• Tony Birkhead

Messy Grace Week -1

Our Response to the Mess should always be Yes!


Has there ever been a time when you were shown grace, meaning you didn’t deserve the positive treatment you got? What was that like?


John 8:1-11

…but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


Read John 8:1-6.

Who were the Pharisees and scribes? Why were they bringing this woman before Jesus?

The scribes and Pharisees were among the recognized religious authorities of that day. Scribes were experts in biblical law. That included not only the Scriptures but also the rabbinical interpretations that comprised the oral traditions religious Jews sought to follow. The Pharisees were known for their dedication to observe all the biblical laws and oral traditions. These two groups, therefore, represented the pillars of the religious community and the guardians of established morality.

Have someone read Leviticus 20:10; and Deuteronomy 22:22. What did the law say about the woman?

What punishment did the crowd want for the adulterous woman?

How might the woman have felt during this experience?

Since Jesus taught about God’s will and ways, the religious leaders asked His opinion on the case of the adulterous woman. The scribes and Pharisees evidently had in mind Deuteronomy 22:22-24, which condemns to death both the woman and the man guilty of adultery. The woman was shamed by the law and could be punished by stoning.

Do you think the scribes and Pharisees were sincere about the need to punish the woman? Why or why not? Who else should they have presented for punishment?

What was the goal of the Pharisees by bringing the adulterous woman to Jesus?

The scribes and Pharisees’ aim was to discredit Jesus and bring Him into conflict with the Roman authorities. In bringing the guilty woman before Jesus, the religious leaders were not acting from a love for God, for purity, or for justice. They certainly had no love for the woman. To them, she was simply a weapon to use against Jesus. So on the one hand, if Jesus advocated stoning the woman, the trap perhaps was to accuse Him of advocating a death sentence in violation of Roman law. In that scenario, the scribes and Pharisees hoped the authorities would arrest and even execute Jesus. This woman was being used as a pawn by the religious leaders, yet Jesus would turn the table on them by asking a simple question and offering this woman grace.

Read John 8:6-9.

How did Jesus answer the scribes and Pharisees?

What do you think Jesus wrote in the dirt?

Instead of falling into the trap of answering them, Jesus stooped down and used his finger to write or draw on the ground. What did he write or draw? There have certainly been many theories. Was he merely doodling? Was he listing the erring ways of the accusers? Was he copying the pattern of the Roman justices in writing the sentence and then orally stating the same? Was he acting out the implications of Jeremiah 17:13 concerning writing in the dust “those who turn away” from the Lord? Or did Jesus write Exodus 23:1 and 7 concerning joining in evil witnessing and avoiding false charges? Unfortunately we cannot know for certain.

How did Jesus’ direction to the crowd reveal the accuser’ problems?

Why do you think the older men left first?

Jesus finally said, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Jesus could have used the term “without sin” to mean any kind of sin, but in this context it seems more likely He meant the sin of adultery. This does not necessarily mean the accusers committed adultery in the flesh, for adultery is not only a sin of the flesh but also of the heart (see Matt. 5:28). The main thing to recognize is that in stating “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus was effectively introducing grace to the woman, freeing her from shame and condemnation.

Read John 8:10-11.

What do you think the woman feeling when it was just her and Jesus?

What did Jesus say to her? How did Jesus’ words empower the woman?

Jesus said two intensely significant things to her. These two things are closely connected and both are vitally important. (1) “Neither do I condemn you.” God has pronounced a spiritual death penalty on all sins, and that penalty has not been revoked. Jesus was showing that God is more interested in converting sinners than in condemning them. (2) “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” This command heads off any misunderstanding about Jesus’ attitude toward sin in general and the sin of adultery in particular. He neither excused the woman’s behavior nor gave her license to continue her sinful ways. Rather, He gave her an opportunity to make a new start. He invited her to repentance and faith. He empowered her to live with God and others free of shame.


  • How and why is the grace of God so messy?

  • Name one person you need to reach out to and share God’s messy grace. Why does this person need the grace of God?


Lead your group in prayer thanking God for His forgiveness. Thank God for restoring us through the work of Jesus. Pray that when you feel shame you will look to Scripture and look to Jesus to receive power. Pray for those at our church who are dealing with shame and loneliness. Pray that they would find peace and restoration in Christ.


John 8:1-11

8:1-6a. The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not include John 7:53–8:11. The Pharisees posed a dilemma. If Jesus agreed to stone the woman, he would incur the distrust of the sinners he came to save as well as break Roman law. But a refusal to stone her would make him vulnerable to the accusation that he treated the Law of Moses lightly. It is a sad commentary on the culture of first-century Israel that they brought in the woman but no mention is made of the man. The sin of adultery and its handmaiden, divorce, represent almost the norm in modern America. But at least in our day we recognize mutuality of responsibility.

