forgiven, Jesus says you should extend forgiveness to others.
Many of us can relate to the woman caught in adultery. We may fail in different ways, but they have the same result. We distance ourselves from Jesus, we hurt the people we love, we hurt ourselves. We feel shameful and embarrassed. The woman was going to pay the price for her sin—until she met Jesus. What hope she must have felt as the stones began to fall at the feet of her accusers, and she was given a second chance to “go and sin no more.”
If you feel broken today, there is hope. Jesus is offering forgiveness and a fresh start. This morning, I want to invite you, with your broken pieces and all, to believe that God can make something beautiful of your life once again. And I want to invite you to trust the community that He has placed you within to offer hope to one another and live out this wonderful, grace-filled life together.
There is nothing you can do that Jesus cannot forgive. Offer the brokenness of your life to Christ. Choose obedience. Then, forgive others and welcome them into the family of faith.