What did Jesus write? Was His message for the woman who had been caught in adultery, or was it for the angry mob of Scribes and Pharisees who were prepared to execute her?
It’s early morning. Dawn. The Temple is beginning to bustle with activity. It’s the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), so thousands upon thousands of Jews have made their way to Jerusalem for the Feast. It was their religious obligation.
The Scribes and Pharisees have learned of this woman’s sin, a crime whose punishment is death. They’ve dragged her to the Temple court for her to be stoned publicly. It’s probably not just a handful of Scribes and Pharisees. There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, gathered around to witness the execution.
“At dawn, He came again to the Temple, and all the people came to Him, and He sat and taught them.” John 8:2
The Scribes and Pharisees bring the woman right to where Jesus is teaching, with a crowd looking on. They want Jesus to condemn the woman.
“And stooping down, He wrote with His finger on the ground.”
So what did He write?
I’ve heard some speculate that He began to write the 10 commandments. I’ve heard others say He began to write down specific sins that the Scribes and Pharisees had committed. If so, this would be a message for them.
And it would make sense then that they would drop their stones and walk away when Jesus said, “Let the sinless one among you cast the first stone at her.”
Years ago, I heard Max Lucado say he believed he knew what Jesus wrote. My curiosity was piqued. One word. Just one.
If this word or something like it was what Jesus wrote, what a powerful message for the woman.
But the character in the story I’ve overlooked until now is the crowd, the people who came to hear Jesus teach.
I’ve thought about the Scribes and the Pharisees, with their pride, judgement and blindness to their own guilt.
I’ve thought about the woman, with her humiliation, condemnation and fear.
I’ve thought about Jesus, with His incredible wisdom in handling the situation and His compassion and grace for the sinner.
But I’ve never thought about the crowd. What were they thinking? What impact did this event have on them?
Most of them probably felt like they didn’t measure up to the expectations of the Scribes and Pharisees either. They were probably weary from striving, performing, trying to earn God’s favor. But if a woman guilty of THIS sin, condemned to death, could be forgiven and accepted by Jesus, then there was certainly hope for them!
There HAD to be a buzz in Jerusalem that day. Yes, the Scribes and Pharisees had been put in their place by the peasant rabbi, but more than that, there was the palpable feeling of HOPE.
We too can be…
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