Jesus writes on the ground

Last Sunday (13 March) our Gospel reading (John 7:53- 8:11) took us out of Luke’s Gospel for a moment into John, and the account of a tense moment in the life of Jesus and an unknown woman The passage itself has a somewhat checkered history – sometimes appearing in the flow of John’s gospel, sometimes at the end. Most scholars believe the story is from a different hand, and some place it in Luke’s Gospel after chapter 21.

A particular mystery in the story is why Jesus writes on the ground, on two occasions. The scholars are somewhat at a loss to explain what is going on. Some think it is a veiled symbolic reference by Jesus to a passage in Jeremiah – “… those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, …”.(Jeremiah 17:13) What is clear is that Jesus does not want to be drawn into this “kangaroo court”, convened by a group of powerful men using a vulnerable woman as a pawn in their political/religious game.

Jesus response, when he finally gives it, has entered our religious language. “Let him without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

In so doing, Jesus forever highlights that the process of justice is always personal, whether for the recipient or the proponent!