John 8: 3 – 6 (MSG) The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
John opens the 8th chapter of his gospel with a very personal encounter Jesus had with a woman caught in the act of adultery. This woman had been taken to Jesus by the Pharisees who were trying to trick Jesus.
“This woman was caught in bed with a man that is not her husband. The Law of Moses says that we should stone her. What do you say?” (v 4 – 5) Instead of responding, Jesus knelt down beside the woman and began to write in the sand.
Try and just put yourself at the scene? There the woman stood, ripped out of the bed of a man that wasn’t her husband. She had broken the law. She was a sinner and on display for her community to see. Her very private mistake had suddenly became a public spectacle.
Have you ever wondered what was going through her mind in this moment? Can you hear her gut wrenching sobs? We really don’t know much about this woman at all, only that she was caught in the act of sin.
I have often wondered if she had heard all the buzz about Jesus and the miracles he was performing all over town? Had she listened to any of the stories the other ladies were telling at the well as they gathered water? If she had, I wonder if the question “What if everything I’ve heard about Jesus is true?” ran through her mind during this time she stood in “bare” humiliation.
You have to imagine that she was beating herself up for the mistake she made. She was probably afraid of this angry mob and trying to find the strength to face whatever was going to happen next. There she stood next to Jesus, totally exposed, wondering “could this be the Teacher that has performed miracles??? There is something different about him. I know he can help me.”
The second part of this story that fascinates me is the way that Jesus is just calmly writing in the sand awhile the Pharisees throw out their questions. After they finish, Jesus stands and addresses the crowd “Anyone here who has never sinned can cast the first stone at her.” He calmly returns to his sand writing.
Have you every wondered what he was writing? Perhaps it was something like “Judge not lest ye be judged” or “Fear not for I am with you.” Perhaps it was a list of every sin committed by every Pharisee pointing an accusing finger. The Bible doesn’t tell us. I just can’t help but wonder.
But do you see what’s going on? The words Jesus spoke were powerful. Not a word was spoken after Jesus knelt back down to write. But can you just imagine what was going through the minds of the men who stood there. “How can I throw this stone knowing what I’ve done?”
The quietness now broken by the sound of a single stone hitting the ground. In the midst of the stillness the woman hears motion – but it wasn’t what she originally anticipated. The tension dissolves by the dropping of stones and the shuffling of feet.
When the last accuser exited, Jesus stood up and spoke to the woman. “What? No one found you guilty?”
“No one, Lord.” (some translations say Master) She addressed Jesus as Lord. She realized who He was. In that moment perhaps she made Jesus the Lord of her life.
With love in his eyes and kindness in his voice “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, leave your life of sin.” Can you imagine what was going through the woman’s mind? In that moment, what would you have thought? I can only imagine the freedom and love she felt. It had to have been one of those goose bump moments.
Praise God we are all forgiven. Just as this woman left her life of sin, we must also leave ours and relentlessly follow the One who paid the price. Whatever sin you have in your life, surrender it to Jesus – leave it at the foot of the cross and walk away.
Perhaps the words in the sand that day were “Not guilty.” or “You are forgiven?” or “I know what you’ve done and it doesn’t matter. I forgive you and I love you?”