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Summary: It’s not what He wrote that matters, but the fact that He wrote.

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“And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?’ And they were saying this testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she had been, in the midst.”

Some of the most engaging and often entertaining conversations that people have, or that become topics of articles and books, and sometimes even movies, center around the unanswered questions of history.

There is just something about the mystery of the unanswered question that people can not let go.

On November 24, 1971, Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle, demanded and received a $200,000 ransom, and on the return flight he parachuted into the forest of southwest Washington state, and has never been seen again. At least, not in a way that has come to the public’s attention.

The disappearance of "D.B." Cooper is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, and the fact of his total disappearance so intrigues people, a movie was made about D.B. in 1981.

And there are other questions that will never be answered, but once in a while we hear them anyway. Begin a conversation about the famous painting of the Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, and invariably, the topic will turn to ‘is she smiling, or not?’ Nat King Cole sang about it in a song of the same title; “Mona Lisa”.

What was Napoleon holding inside his vest? Or was he just scratching an itch? Or hiding an ugly wart from the painter’s eye? Probably just thought the stance looked noble and dignified. We’ll never know for certain, why he posed with his hand inside his vest. But it’s fun to joke about and speculate about I suppose, and offers ready material for comedians when their repertoire is running dry.

Well, you get the point, I’m sure, so I won’t belabor it. But here in this account from John’s gospel, a very popular and frequently preached passage illuminating the wonderful grace of God and the divine wisdom of His Son Jesus, we find another of those unanswerable questions.

Indeed, whenever the story is told, someone will ask, whether it be vocalized or just in their own mind as they listen to the account, ‘what was Jesus writing on the ground?’

It is the only mention in the gospels of Jesus writing anything, and it wasn’t on parchment, so we needn’t look for it in archeological digs. It wasn’t carved into stone or wood, so it won’t be found stashed away in catacombs under the Dome of the Rock or the Vatican in Rome.


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William Holt

commented on Nov 2, 2006

This is an excellent sermon, full of fresh insight about what Jesus wrote on the ground. I had never thought of why Jesus wrote in silence. This is powerful.

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