Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Playing in the Dirt

"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 fingers." John 8:6 (NIV).

What could be more annoying than having a perfectly good day rudely interrupted by religious busybodies? Never happen to you? Fear not, you'll have your chance.

Jesus' teaching session came to an abrupt halt with the arrival of the Behavior Police complete with a criminal in tow; a woman caught in the very act of adultery. Unless they had mind reading capabilities (which I seriously doubt), how does one single-handedly commit adultery? Where was her partner-in-crime? Inquiring minds want to know.

Who this woman was is a mystery. If her client was a prominent individual this dalliance could bring scandal and disgrace when discovered. Problem solved if the evidence conveniently disappeared. Was she just some poor prostitute whose customers were insignificant? The loss of her life could be a small price to pay for snaring the young, up-start rabbi in a heresy. We'll never know.

Hauling the woman through the streets, in what ever level of undress, the ecclesiastical storm troopers planted her in front of Jesus, readjusted their piety, and posed an innocent question...

"In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such woman. Now what do you say?" John 8:5.

As if they really cared.

Ignoring the accusers, Jesus the Righteous Judge, bent down and began to write on the ground, which in this time and culture wasn't unusual. Surrounded by lots of hot air and toxic fumes, it was a great move. Flummoxed by His response, or lack of one, the Moral Minority pelted Jesus with questions. What did He think? What would He do?

"When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. And he stooped down and wrote on the ground."
John 8: 7-8.

Touche! Put that in your pipe and puff it! Jesus knew, as well as these men, that Roman had removed the right of the Jews to inflict capital punishment for an infraction of their laws. Which was the greater sin, adultery or murder? Only the Roman procurator had the power to impose the death penalty, and then only after a fair hearing. Why not go ask Pilate?

Jesus left the Defenders of the Faith to draw their own conclusions deciding the woman's fate. One by one, starting with the oldest, the men slinked away leaving the woman with a Savior who liked playing in the dirt. The air cleared, Jesus arose.

"Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you.' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave you live of sin.'" John 8:10-11.

Scandalous. Before Him stood a woman whose sins He would one day suffer and die for. Jesus could have let her know just how much her actions were going to personally cost him, yet He let her off the hook. Rather than prescribe an elaborate plan of behavior modification, Jesus gave her simple instructions...stop it. While He could have dished out a hearty dose of come-uppance, Jesus served the woman a fresh taste of genuine love.

How about you? If you were to stumble and fall who do you think would treat you better - Jesus or other believers? As part of His body, what should be our response when another piece of the body fails - amputation or restoration? Does your answer to this last question hinge on which side of the equation you'd find yourself on? Jesus had no hesitation siding with mercy for those who mess up. Can we do any less?


  1. Mary: You give me a lot to think about in this post. I have learned to extend grace to a lot of people. My issue is: what do I do when the other person chooses to continue in their hurtful ways?

  2. We cannot control others actions (as much as we'd like to). Like Christ, we have to love those who don't love us. That said, we don't have to put ourselves at risk for harm and abuse. One avenue that has helped me is to pray blessings on those who treat me wrongly. It isn't easy, but it helps me keep things in the right context.