Writing in the Sand

“Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

Early the next morning he returned to the temple courtyard.

All the people went to him, so he sat down and began to teach them.”

John 8

The Mount of Olives….the place that looked over the City of Jerusalem from across a deep Valley.

The Mount of Olives….the backside of which was the town of His dear friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha.

The Mount of Olives….where olives grew in abundance, were harvested, and pressed three separate times in order to extract the olive oil which was so central in daily life.  Olive oil…for health…for healing.

Jesus was nearing the end of His time as a Man on this earth.  After His rest that night near His friends, He returned to Jerusalem, walking down through the deep Kidron valley that separates the Mount of Olives from the City.  After reaching the bottom of the Valley, it is a steep climb back up to the City of Jerusalem, passing through the ancient City of David and then climbing the slope leading up to the top of the Mountain, and walking up the ancient steps He would reach the top, where the Temple and its surrounding courtyards were alive with the daily activities around the Temple of God.  Money changers were there for all those coming from regions and nations of different currencies.  Selling and buying sacrifice-destined animals took place there, as well as the actual sacrifices of the animals. People passed through the ritual baths so that each could enter the courtyards of worship “clean.”  All of these activities were part of the daily life around the Temple Mount … the highest point in the heart of Jerusalem.

Jesus was there . . .  in the very heart of all the religious activities taking place.

(:2)…”all the people went to Him, so He sat down and began to teach them.”

In the midst of all of the vibrant, daily life of Jerusalem, this story takes place:  John recorded:

(:3-:6)    “The experts in Moses’ Teachings and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery.  They made her stand in front of everyone and asked Jesus,

 ‘Teacher, we caught this woman in the act of adultery.

In his teachings, Moses ordered us to stone women like this to death.

What do you say?”

They asked this to test him. They wanted to find a reason to bring charges against him.”

She had been caught.  Now her darkest secret was fully exposed.  She stood there, all alone, with everyone looking. Utterly humiliated. She knew what was coming.  This would be the place of her death.  The crowd around her, including men who may well have had their own secrets with her, would start looking for which rocks and stones they would throw at her.   She would fall to her knees to try to become her only shelter, until she would slowly become unconscious and die.

Realistically, how had she been “caught?”   The religious “experts” … the “we” in this story had caught her in the act. How did that happen???  The “we” arrive at her home (most likely not in a very good part of town)….at the same time….as well as at the same time that a man who was doing business with her…..the most intimate act occuring at the same time that a group of religious experts come it.  Witnesses.  Was it a mere “happening”?  All those parties “happening” to come together ‘at the moment of the crime.’  Or had it been planned. . . a trap?  It wouldn’t have been a “trap” targeting the woman for its focus….it would have been for the purpose of using her in a new way . . . to “trap” their bigger focus:  Jesus.

Everyone’s eyes were on one Man, awaiting His nod to begin.   But instead, he looked down on the ground, and began making marks in the sand.  No one could see what he was writing.  He spoke not a word.

Desert people often write in the sand.  It is the most easily accessible material to make notes, give an illustration, or play a game.  And it is also the easiest medium to erase.  One swift swipe of a hand, foot or stick, and the writing is gone.

(:7)  “When they persisted in asking Him questions, He straightened up and said,  ‘The person who is sinless should be the first to throw a stone at her.’  (8) Then He bent down again and continued writing on the ground.”

A guilty conscience produces paranoia.  “What is He writing?”   “What if He’s writing names of people who have done business with this woman?”  “ What if He knows about me?”  “What if He’s writing my name?”  “How could He know?”  “Who else knows?”

(:9)  “One by one, beginning with the older men, the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees, left.  Jesus was left alone with the woman.”

Whatever was happening in the minds and hearts of the crowd, each quietly let his rock fall to the ground and slowly walked away.  The Temple area was their world.  It’s where they did most of their religious activities.

Jesus wasn’t staring at her, as everyone else probably was. Jesus continued to make marks in the sand, not looking up.  Finally, only two were in the center of attention:  the Writer in the sand and the woman kneeling there, waiting for the first rock to strike…yet hearing the slow shuffling of sandals moving away. And the silence.  No more shouting.  No more anger.  No more condemnation.  Just silence.

(:10)  Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Where did they go?  Has anyone condemned you?”   

(:11) The woman answered, ‘No one, sir.’ 

        Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either.   Go!   From now on don’t sin.”

Jesus spoke directly to her, asking her where her accusers were.  Gone.  Jesus wasn’t anything like the religious leaders.  He dignified her with his question, and listened to her answer.  Then, He said she could leave, telling her to “sin no more.”  The woman who was guilty had stepped into His Light.   And she walked away free…..free of the shame, the guilt, the shadows, the hiding, the abuse, and the darkness in her life.  She was Known to the One Who held the key to her freedom. . . to a new life.    Living in the Light.

(:12)  (at some point) …”Jesus spoke to the Pharisees again:

He said, ‘I am the Light of the world.

Whoever follows me will have a life filled with light

and will never live in the dark.’”   

They had watched her walk away.  She should have been dead.  That had been the plan.  They wanted to use her to get to Him… They had watched a completely different ending play out.  And she was gone.

Jesus watched her walk away as well.

Then, He turned His attention back to the Pharisees, who had watched it all happening.

“He said, “I am the Light of the World.”  (:12a)

This is the Name He carried.  Nothing . . . no one… is hidden from the Light.  No one in the whole world.  He declared His unique Name and Identity.  He spoke to our own reality, too.

In His declaration, Jesus gives a picture of identification of all those who would carry His Name.

(:12b)  “…Whoever follows Me will have a life filled with light and will never live in the dark.” 

He provided a practical means to know who else is part of Him, “living in light.”  Not in hiding.  Not in darkness. Not under the cover of religion or faith.  The woman who was guilty stepped into His Light.  And she walked away free….free of the shame, the guilt, the shadows, the hiding, the abuse, and the darkness in her life.   She was Known to the One Who held the key to her freedom….to a new life.  She had stepped into His Light.

Jesus watched her walk away as well.

He turned His attention back to the group again, who had watched all of this unfolding.

 “I am the Light of the World.”  This is the Name He carried.  Nothing . . . no one… is hidden from the Light.  No one in the whole world.  He declared His unique Name, Identity . . . the only One in all the world.

And in His declaration, Jesus gives a picture of identification of all those who would carry His Name,  and share His Identity.  He provided a practical means to know who else is part of Him, living in light.  Not in hiding.  Not in darkness.  The woman who was guilty stepped into His Light.  And she walked away free….free of the shame, the guilt, the shadows, the hiding, the abuse, and the darkness in her life.   She was Known to the One Who held the key to her freedom….to a new life.   Living in the Light.

He gave those who were judging the choice.  This group that had brought the woman they had hoped to kill were being given a chance to LIVE.   The ones who had been merciless with a woman they wanted dead, a woman who had had no choice.  Mercy had stepped into the story. . . for both sides of the story.

Jesus didn’t take sides.   He saw everyone’s hearts at the same time.  They all needed work.  Yet, He could expose hearts without condemnation.  He could do it with Hope.

The very ones who were judging had been judged. . . yet without condemnation.

He always did it with Hope.

 

 

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