What was Jesus writing on the sand?

The scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman to whose adultery they have been eyewitness. One might wonder with a question – ‘how long must they have been waiting in order to catch this unfortunate woman in the act of sexual misconduct? Their eagerness to find a victim, and their willingness to go to great extremes give testimony to the common and insatiable human need for punishing a wrong doer. The woman’s accusers confidently quote the scriptural demand: “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

Jesus writing on the groundThe novelty of Jesus is – he refused to contribute to the energy of the gathering storm. By declining to cooperate with the process, Jesus effectively breaks its momentum. He responded with a symbolic action: “Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.”  This parabolic act is an allusion to Jeremiah 17:3: “Those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” The Church Fathers emphasized that Jesus was writing in the sand the sins of those who were threatening the woman. So Jesus identified the accusers with the accused.

When they were pressing Jesus to pass the judgement, he revealed himself as a spiritual revolutionary with: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He compelled them to see their own sinful desires. Whether they knew it or not, the scribes and Pharisees were connected to the woman by Jesus’ words. Finally, they went away one by one. Jesus said to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” A new community of compassion and forgiveness was born.

Today, through compassion and forgiveness Jesus wants us to form a new community.

In the Service of the Lord,
   Fr Thainese Alphonse



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St. Bernadette Catholic Church