Writing in the sand
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. – John 8:6
46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.
47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.
48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.
49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.
Accused is a British legal drama television series that ran for two seasons from 2010 to 2011. Each episode tells the inside story of a different individual who has been accused of a serious crime. It discloses the backstory and events that led up to them being accused. In this anthology, each person claims to be not guilty or that their actions were justifiable.
It documents what happens when someone is formally charged with the crime and sent to trial. It is told from the perspective of the accused, their legal team, and their family members. It provides an extraordinary account of the actual real events that occur when someone is accused, formally charged with a crime, and put on trial. It leaves the viewers questioning whether each defendant is really guilty or not.
John 8 tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. She is thrown down at the feet of Christ sobbing. It takes two for adultery to occur but no man is present. Why? We are not told. We are given some insight as to the motivation of her accusers. Their goal is to entrap the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 8:6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him.
They attempted to create an impossible scenario from which the Lord Jesus Christ could not escape. One way or another, regardless of what decision He made, they would have the leverage they needed to accuse Him and act against Him.
On the one hand, the law of Moses required that adultery be punished by death, death by stoning. If He does not follow the Mosaic law, His credibility would be undermined. He would be in rebellion against the law of Moses. He was not a prophet of God. The Lord Jesus Christ had proclaimed in the sermon on the Mount that He had come to fulfill the law, not destroy it (Matthew 5:17 ).
On the other hand, if He condemns the woman and approves her death by stoning, He will be in conflict with Roman law. Rome alone has the power of life and death.
What a clever trap with no apparent way of escape. Yet in His spirit-led brilliance, one is provided.
At first, He does not speak. Rather, He stoops down and slowly, unhurriedly writes in the dust. This is the only reported time that the Lord Jesus Christ writes anything. But no one knows what He actually wrote. It is futile to speculate or offer personal opinions. Personal opinions not based upon biblical knowledge and exegesis are useless.
2 Peter 1:20 No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.
The Lord Jesus Christ has the perfect solution. In essence, He says, she is guilty of the crime and according to the Law of Moses, she is condemned to death by stoning. Can you see the crowd of accusers beaming with self-satisfaction? Imagine for a moment there smirking smiles, thinking to themselves, “We’ve got them now, go get the Romans.” Not so fast. He makes one little proviso.
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7).
“His keen glance rests upon the woman’s accusers one by one. Then He writes in the sand at their feet – letter after letter. They watch His finger – fascinated, as it travels up and down – up and down. They cannot watch without trembling. The group is thinning now. They think of the recording angel. They think of judgment. They have howled for it. Now it has descended on them. Looking into their faces, Christ sees into the yesterdays that lie deep in the pools of memory and conscience. He sees into their very hearts, and that moving finger writes on . . ..” (Peter Marshall).
The accusers become the accused. The condemners condemn themselves.
REFLECT & PRAY
“The first lesson Jesus taught that day was that only the guiltless have the right to judge” (Peter Marshall).
Father thank You that You do not condemn me or other the children of the King. Help me not to condemn others.
The apostle John did not record what the Lord Jesus Christ actually wrote on the ground. However, we are given a hint by the reaction of the woman’s accusers to the letters in the sand. Whatever He wrote, they realized that they were condemned of sin and therefore were not qualified to cast the first stone.
Can you hear the thud of stone after stone falling to the ground as her accusers slowly slink away? His accusers once again met their match and simply timidly skulk off. But there is more.
John 8:6 Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
The Greek word translated wrote is katagrapho. Katagrapho is used only once in the New Testament. It literally means to write down. It is made up of two Greek words kata = down and grapho = write. Generally means to write or to draw. However, in John 8:6 it has the nuance of writing down accusations.
Katagrapho is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is used 7 times (Exodus 17:14, 32:15, Numbers 11:26, 1 Chronicles 9:1, 2 Chronicles 20:34, Job 13:26, Hosea 8:12). Job 13:26 is by most illuminating.
Job is despondent. He has endured not only emotional and physical torment and great loss but also the “comforting” accusations of his “counselor” friends. He reaches his breaking point. Finally, he begins to question God. Why does the Father seem to be punishing him? Job had conducted a self-assessment. He searched his heart, mind, and actions. He is not aware of what he is done wrong that would merit such “punishment.”
He knows that the Father is in control of all things. Therefore, he believes that the Father is responsible for the punishment.
23 Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin.
24 Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy?
He just does not understand and he is seeking answers. He imagines that the Father is writing down accusations against him.
Job 13:26 For you write bitter things against me
The word that Job uses for write is Katagrapho. Here it connotes writing down accusations.
This informs the interpretation of John 8:6. Without knowing the exact content of His words, He was writing down counter-accusations against the woman’s accusers. His writing revealed that none of them were without sin. Therefore they were not qualified to cast stones.
In the end, only the Lord Jesus Christ is qualified to condemn and stone her. Only He is without sin. Could it be that He picked up a stone and then simply let it drop it to the ground to make His point? He speaks heartwarming, fear-releasing, life-altering words that still echo down through the centuries.
John 8:11 Neither do I. Go and sin no more.
From the dust of Jerusalem’s streets arises a beautiful truth. When we compare ourselves to the righteousness of God, we all fall short. When we search our hearts, we know. We stand accused, judged, found guilty, and condemned. Rather than being pelted with stones, we are covered with undeserved, merciful forgiveness.
John 12:47 I have come to save the world and not to judge it.
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