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Writing on the Ground

Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 7:53-8:11

This is a familiar and famous story from the Bible, and the meaning seems obvious, except for one thing.

What was Jesus writing on the ground?

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Well, I think He wrote all the sins of the woman’s accusers,” but I don’t think so. I really don’t. My theory is that He was writing the Ten Commandments. That could easily be what happened. He was trying to make a point about sin, and the Ten Commandments would have perfectly supported His point. We’re all bound by them, but we can’t do everything right all the time. No one can. We all sin.

Try looking at this story again, this time with this perspective in mind. Can you see it? Jesus started writing the Ten Commandments on the ground, and He was looking down at them while He spoke. He said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” His point was so clear. Every single one of that woman’s accusers had broken these rules. Jesus knew it, they knew it, and we know it. Jesus said, “You’re coming at her with her adultery? Well, I’m coming at you because you didn’t honor your parents. Say, how many of you have served things other than God?”

Picture this, and then you’ll know what the scribes and Pharisees were facing. They had no choice but to say, “You’re right! Here I am, judging this woman, but I fall short in keeping the commandments. I may not be bad about honoring my parents, but just the other day I coveted something that isn’t mine.”

You can’t judge others. You really can’t. That’s why Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” He could say that with complete confidence that no harm would come to her. He knew no one there had a leg to stand on!

We all sin. In this, we’re all the same. That’s why you rarely saw Jesus get upset with people. He looked at the adulteress, and He said, “Where are your accusers?” And she said, “They’re gone.” Alone with her, He didn’t yell at her. He didn’t condemn her. He simply said, “Well, I don’t accuse you either.”

When He looked at her, He understood. Jesus knows that in our weakness, in our flesh, we are going to sin. So He just released her. But not before telling her, “Go, and sin no more.” And I think she understood what He meant. This was God looking at her and saying, “In me, you have the ability to sin no more.”

And I think that’s where Jesus was just so good! He understood that people are not good. Not always. We aren’t! In our flesh, we sin.

We all have to understand that. We have to come to grips with it. And when we do, I think we will judge a whole lot less.

See you Tuesday.

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