Writing in the Sand or Using Sand to Get Out of the Trap

Let us look at John 8: 1-11 —

John 8 New International Version (NIV)

(1)but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

(2) At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. (3) The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group (4) and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. (5) In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (6) They 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. (7) When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (8) Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

(9) At 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. 10 Jesus 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.”

Note: But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

and: Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

What was he writing? Why was he writing?

One explanation has to do with the fact that under the law both the man and the woman should have been brought for justice; but, here, only the woman was brought out which would be in violation of the law. Jesus may have been writing this out showing that the accusers were actually breaking the law. Another theory is that he wrote the sin warranting death that the men gathered there had committed. Either way, when the men saw what Jesus wrote, they left.

Why did he write instead of speaking? Perhaps it was because in those days most women could not read but most men who were teachers of the law could read. Thus, Jesus could communicate his knowledge of their sins with out the woman knowing what he was doing. He probably listed the men’s sins in rank from those committed by the oldest to this committed by the youngest. That would be expected in this patriarchal society. He would not have needed to have written each man’s name next to his sin as each man would know his rank in the group. That way he did not need to directly reveal who did what. The fact that the woman would not know what was being written might provide some protection to her. If the men knew she knew their sins they might kill her to keep her quite and cover the murder as a righteous execution “under the law”.

So Jesus may have written in the sand partially to protect the woman but perhaps he did it to protect the men too. He loved even his enemies. He may have written the men’s names next to their sin; that would have been just; but, Jesus is Grace, he is Mercy, so maybe he just wrote their sins?


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