I often wonder about the scenario where Jesus is presented with a woman caught in the very act of adultery. It is obvious from the setting that the Pharisees were using this as a test to trip Jesus up. Their “culturally” based rules said she was to be killed for what she did. Jesus had other ideas.
He took some time with this one, and I’ve always wondered why. He kneeled down and began writing in the sand. I’m sure everyone there was wondering, “What the heck are you doing?” I doubt that Jesus needed time to think about his answer, so I’m left believing that he wanted the crowd to simmer and to think of the reality of what they might be about to do.
Then he says, “He of you who is without sin can cast the first stone.” (I’ve heard some scholars suggest that it actually reads ‘he of you who is without this sin’) Regardless of the exact translation, it puts all the bystanders in an embarrassing position…they need to publically declare themselves perfect in order to kill this woman. Declaring themselves perfect would be blasphemy and would put their own lives at risk and at the very least be embarrassingly arrogant…especially to all those who knew each other’s sins, shortcomings, and dirty little secrets (after all, it is a small town!)
And through all this, Jesus just sits doodling in the sand with his finger. What was he writing? I’ve burned with the desire to know the answer to that question for years. I can see the members of the crowd watching Him. Some were craning their necks to read what he was writing. The anticipation must have been enormous. And then they saw what he wrote and it had to be unnerving to them because they all walked away.
I’ve decided that He was writing each one of the crowd members names in the sand…
Now we are left with just Jesus and the woman. “Where are your accusers?”
Jesus could have condemned her. He was the only one there without sin, and yet he said “I don’t accuse you either, go and sin no more.” Now most people would say that Jesus was sinless and had the right to stone her to death and simply chose not to. I have a slightly different take on it. I think Jesus knew sin intimately well from the times we are told he was tempted by Satan. I think he resisted Satan every time, but in his mind he had the same temptations as any man did. That was part of the reason he was sent as our salvation. God said that He would come and experience all of mankind’s trials and temptations and even death itself in order to take on our sins and provide the forgiveness needed for all of us. I sometimes wonder if becoming human was a revelation for God about how difficult the human condition is and how susceptible we are to selfishness and Satan’s temptations. Jesus felt all we can feel, and through that we have his eternal offer of forgiveness.