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Writing in the Dust

Writing in the Dust

There is a really good story in the gospels that makes me more intrigued with Jesus and who he is every time I read it. It’s out of John 8. It goes like this.

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”John 8:1-11

 My first reaction after reading this is… that’s it? Jesus bends down and writes some stuff in the dirt then sends the women on her way…What’s the deal with that?

In order to know what is going on in this passage we first have to get a better idea of what lead up to this moment.

Before this, there was the Feast of the Tabernacles. It was a feast where people from all over would migrate to Jerusalem to take part.

This feast is important because it is the last feast before winter. The people sang, performed sacrifices, and religious rituals to God. This was purposeful to them because they believed that if they did these things God would hear their cries and he would bless them with rain for their crops.

Without rain you can’t grow food and without food you have problems.

Water was a VERY big deal.

The religious leaders during this time would do all sorts of teaching on water. Water as spiritual thirst, water as blessing, water as rain.

Then, amidst all this teaching and all of these people, this happens…

“On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” - John 7:37-39

Jesus, amidst all of these people crying out to God for their need of water tells them that He IS God and if they drink from him they will never be thirsty again.  


Now, back to John 8. After this, you can imagine that the religious leaders were pretty angry that a Jesus, a person none of them truly knew, just claimed to be God.

So, what do the religious leaders do?  They try to trap him, they don’t believe him, and they don’t think he really is God.

So Jesus bends down and writes on the ground… Why?

Jeremiah 17:13 gives us some insight.

“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; All who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust.

Say whaaaat?                     

Jesus knows these people are trying to trap him. So he takes a passage from the Old Testament they would all be familiar with because they are all good religious leaders and turns it on them… he uses it against them. He knows these leaders, he knows how they think, how they act, and he knows who they are.

So, what was Jesus writing on the ground?

Their names.

How many times have we found ourselves in the position of the religious leaders? We’ve pointed fingers, we’ve said “hey I know that person, they’re not really a Christian.” Jesus response to us would be the same now as it was for the religious leaders of the day. He would bend down and write our names in the dust because, we have turned away from him.

Christ calls us not to point fingers as the “holy ones” rather he calls to realize that we are also in need of saving every day. Just like the women, just like the religious leaders. Today, go and sin no more.

Kyle Harwick:  HSM Staff

Kyle Harwick: HSM Staff