Monday Fifth Week of Lent 2011:: Writing in The Sand

Mass Readings for today are here.

Gospel John 8 : 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.

They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”

They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.

So he was left alone with the woman before him.

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.

Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”


It's interesting that Jesus didn't intervene to prevent the death of Lazarus, but here he does prevent the stoning of the woman.

I like this reflection from Ron Rolheiser : "Following Jesus - According to The 
Letter or the Spirit ?"

This is my 2010 post on this gospel which last year fell on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. 

Grace is revealed to us in surprising ways.
Always when we least expect it.
Always when we need it most.

The advocates of the orthodox law of Moses want a narrow window for us all to look through so that they could trap Jesus  : what they get from Jesus was a wider mirror that reflected their own hypocrisy.

The image of their own guilt defeated them- the elders could see their whole life reflected back to them and it was not a pleasant sight so maybe that is why they went away first !

Of course, we are intrigued to know what Jesus wrote : truth is nobody knows, but there are several speculations;

He was quoting from the Old Testament: something akin to Him fulfilling the Old Law written by Moses on tablets of stone.

My own favourites:-

He was doodling, playing for time and / or studiously ignoring the scribes and Pharisees.

He was writing the names of the scribes and pharisees and their long list of sins; as numerous as grains of sand.

Image by Christine Kerrick - Source

Extract below is from Philip Yancey :-

"The Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney provides a metaphor of art, in a striking observation about John 8, the only scene from the Gospels that shows Jesus in the act of writing. 

Jesus left us relatively few words—a person could memorize them all—and he spoke with such economy and precision that each can be seen as a goad and a nail. 

Only once, though, did Jesus write, as far as we know.  It came at the tense moment when Pharisees brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery, demanding that Jesus pronounce the death penalty.  Jesus stooped and drew figures in the sand.

Here is Heaney’s interpretation of the scene, in which he finds an allegory for poetry:

The drawing of those characters [in the sand] is like poetry, a break with the usual life but not an absconding from it. 

Poetry, like the writing, is arbitrary and marks time in every possible sense of that phrase.  It does not say to the accusing crowd or to the helpless accused, “Now a solution will take place,” it does not propose to be instrumental or effective. 

Instead, in the rift between what is going to happen and whatever we would wish to happen, poetry holds attention for a space, functions not as distraction but as pure concentration, a focus where our power to concentrate is concentrated back on ourselves. 

For both poetry and prose, there is a time to spur to action, and a time to instruct with wisdom, and also a time merely to fill spaces of attention. 

Jesus, who had participated in the design of 20,000 abstract designs on butterflies and half a million species of beetles, left no lasting works of art for us to admire from his sojourn on earth.  

 He chose as his medium not plates of gold or rolls of papyrus, which could be     preserved by the church and revered as icons, but rather a palette of Palestinian sand.  

The next rainstorm that came along obliterated every trace of Jesus’ only written words.

Jesus had come primarily to change lives, to write his words on the hearts of his followers. 

Following in those footsteps, the apostle Paul would later say to the Corinthians, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.” 
Both Jesus and Paul knew that only one thing will survive into eternity from this planet: the souls of individual human beings. "

A little on the lighter side ...............
When Jesus was confronting the men threatening to stone the woman for her sins, he said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Just then as a stone flew past his head, he turned and said, “Damn-it, Mother!”


Andreaw said...

Wonderful, as usual, Phil. This is by far one of my favorite Gospels. The tenderness and mercy that Jesus shows to women is so evident throughout Scripture. It always amazes me that at the end, when everyone left, she didn't run. She stood there, perhaps wanting more, perhaps feeling a new and different kind of love.

Wordinthehand said...

I have always like the 'mother' joke. On the other hand I wonder if Jesus is considering the possibility that it could well have been his mother getting stoned to death for being an unwed mother and therefore 'up to something'.
many thanks for all your resources and links