John left no doubt regarding the Pharisees’ motivation: They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. So the chapter begins with public accusation, but it also goes on to talk about personal guilt. In one sense the Pharisees stood on solid ground with their appeal to the Law of Moses (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22–24), but the law was not as clear as their accusation seems to imply. For example, her marital status would be a defining factor.

8:6b-8. Interpreters seem fascinated by Jesus’ writing in the sand, certainly a reaction unexpected by the Pharisees. Why did Jesus do this? What did he write? One answer suffices for both questions: We do not know. It is useless to speculate, as some have done, that he wrote the names of other adulterers who were standing there among the group of accusers. We are bound to the text which tells us nothing more than that Jesus refused an immediate or reactionary response to the Pharisees’ accusation. The centerpiece of this scene is the Lord’s answer: If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

The writing in the sand was followed by the wisdom of the Son. This rubric is certainly valuable for judgmental Christians in our times. The perfect reply preserved both Jewish and Roman law while exposing the wickedness of the accusers. As Jesus began writing on the ground a second time, they had time to think about their own lives and God began to speak to those who were open to hear his voice. Again the accusers were brought face to face with the law they themselves had quoted. According to Deuteronomy 17:2-7, the witnesses of a crime who had reported it to the authorities would be the first to cast the stones.

8:9. What followed was the withdrawal of the sinners, one at a time, the older ones first. Did the older ones leave first because they had more time to accumulate sins of their own? Was it their maturity and sense of impending judgment that made them fleet of foot to escape this embarrassing predicament? Did they recognize that perhaps their sin was greater than the woman’s and Jesus knew that full well? Again, the text does not tell us. But conscience must have played some role in this scene as the accusers left Jesus alone with the woman.

Imagine a stage play as you watch in silence—no dialogue, no music. The confident and critical Pharisees, moments ago pointing their fingers at the woman and at Jesus, now silently exit stage right or stage left without another word. Christians are not perfect—just forgiven. And because of the extent of God’s forgiveness to us, we ought to be the least judgmental people in the world.

8:10-11. The first two scenes of the story described the charges and their response. Now we come to the verdict. With the accusers gone, there remained no condemnation. The Son of God refused to press the issue. Her sin was not just set aside; soon Jesus would pay the penalty for both the woman and her accusers.

James Boice tells the story of a man who sat in his office aware of his deep sin but unable to do anything about it. Boice ministered to him by using the illustration of a man walking along a street and splashed by a car in the dark. As he continued he came into the light of a street lamp and became aware of the stains on his clothing. Finally, the man decided he could not go on, turned around, and went home to put on clean clothes. At that point the young man in Boice’s office responded by saying, “My problem is that I don’t have any clean clothes.”

Precisely. Chapter 8 tells about a woman who had no clean clothes—and about Pharisees who also had no clean clothes. She knew she did not; they thought they did. Jesus offered the clean clothes of forgiveness to all of them—and to us as well.

Jesus asked a rhetorical question and the woman answered it simply. Forgiveness rests upon the Lord’s understanding. In this vignette we find recognition, repentance, regeneration, restitution, and reconciliation.

A second important lesson in these two verses is that forgiveness rests upon the Lord’s grace. Remember the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15? The father showed unconditional forgiveness and restoration when the son returned. Salvation does not come from suffering; it comes from grace—from the suffering and death of Jesus on our behalf.

Finally, we see that the verdict rests upon the Lord’s forgiveness. Forgiveness demands a clean break with sin. In Matthew 9:2 we read, “Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.’ ” In searching for a way to translate this, a missionary linguist working among the Guajira tribe in Colombia rendered the Lord’s words, “I forgive you. Let’s be friends again.”

The same Jesus offers forgiveness today to sinners whose sins equal that of the woman or those of the Pharisees. And not only forgiveness for initial salvation but also for daily sins of anger, disobedience, envy, greed, and the judgmental character shown by the Pharisees which gave birth to this episode.



The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

1 Corinthians 1:4

It is hard to imagine why Paul was telling the Church at Corinth that he was thankful for them. …the church in Corinth had serious “issues.” Among them, a man was sleeping with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). Fellow believers were suing each other (1 Corinthians 6:1). People were getting drunk off of the communion wine (1 Corinthians 11:21). And the list went on. What did he see in those people that made him thankful? Paul saw what only a follower of Jesus Christ could see; God’s grace at work in their lives.

Generally, the more time a person spends with another, the more obvious sin in their life becomes. This can either bring them closer together, or rend them further apart. Unfortunately, in many relationships it separates or even creates mistrust and a pride in one’s life as they judge the other person’s faults.

