This is post 5 of 6 in the series “THE TRANSFORMING TOUCH”
- Taking People Where They Are And Loving Them Into Life
- O.J. Simpson, Jesus Christ, And Us
- Nobody’s Born A Bigot!
- Chained By A String
- What Jesus Wrote In The Sand, He Also Wrote In Blood
- The Heart Inflamed
What Jesus Wrote In Sand, He Also Wrote In Blood
Should you ever have a chance to visit the great Crystal Cathedral out in California, there is one sight, in particular, I want you to see. Out on the Cathedral grounds, there is a beautiful set of statues placed in the midst of a reflecting pool. These great works of art, sculpted from bronze, portray, in an unforgettable manner, the gripping scene we encounter in John’s Gospel chapter 8. As you behold this panoramic sculpture, you see men with angry faces, arms drawn back, ready to hurl stones. You see a frightened woman; vulnerable, defenseless, partially disrobed, fear and shame written all over her face. Then you see Jesus, kneeling down, and with His finger, writing something on the ground. For centuries, scholars have engaged in endless speculation about what Jesus was writing. No one seems to know. However, I think I do know what He was writing because I believe that what Jesus wrote in the sand, Jesus also wrote in blood. Those magnificent statues, set in the midst of the reflecting pool at the Crystal Cathedral, carry an equally magnificent inscription. It reads, “Love without condemnation.” That, I believe, is a splendid summary of what our Lord is trying to teach us in this particular incident. The story reminds us that Jesus loves us without condemnation. That means that the love of Jesus will not let us off, but also the love of Jesus will not let us go. From this great story, I wish today to draw three messages . . .
First, a message to the judgmental: Look in the mirror.
We are told that the Scribes and the Pharisees dragged this woman into the presence of Jesus, and they said, “This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery.” They then demanded to know what kind of punishment Jesus would recommend for her. What did Jesus do? Jesus promptly knelt down and began to write with His finger in the sand. That did not in any way deter the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Bible says they kept peppering Jesus with questions. They kept demanding a response from Him. Finally, the Bible tells us, Jesus stood up, and in a very concise collection of words, He proceeded to articulate the whole problem with being judgmental in life. He said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “Before you condemn someone else, first look deeply into your own heart.” There is the message for the judgmental: Look in the mirror.
Now please don’t think that I am speaking to someone else at this point. I am speaking directly to you and directly to me, because you know and I know that we all do have a tendency to be judgmental in life. You know how it is: When we hear something about someone else, we almost instinctively tend to believe the worst. You know how it is: We usually presume guilt until innocence is proven. Look in the mirror. Check up on yourself. When you hear some really good news about someone else, how often do you pass it on? My guess is not very frequently. But when you hear some juicy piece of gossip, how often do you pass that along, sometimes maybe even enlarging upon it? We do love to judge and prejudge others, don’t we? We do love to throw stones,—if not literally then figuratively—don’t we? Dear friends, let me warn you—it’s a very dangerous thing to judge or prejudge someone else.
Years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, one day a woman in a faded gingham dress and a man in a threadbare homespun suit walked into the outer office of the president of Harvard University. The secretary on duty could tell in a moment that these backwoods, country hicks had no business being at Harvard much less requesting to see the president of the University. So the secretary said, “I’m sorry but the president will be busy most of the day.” The woman said, “Well, that’s all right. We’ll just wait.” So they sat down. For hours the secretary just ignored them, hoping that they would leave. They didn’t. Finally, at the end of the day, the secretary stepped into the president’s office and told him about the couple. She suggested that perhaps the president could go out and just tell them to leave. When the president walked out, the woman quickly got up and said, “We had a son who attended Harvard for one year, and he loved it. However, he was killed in an accident and my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him on campus.” The president looked at the two of them with great disdain and said, “Madam, we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and then died.” The woman responded, “We didn’t want to erect a statue. We were thinking we might like to do something a little more like perhaps a building.” The president rolled his eyes. He said, “Dear lady, we have over 7½ million dollars in our physical plant at Harvard University. I don’t think you realize what you’re dealing with here. I’m sorry, but we just can’t help you.” The woman then 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?” Her husband nodded, and the two of them then turned and walked away. They traveled to Palo Alto, California. There they established a university as a memorial to their son, whom Harvard no longer cared about. They named the 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 indeed, dear friends, to ever judge or prejudge someone else. Here then is the message for the judgmental: Look in the mirror! Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.”
Next, a message to the sinful: Look to the Savior.
As the story continues, we are told that Jesus for a second time bent down and began to write with His finger on the ground. As He did, the Scribes and the Pharisees suddenly began to drop their stones and turned to leave, so that in just a few moments, only Jesus and the woman were left. Jesus then stood up and He said, “Woman, has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, Sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” What an incredible moment this is. Here was this woman standing in shame for her sin, and she looked to the Savior for forgiveness. The Savior then delivered to her a word of amazing, forgiving grace, “Neither do I condemn you.”
