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?”
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. 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 condemn you. Go and sin no more.” – John 8:1-11
I love imagining what Jesus wrote in the dust. There are many possibilities from the Old Testament…
- “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be white as wool.” – Isaiah 5:
- “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
- “There is no one righteous. No not one.”
- “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all your sins…”
- “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” – Psalm 130
But, how about this one? It’s not from the Bible. Neither Old or New Testament has this:
- “Where is the man?”
We don’t know what Jesus wrote – either the first or second time he leaned down and wrote in the dust. But we do know that his actions and being, and the challenging answer, “Let the one with no sin throw the first stone,” had an impact.
That impact caused the thuds of stones impacting the ground, not this woman caught in the act. I can almost hear those thuds: some large because the stones were heavy, and some more muffled from smaller stones.
I’m thinking that those more convinced that something needed to be done about this woman’s wanton behavior were carrying the larger ones. I’m guessing there may have been some in the crowd who were swept up in the moment and really didn’t want to be there, but were bullied into joining the gang of vigilanties.
If I were one of those who got caught up in the mob, I’d be very thankful that Jesus chose to offer the answer he did, and that he waited and wrote till wiser heads prevailed.
Jesus wanted to save the accusers and the woman caught in the act of adultery. He saved the mob from condemning the woman only to become for self-righteous and farther from the heart of God. He saved the woman from death – physical and eternal.
He saved all who believe in him, “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” – Ephesians 1:6-8