As we look for God’s grace in the lives of those around us, rather then their faults, we will begin to view them as a blessing in our lives instead of a curse. Seeing God’s abundant grace in others should be what separates the church from those outside of it. We are sinners full of grace, instead of sinners full of pride.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Sometimes we view grace and truth as opposite sides of the spectrum rather than as two sides to the same coin. In truth we are confronted with our sinfulness and our need for someone to free us from ourselves and the current sin of the world around us. This truth then points us to grace and not a feeling of hopelessness. As we proclaim truth as Jesus did, we need to make sure that there is an equal measure of grace ready to be given. In grace, rather than God giving us what we really deserve, He gives us what we desperately need. As Jesus entered the world, he came “full of grace and truth.”

In today’s culture we’ve substituted tolerance for grace. Tolerance says I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok so let’s just stay that way. But grace is a much more radical acceptance because grace says come as you are. Let’s see the real you—the good, the bad and the ugly of who you are—and by the way you get to see the good, bad, and ugly of my life too. But we don’t stay there—we recognize that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has something better for all of us to pursue. Grace says we’re all messed up and God has something better…and we are going to pursue this with God together.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved

Ephesians 2:4-5

We often focus on the future grace we will enjoy with the return of Jesus. At the end of many church services we hear of our need to put our faith in Jesus so that we can some day get to heaven where we will receive that grace. Yes, this is correct. But, if we look closely at today’s text, we can clearly see that there was a lot more wrong than right in our lives before we came to faith in Christ.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

We followed Satan (a none too popular truth), lived in the passions of our flesh, and behaved as we desired. But, because of God’s love for us we are no longer slaves to self, sin, or Satan! No longer are we “dead in our trespasses”, we are made alive in Him. It is only by God’s grace that we can follow and obey His commandments. No more being carried here and there by the ways of the world, God’s grace has made a way for us while we live here on the earth. Now our deepest desires are to do God’s will and live worshipping Him instead of ourselves.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

I read one of my morning devotionals today and had one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments that always make me wonder what other, simple, truths I’ve missed in my life. You see, I love my children. I mean the deep, feel-their-pain, kind of love. I feel so much pride when they do well that I often cry because of my love for them.

Oh, not the boastful kind of pride but, rather, the kind that springs from the heart when they ‘get it right’ in their life-decisions. I feel disappointment, but never stop loving them, when they don’t get it right. I realized that my Heavenly Father loves me the same way…only on a much grander scale!

Friend, we are His children and He loves us, in spite of all our ugliness and sin, in such a way that you and I cannot and will not ever comprehend. He will always love us unconditionally. He will never lock the door behind us when we’re willful and turn away from His path. He will never hit the ‘ignore’ button and not take our calls. He will never write us out of His will.

You will always be welcomed back to His open arms (though the punishment may sting a bit). You will always be heard when you fall to your knees and call out to Him in prayer. And you will always have the promised inheritance of eternal life, mercy, grace and forgiveness that has been yours since you accepted the truth of Jesus’ death on the cross. Nothing will ever take His love from you. You are a child of the most-high, God, and He will never stop loving you unconditionally…nothing you do can change that!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org


You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:13

Jesus says that when salt has lost its taste, it’s only good for being trampled beneath people’s feet. So the big question is: “Are you salty?” Here are three questions to ask yourself.

THE SALT OF THE EARTH MAKES PEOPLE THIRSTY- One of the simplest things salt does is make people thirsty. Chemically, salt makes us thirsty because our brain sends a signal to drink water to balance sodium levels in the blood. While first-century folks wouldn’t have known the exact physiology of this, they didn’t need to. Because they experienced the same sensation of being thirsty after eating salty dishes. For disciples, we can take a cue from our food. Just as our brains create a desire for water, our lives should create a desire in people for the living water of Jesus. Does your life make people thirsty for Jesus?

THE SALT OF THE EARTH IMPROVES TASTE- The word translated as “has lost its taste” is moraino. In Greek, this literally means “cause to become nonsense” or “make foolish.” In this sense, disciples are to act in a way that helps people understand and apply the gospel. Just like a sharp palette identifies particular flavors in a meal, Christians should help people make sense of the gospel’s flavor. This means every situation should be viewed through a gospel-centered lens. Does your life add grace and enrich the understanding of the gospel in peoples’ lives?

THE SALT OF THE EARTH PRESERVES AND PROTECTS- Finally, salt is a preservative. By dehydrating food, it preserves it from spoiling. An article in the Scientific American explains even more effects of salt:

“…these processes not only prevent spoilage of foods, but more importantly serve to inhibit or prevent growth of food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella or Clostridium botulinum when properly applied.

Salt both preserves and protects. We do this by ensuring our doctrine remains undefiled and undiluted. We don’t gather teachers who tell us what we want to hear. Instead, we crave the truth from God’s Word itself. We commit to it. And are changed by it. The true gospel saves us eternally and in this life.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:11b

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