They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
John 3:6-8 (NRSV)
The brief passage from the Gospel of John is among the more familiar in the New Testament. It is short, for one thing, and easily remembered, and even tough what Jesus wrote in the dirt is unknown, it is the subject of endless fascination and even speculation. Knowing their cynical, skeptical take on Jesus, they no doubt were looking for a mistake. How many 21st century Christian believers have clustered around, waiting to see what kind of sanctions would be imposed. Jesus doesn’t respond but instead bends down to write on the ground with his finger. They keep questioning him, and when he finally stands up, he challenges them to go ahead and stone her, if there is someone in the crowd who has no sin in his own life. And then he bends down a second time and writes on the ground with his finger, and when he finally stands up, they have left and only the woman and Jesus remain, Judith Watt, a Presbyterian minister wrote for her own congregation.
The accusers had left; Jesus and the woman remained.
Those unknown words must have pierced their consciences like a a spear.
How many times have we known or been part of a group ready to enjoy a good, old-fashioned condemnation only to have truth destroy to case made up to gin unjust satisfaction.
Jesus was right, whatever he wrote, which teaches everyone to pay attention when a higher authority speaks or writes, and then leave to find our own shelter and forgiveness with God.