The Day Jesus Wrote In The Sand
I shall be reading from the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. This is the Word of God:
“Then each went to his own home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn, He appeared again in the temple court where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground.”
“At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me, please.
Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
Should you chance to visit the Crystal Cathedral out in California, there is one particular site I want you to see. Out on the cathedral grounds, there is a magnificent set of statues. This incredible sequence of statues is set in the midst of a large reflecting pool. This series of statues sculpted from bronze portray in an unforgettable way what actually was happening in this great story that we encounter in John 8. As you behold this panoramic sculpture, you will see a large group of men, angry faces, arms raised high, ready to throw stones. Then you will see a frightened woman, defenseless, vulnerable, with fear and shame etched into her face. And then you see Jesus kneeling down, writing with His finger on the ground. Now interestingly enough, for years and years, people who were scholars or students of the Bible have speculated as to what it was that Jesus was writing. No one seems to know. I am going to be bold enough today however to say to you that I think I know what Jesus was writing. I believe that what Jesus wrote in the sand is what Jesus wrote in blood. Well, here in this story about the day that Jesus wrote in the sand, we are delivered an impressive truth. And it is this. The love of Jesus Christ will not let us off, and the love of Jesus Christ will not let us go. From that great truth, I wish today to draw three messages.
First, there is a message through the judgmental.
Look in the mirror. Here in this story, we are told that Jesus was in the temple court surrounding the temple in Jerusalem. It was dawn. That’s what the Bible says. It was dawn, and yet even at that hour, think about it, an enormous crowd of people gathered to hear it. And so Jesus was engaged in teaching them. Suddenly, however, His teaching was interrupted when the religious leaders in the temple, the scribes and the Pharisees dragged into the presence of Jesus a woman they charged with having committed adultery. They then said to Jesus, “The law of Moses tells us that such women are to be stoned. What do You say?” Understand please, they framed that question in such a way as to try to trap Jesus. Jesus didn’t fall into the trap. Instead, what did Jesus do? Jesus knelt down and began to write with His finger on the ground. Now what was it, I wonder, that He wrote? Well, no one seems to know. But I’m going to tell you today that I believe I know what Jesus wrote in the sand. In any case, while Jesus was writing on the ground, the religious leaders with this woman gathered there, suddenly, Jesus stood up, and He said to the religious leaders, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” In other words, before you condemn someone else, you need to look deeply and closely into your own life. That is a precise collection of words that articulates perfectly the danger of being judgmental. That is the message to the judgmental. Look in the mirror.
Now I want you to understand something. I’m not speaking today to someone else. No. I’m speaking directly to you, and I’m speaking directly to me. Because if we are honest, you and I both know that we do have a tendency to be a bit judgmental in life. If we are honest, we will have to admit that yes, we are frequently quick to judge or prejudge someone else. We actually kind of enjoy throwing stones, don’t we all, not literal stones but figurative stones. We enjoy throwing those figurative stones at other people, don’t we, while Jesus is warning us here of the danger of judging or prejudging someone else.
Now how can I make that point to you in a way that you will remember? Let me try this. Years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, one day, a woman in a faded gingham dress and a man in a threadbare, homespun suit arrived at the outer office of the president of Harvard University, and they asked if they might see the president. The assistant on duty at the time took one look at these backwoods, country hicks and decided that they had no business spending the time of the president of Harvard University. And so the assistant said to them, “I’m sorry. The president is going to be busy most of the day.” The woman said, “That’s all right. We’ll just wait.” And so they sat down. And they waited. And they waited some more. And the hours passed. And finally, as the day began to draw to its close, the assistant stepped into the president’s office, informed him about the couple, and suggested that he go out and simply invite them to leave. And so the president stepped out of his office, took one look at this couple, and opened his mouth to speak. But before he could utter a word, the woman jumped up and said, “Sir, our son attended Harvard University for a year, and he loved it, but he was killed in an accident. And we would like to erect a memorial to him on the campus.” The president said, “Madam, we cannot go around building statues on the campus to everyone who ever attended Harvard University and then died.” And the woman said, “Oh, we weren’t thinking of erecting a statue. We were thinking more of a building.” The president rolled his eyes, and he said, “Dear lady, I don’t know that you realize what you’re dealing with here. We have more than 7 and a half million dollars in our physical plan here. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we can help you.” With that, the woman turned to her husband and said, “Is that all it costs to build a university? Why don’t we just build one of our own?” And the husband said, “Why don’t we? That’s a great idea.” So they turned and left. Ultimately, they traveled out west, and there, they actually built a university in memory of their son. And they named that university after their son. The woman in the faded gingham dress and the man in the threadbare, homespun suit were Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford. It’s a dangerous thing, dear friends, to judge or to prejudge someone else. That’s the message to the judgmental. Look in the mirror. Jesus said, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.
And then there is the message to the sinful. Look to the Savior.
