Summary: All have sinned and God knows who we are and what we have done. But God forgives us and loves us anyway. And we do have something better to do than to stand around and point fingers. We can do what Jesus did. We can forgive and go out and share God’s
The noted Christian physician A. T. Schofield told a story about sitting with some friends in a hotel lobby that was lined with mirrors. As he glanced around the room he noticed a group of people some distance away seated around another table. Being very nearsighted, he couldn’t tell what they were doing, but he observed one particular man with a very unfriendly expression on his face. It was an expression that Schofield just didn’t like very much. The man was looking in the direction of Schofield and his party and seemed to be listening intently to their discussion. Annoyed by this suspicious character, Schofield suggested to the others in his group, “Let’s not speak so loudly; those folks over there are sure to hear us.” Immediately his friends burst out laughing at Schofield’s expense, for the doctor had really been seeing his own image reflected in one of the large mirrors on the wall.
Isn’t that typical? Most anytime we start pointing fingers at someone else, we find ourselves caught as well.
Imagine the scene at the temple. Jesus is there with the disciples and a crowd gathers and begins to grow restless. Then someone brings in a woman who was caught in adultery. Notice that I didn’t say she was accused of adultery or suspected of adultery. She was caught in adultery. The Pharisees start making their accusations and asking Jesus what should be done.
It is also important that we note that this is not a lesson about an adulterous woman. She was just a tool that the Pharisees were trying to use to get to Jesus. This scene is about one thing and one thing only, discrediting Jesus. They knew what the law said. If someone is caught in adultery they should be stoned to death. They say as much. If Jesus says to stone her, where is all the love and compassion he has been preaching about? On the other hand, if he tries to tell the Pharisees to forgive, he loses credibility because he was allowing the woman to violate the law of Moses, a law that Jesus himself said he didn’t come to replace, but instead to fulfill. It would appear that Jesus is trying to have it both ways. At the very least he is in a trap, a no-win situation.
Then Jesus does something odd. As the scribes and the Pharisees were questioning him, Jesus bent down and began to write in the sand. Then he stood up and said, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then he bent down and again began writing in the sand. As he wrote, the folks one by one began to leave until finally it was just Jesus and the woman. With no one left to accuse her, Jesus sent her on her way with the instruction to go and sin no more.
Jesus must have written something pretty powerful in the sand that morning. What could it have been? What could he have written that would have shamed the Pharisees into leaving Jesus there with the woman when they had so eloquently trapped Jesus? The truth is, no one knows for sure. It isn’t included anywhere in the Bible. But this morning I would like to suggest to you a few possibilities.
First, Jesus could have written, “who is this woman?” Did she have a name? Religion of the day forgot people, it forgot who they were and what their lives were like. Anytime religion sets out after sin, without loving the sinner, it becomes judgmental. The woman had sinned. There is no question about that. But the thing is, her accusers didn’t see her as a person. She was nothing more than bait to set in a Jesus trap.
No name is give to her in Scripture. She has gone down in history as simply the woman caught in adultery. But we all have names, and dreams, and desires. We are all children of God. And, as such, we are more than the sum of our sins. We are more than adulterers, or murderers, or thieves, or gossips, or liars, or any other sin that we might be able to think of. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation. He said to her, “Then neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin.”
A mission worker who longed to manifest Christ’s love to others was finding it extremely difficult to have genuine affection for the worst outcasts of society. One day she had to face the issue in court. A dirty and unkept woman to whom she had previously shared her faith had just been sentenced to jail. As the Christian saw this wretched woman sobbing bitterly, she was filled with compassion and wanted to help her. Quickly, going to her side, she put her arm around her and kissed her. Never having been shown such love, the distressed woman was deeply moved. It wasn’t long before she became a Christian. Later, being released from prison, she was nursed back to health by the mission worker, who took her into her home until she could return to society. Not only was that needy woman rescued from an evil life, but also the Christian who healed her was brought into a deeper relationship with God.