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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Today’s Reading | John 8:6-8

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. (NRSV)

It’s a funny picture—Jesus stooped over, writing with his finger on the ground. He does it twice in this story.

The scribes and Pharisees had brought a sinner to Jesus. She was a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They brought her to him because they were testing him. They wanted to see if he knew the law and if he would punish the woman according to the law. The religious officials tell him that the punishment for this offense, “Do not commit adultery,” is stoning. “We stone such women, Jesus; that’s what the law says.”

And 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.

People and biblical scholars and preachers love to wonder what Jesus was actually writing. I imagine him playing tic-tac-toe or writing something like “Jesus was here.” I imagine such things because it seems to me that Jesus was buying time. This story reminds me that just because something is usual (stoning) doesn’t mean it is right. The story reminds me that my constant tendency to make things tally up and to even the score and to mete out judgment can be changed if I buy time to think it through according to my expressed commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus. I have a sneaky feeling I’m going to need to wash my dirt-laden finger a lot.

Loving and righteous God, help me to know what is right in your eyes. Help me discern and be strong when pressured to follow what is usual but wrong. And help me find enough time to make the right decisions about my actions. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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