As the story proceeds, we are told that for a second time, Jesus actually knelt down and began to write with His finger on the ground. No one seems to know what He wrote. However, I believe that I do know what He wrote. Well, as the story unfolds, we’re told that Jesus straightened up, and sure enough, the scribes and the Pharisees, one at a time, dropped their stones and headed off. Until finally, there was no one left except Jesus and this woman. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, has no one condemned you?” “No one, Sir,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Oh, what an incredible moment this was. Here is this woman standing in all of the shame of her sin, and Jesus delivers to her a profound word of amazing, forgiving grace. That’s the message to the sinful. Look to the Savior. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Amazing, forgiving grace.
Back during the Second World War, the great C.S. Lewis frequently urged his fellow citizens in Great Britain to be forgiving of the German people in the war. He was criticized for that. In fact, at one point, a person wrote to him and said, “I wonder what you would do if you were a Pole or if you were a Jew.” And C.S. Lewis responded, “I wonder that too. I can do precious little. And so I have no idea what I might do. All I’m trying to do is say what Christianity is. And right at the middle of Christianity, I find these words, ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.'” C.S. Lewis was right, isn’t he? Oh, yes, right at the heart of the Christian faith, we find nothing lasts than the great, amazing, forgiving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Clarence Edward Macartney, the great preacher once said, “Forgiveness is the most beautiful word in the English language.” I disagree with that. I believe that the most beautiful word in the English language is the word Jesus. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear? Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. Jesus, that, yes, that is the most beautiful word in all the English language. However, I do believe that forgiveness is the most expensive word in the English language. Think what it cost God. It cost God laying aside all the splendor and glory of heaven and coming down to this earth in human form and taking up a cross of rough wood and blood and sweat and tears. Forgiveness always exacts a heavy cost. But dear friends, what I want you to see and hear and never forget is that all of that cost, all of it, all of that cost was, is, and always will be paid in full by Jesus Christ. The same Jesus who extended to this woman caught in sin, an amazing, forgiving, saving grace. That’s the message to the sinful. Look to the Savior. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
And then there is the message to the forgiven: Look to the future.
Jesus said to this woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” But notice, He then immediately added another line, an incredibly important line. Jesus went on to say to her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” You see, Jesus did not condone or accept what she had done. No. But He did forgive her for what she had done. But He forgave her with the challenge that from that point on, she was to change the way she was living. That’s what the amazing, forgiving grace of Jesus Christ always does. It always seeks to change us, to change the way we live. Oh, we don’t have to accept it. We can reject His love. We can reject His grace. We can go on living unchanged, sinning as much we please, and sadly, tragically, so many people do just that.
Take the case of Jubal Early. He was a Confederate general in the Civil War. During the course of the war, General Early became an angry, bitter, vindictive man. There was no room in him for forgiveness or reconciliation. A couple of years after the war, General Early and several of his associates were traveling to Washington DC on business. When the train arrived in Washington, they stepped out onto the platform, and there on the platform was a young Yankee soldier, still dressed in his uniform. He had no legs, one arm was gone. His face was hideously scarred. In his one hand remaining, he held a cup, hoping that someone might drop in some money. General Early walked over, took some coins, dropped them into the cup. His friends were startled. They said, “We never thought we would see you do anything like that.” And General Early laughed a cruel laugh, and with a hard edge of bitterness in his voice, he said, “I gave him the money because that’s the first Yankee I’ve seen shut up to my satisfaction.” Dead God, how savage. And yet, we are surrounded in this world by that kind of savagery.
Contrast that with the example of another Civil War General Robert E. Lee. After the war, Robert E. Lee spent his time seeking and securing forgiveness from both sides in order to heal the wounds of the nation and to build a better tomorrow. At one point, Robert E. Lee chanced to encounter Jubal Early, and he said to Early, “General Early, do you still hold fast to your hard, unforgiving spirit?” And General Early replied, “Yes, I most certainly do. I will never ever forgive.” Whereupon Robert E. Lee said, “Then I hope you will never need forgiveness for yourself because the one who cannot forgive destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass if he is going to reach glory.”
Oh, yes, my friends. We are living in a world surrounded by horrors unimaginable and unspeakable. We’re living in a world twisted and stained and perverted by the forces of evil and by the sinfulness of humankind. We’re living in a world that desperately needs to be changed. Oh, hear me. This world doesn’t just need to be repaired or restored or remade. No. This world needs to be reborn. Reborn. And do you understand that that is precisely what Jesus Christ is offering to us and to our world, the opportunity for new birth and a new life, the opportunity to change the way we live and the way we love. Oh, yes. This great story reminds us that the love of Jesus Christ will not let us off, but the love of Jesus Christ will not let us go either. That’s the message to the forgiven. Look to the future. Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin behind.”
Well, this is an amazing story of an amazing grace. And this amazing saving, forgiving grace of Jesus Christ extended to us demands a response from us. His love so amazing, so divine, demands our soul, our life, and yes, our all. Do you remember I told you earlier that no one seems to know what Jesus wrote in the sand? John doesn’t tell us. History doesn’t tell us. Scholars don’t tell us. However, I believe I know. I know because I believe that what Jesus wrote in the sand with His finger later on, He wrote on the cross with His blood. Two words. Two words. Not guilty.
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen. And amen.