Read John 7:53 - 8:11
53Then each went to his own home. 8:1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They 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. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At 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. 10Jesus 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." (NIV)
We get this encounter in the midst of Jesus’ hard teaching. Much is happening here. We see that we get a glimpse of the attitude of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They are using this poor woman as a pawn. We must remember that at this time, the Jews were not allowed to execute someone. Even if their law said that person must die, because of the Roman occupation, the Jews were not allowed to carry out a death penalty. So, this was part of the trap.
They were forcing Jesus to choose which side he was on, the law or the people. If he chose the law and said she must die, he would lose his support for being a man of mercy and grace. He would also come into with the Romans for saying someone should die. If he said she should be forgiven, then he would be advocating the breaking of the law.
So, when confronted, Jesus bends over and begins to write in the sand. By the type of word John uses for write, we get some speculation at what he was writing. If it was just word, John would have used the Greek word, “graphein.” But he doesn’t. He uses the Greek word, “katagraphein.” “kata” means against and so some theologians believe Jesus was writing the sins of the accusers in the sand where they could obvious see them. But we don’t know for sure.
After writing these words in the san and being pushed, Jesus simply stands and says, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bends over again. After a while, there is no one left standing but the woman and Jesus. Even his disciples left.
St. Augustine said of this picture, “there remained a great misery (miseria) and a great pity (misericodia).” What a beautiful image of God and us. We in our need and failures and Jesus in the fullness of his grace and mercy. We all have failed. George Whitfield, a contemporary preacher of John Wesley once saw a man headed to the gallows and exclaimed, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It is only when we stand with Christ that we find true grace.
And we see that in Jesus asking the question, “Has no one condemned you?” that he points to what he teaches that only God can condemn, not man. And we see that Jesus gives us another chance always. He tells her, “Neither to I.” But then he points to the second chance, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” It is a call to repentance, to turn around and go the other way.
In this life, we can stand before Jesus knowing that we stand before one who loves us and wants us to live the best life possible. It is only standing with him that we can. We all have had to confront our failures at one time or another. But we can know that in Christ, we can find forgiveness and a new way of living.
Blessings and Peace: