John 7-10: Where Authority and Grace Meet

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1. Into the Story

READ JOHN 7:25–44

In chapters 7–10, John focuses in on the authority of Jesus. He has no position or political power in His community. And yet He moves and speaks and acts with an authentic kind of authority not visible in the other religious or government leaders. His authority is rooted in who He is. For the people, this is compelling. For the religious establishment, it is infuriating.

The miracles of chapters 5–6 point to the identity and mission of Jesus. In this next section that debate escalates. From His brothers, to the crowds, to the religious leaders, the question is pressed. “Who are you?” they ask in chapter 8. His answer? “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning” (v. 25).

  • How does John connect Jesus to Old Testament figures and events in this Gospel?
  • Why is this important in revealing His identity and mission?
  • How does this impact our understanding of His authority?

2. Jesus and Moses

READ JOHN 8:2–11

In this section we can sense the opposition to Jesus beginning to mount. A plot to kill Him starts to emerge. And even though they aren’t brave enough to carry it out yet, you feel the plan gaining traction. John says several times that they couldn’t touch Him because His time had not yet come. But in these chapters we feel that time drawing near.

In chapter 8 we see a microcosm of this opposition and tension over His authority. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees set a trap to undercut Him. But this is more than a trick question or test of His knowledge. This time, a life hangs in the balance.

  • Put yourself in this woman’s place. What emotions is she experiencing at this moment?
  • The law of Moses says that anyone caught in adultery should be put to death. She is not the only guilty person. Who else is missing from this story?
  • Why is this person missing?
  • What does that say about the Pharisees and their respect for the law of Moses? What does it say about their motives?

3. If Any One of You Is without Sin

READ JOHN 8:7

  • Discuss your reaction to Jesus’ answer. Don’t rush past these familiar
    words. Reflect and appreciate the moment?
  • What does this reveal about Jesus?
  • What does it tell us about His authority?
  • The Pharisees try to force Jesus to choose between His compelling message of God’s grace and the ancient truth of God’s Word. Which does Jesus choose? Grace or truth?
  • What do you think Jesus is writing in the sand?

In this brilliant moment, Jesus holds grace and truth together as one. He doesn’t choose one over the other because you cannot dissect and separate the character of God. Jesus came full of grace and truth and embodies both.

As far as the writing in the sand, no one knows or can know what Jesus was writing. And it doesn’t matter. The point is not what is written, but who is writing. The Pharisees test Jesus’ commitment to the Law. But He is the one who wrote the Law. The very finger writing in the dirt is the same that etched the Law in stone on Mt. Sinai.

4. Drop the Rocks

READ JOHN 8:9

  • What emotions do you think the woman is experiencing now?
  • Describe the first time you sensed the shocking power of God’s grace for you.
  • Why did they drop the rocks?
  • What does this say about the authority of Jesus?
  • What does this story tell us about the reality of sin?

In this moment, we see the pervasive reach of sin. Not only the obvious and public sin of the woman, but the hidden and hypocritical sin of the religious elite. In the silence, clarity sets in and they are all exposed. One by one, they recognize their own brokenness—their hearts as hard as the stones in their hands. And to her shock, the woman hears their damning accusations fall flat and empty of their power to condemn. The sound of stones hitting the ground like drumbeats in the anthem of grace.

This is the strength of grace—not that Jesus overlooks sin, but that He looks it in the eye, calls it what it is, and overthrows it. Jesus does not condone sin. He risks something far more courageous. He forgives it. He alone has the power to condemn her, as the only one with the right to cast the stones left behind. And don’t be confused. Jesus does judge sin. He takes the judgment on Himself in the cross, where His mercy and justice, grace and truth collide. So He declares His judgment, “neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).

5. Go Now and Leave Your Life of Sin

  • How does this strike you?
  • What does this commission tell us about Jesus?
  • What does this reveal about His authority?

Notice the order of Jesus’ command. “Neither do I condemn you” comes before “go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11). Why?

Grace begins by empowering forgiveness. But it refuses to stop there. It continues to move in us, reshaping us, transforming us. The same grace that empowers forgiveness goes on to empower freedom. We have a robust view of grace, recognizing its power to enable obedience and surrender and holiness of heart and life. “Neither do I condemn you” comes before and paves the way for “go now and leave your life of sin.” It is never the other way around.

This is not to encourage a life of perfectionism, striving to accomplish by our own strength what is humanly impossible. That is a legalistic and deadly trap that Jesus came to break. But make no mistake about it, Jesus does call us to be transformed—to live a life empowered by grace. To move into a future of freedom. To believe that the grace of God is stronger than the grip of sin.

  • How is grace empowering freedom and transformation in your life?

With Jesus, rock bottom is an opportunity to begin again and coming undone is a chance to be made new. The end is where he starts from.

Did you enjoy this walk through John 7-10? You can get the entire book + video study, The Great Reversal: The Life & Death & Life of Jesus (Love Lab) by Matt LeRoy. “In this nine-week journey through the Gospel of John, participants will take part in their own experiment with discipleship and mission in community. They will engage with the Word, discuss it deeply, and then provoke active practice in response to it. The transforming power of holy love starts within us, but it refuses to stay there. It works its way into every corner of our lives, until it breaks out into the world around us.” Get it from our store here.

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Matt LeRoy (ATS, 2007) is co-pastor of Love Chapel Hill, an eclectic, quirky church plant in downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is married to Sarah, who is out of his league. They are the proud parents of twin sons, Luke and Samuel.

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