Writing in the sand can be relaxing. I’m not the best artist, so it’s a good thing God erases it and gives a blank canvas to try again. As I walked along the beach this morning I thought about the two times Jesus stooped down to write in the sand. John 8:1-11 tells us a woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus for his advice on what to do with her. Most likely, she was brought immediately from the act, naked and ashamed. I’ve seen the church shamefully do that to those caught in adultery, making them stand before the church, and if not, kicking them out. What about lovingly and gently confronting the sin and helping to restore the broken couple? What about all the other sinners and sins needing to come forward?
This was really a trap as they could care less what Jesus had to say. But Jesus trapped them with their own trap. In between writing in the dirt, Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Now, I’ve heard this verse a thousand times from someone justifying their own sin. It is often used as a comeback from a person caught in sin. But notice, the woman caught in adultery isn’t the one who said this. Jesus did! She was silent as Jesus stood beside and spoke up for her in one of the most embarrassing and condemning moments of her life. He confronted sin but loved her through it.
What did Jesus mean by this statement? Was he giving her a pass? I really want to know what he wrote in the sand that made the religious mob drop their rocks and go away one at a time until the only two left were Jesus and the woman. What could Jesus write about us? I’m scared to imagine! It’s probably a lot worse than having your name written on the chalkboard with a few checkmarks! Some think he wrote the names and sins of the Pharisees present that day. Maybe he wrote the Ten Commandments to point out more than the one about adultery? The Bible doesn’t say.
The Pharisees who supposedly caught this woman in the act of adultery didn’t want justice, as they only brought the woman. Why only bring the woman? The man was guilty as well. Better question, why were all these religious perverts witnesses to an adulterous act? Truly, they wanted to discredit Jesus. She did break the Mosaic law (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Leviticus 20:10). She was guilty. So did Jesus defy scripture? Mosaic law also said multiple witnesses were needed to condemn the accused (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15), hence Jesus’ question “Woman where are your accusers?” (v.10). So, when they all left, the charges were dropped. She was still guilty, but Jesus dealt lovingly and justly with that as he told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” He dealt with the sin, telling her to stop it, but he loved the person, something the religious Pharisees had no interest in doing.
I like to think he wrote one simple, yet profound word: “FORGIVEN”. Maybe he had a lot to write the first time he stooped down. Maybe he wiped it all away with his loving and just hand and replaced it the second time with “forgiven”. That’s not what scripture says as it is silent to what was written. But that’s the essence of his forgiveness and grace that day. And it’s just as true and available today for we sinners caught and labeled hopeless, guilty, dirty, and ready to be thrown away by the just-as-guilty world.
Thank you Jesus for cleansing me, washing me, and purifying me. I can see your cleansing wave of forgiveness forever washing away the shame and pain of my sins. Thank you for wiping my slate clean. In the dirty sand you made me from, you write a beautiful message of hope for every sinner caught standing helpless awaiting punishment: “FORGIVEN”.
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.