C. S. Lewis, back during the 2nd World War, frequently urged his fellow citizens in Great Britain to be forgiving of the German people. He was severely criticized for that. Someone, for example, wrote to him, “I wonder what you would do if you were a Pole or if you were a Jew.” C. S. Lewis replied, “I wonder too, but I am not telling you what I would do. I can do precious little. I am just trying to say what Christianity is. I didn’t invent it, but right in the middle of it I find these words, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’” C. S. Lewis is right, isn’t he? Right at the very center of the Christian faith is this amazing, forgiving grace of Jesus Christ. Clarence Edward Macartney used to say that, “Forgiveness is the most beautiful word in the English language.” I don’t know that I agree with that. I rather think 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.” No, I do not think that forgiveness is the most beautiful word in the English language, but I can tell you this, it is the most expensive word in the English language. Think, just think, what it cost God. It cost God laying aside eternity and taking up the mantle of this life. It cost God laying aside peace and taking up pain. It cost God laying aside all the splendor and glory of Heaven and taking up a cross that was rough wood, blood, sweat, and tears. Forgiveness always carries a terrible, terrible cost.
What I want you to see, hear, and never forget is that all of that cost was, is, and always will be paid by the same Jesus who granted amazing, forgiving grace to this woman caught in adultery. Here then is the message for the sinful: Look to the Savior! Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Then there is a message to the fearful; Look to the future.
Jesus said to this woman, “Neither do I condemn you,” but please notice, He did not leave it there. He added another line, an incredibly important line. Jesus then said to her, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” You see, He did not approve of what she had done, but He would not condemn her because she had come to Him seeking His forgiving grace. He did forgive her. However, He forgave her with the challenge to change the way she was living. Please understand, dear friends, the grace of God is always working to change you and me. Oh, we can reject His love. We can reject His grace. We can go on unchanged, sinning as much as we please, and tragically so many, many people do.
Take the case of Jubal Early. He was a Confederate general in the Civil War. He was from Virginia, and he was opposed to Virginia seceding from the Union—but when Virginia left, he went with it. He went on to become a key leader in the battles of Bull Run and Manassas. However, in the course of the war, he became a bitter, angry, and vindictive man with a burning hatred for the North. There was no room in his heart for forgiveness and reconciliation. A couple of years after the war was over, he had to go to Washington, DC on business. Some of his friends, aware of his deep anger and bitter feelings, decided to accompany him to keep him out of trouble. When they got off the train in Washington, there on the platform was a young Yankee soldier still wearing his uniform. He had no legs; one arm was gone; his face was hideously scarred. With his one hand, he was holding up a cup begging for money. Jubal Early walked over and dropped some coins into the cup. His friends were amazed. They said, “We never thought you would do anything like that.” Jubal Early then laughed a cruel laugh, and with the hard edge of bitterness in his voice, he said, “I gave him the money because that’s the first Yankee I’ve seen who was shot up to my satisfaction.” Dear God, how savage! Heaven help us, there are so many in this world like him. But contrast that, please, with the example of Robert E. Lee, also a Virginian opposed to secession but when Virginia went, he went with it. However, when the war was over, Robert E. Lee gave himself to seeking and securing forgiveness from both sides in order to heal the nation’s wounds and build a better tomorrow. On one occasion, he met Jubal Early, and he said, “General Early, do you still hold fast to your hard and unforgiving spirit?” Early replied, “I most certainly do. I will never forgive.” To which Robert E. Lee responded, “Then I hope you will never need forgiveness yourself, for he, who cannot forgive, destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass.”
Dear friends, you and I are living in a world which is twisted, stained, and perverted by the forces of evil and by the sinfulness of human kind. We are living in a world that desperately needs to be changed. This world doesn’t need just to be repaired, remade, restored, or reformed—no, this world needs to be reborn! Jesus calls us to change—to change the way we live. If we refuse to change, if we refuse to accept the new life that Jesus offers us, then His amazing, forgiving grace is all for naught.
This story makes it absolutely clear that the love of Jesus will not let us off and will not let us go. Here then is the message to the fearful: Look to the future. Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
That’s an amazing story of an amazing grace, and this amazing, gracious love of Jesus Christ demands a response. His love so amazing, so divine, demands our soul, our life, yes, our all. By the way, remember that I told you that I know what Jesus wrote on the ground. John doesn’t tell us. History doesn’t tell us. Scholars don’t tell us, but I know. I know because I believe that what Jesus wrote in the sand with His finger, He later wrote on the cross with His blood—two words: