“This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.” —John 8:6
After an evening spent on the Mount of Olives, Jesus went into the temple early in the morning and taught the people that came to Him (8:1, 2). Suddenly, the scribes and Pharisees interrupt the Bible study by bringing in a woman caught, according to them, “in the very act” of adultery (8:3, 4). They said to the Lord, “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (8:5, ESV).
Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with His finger (8:6).
The scribes and Pharisees kept at Him, demanding an answer to their question, not of justice according to the Law of Moses, but so they could pervert Christ’s answer unto their own self-exalting end (8:7a). Our Lord Christ stood up and answered, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (8:7b, ESV); and having said those words, he stooped down again and wrote upon the ground (8:8).
We all know the rest of the story. Each one convicted of conscience, left one by one from the eldest to the youngest, leaving only Jesus and the woman. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” the Lord asks her. “No one, Lord,” she answers Him. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (8:9-11).
In this episode we see a very stark contrast between Christ’s words and actions and the words and actions of the scribes and Pharisees. The contrasting difference is found in the Redeemer’s deity and the religious leaders’ depravity. We also see the very stark contrast between the judgment of Christ upon the adultery of the religious leaders and the mercy of Christ dispensed upon the woman caught in the act of marital adultery.
Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground. What did He write? That didn’t matter as much as what this action represented. John 8:2 tells us that Jesus was at the temple. He wasn’t on some back road writing upon the dust of a street as a movie or two would attempt to portray. Christ’s finger wrote upon the stone of the temple mount.
Although this finger, this flesh and bone and blood finger of the incarnate Christ, was not the very finger that wrote upon the stone tablets the commandments of God for Moses, it was certainly the finger of the eternal Christ that wrote upon the front and back of the two tablets (Exodus 32:15), as it is written,
“And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” —Exodus 31:18, ESV
It was also the finger of the holy God, Jehovah, that would regenerate His people for His holy name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:21, 22), giving them a new heart and a new spirit so that He could write upon their hearts the purity of His commandment’s truth. It is written,
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” —Ezekiel 36:26, ESV
That Christ’s finger rolled along the stone of the temple mount floor indicates that they were not regenerate, that the heart and spirit of the law was not their dear possession, and that they were stiff-necked, hard-hearted, and uncircumcised of ears.
Finally, it was the finger of the pre-incarnate Christ that wrote upon the wall in Babylon when the grandson of Nebuchadnezzer, Belshazzar, did not humble his heart, but instead, lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven by bringing the vessels of the temple in to his palace to be used during his banquet; that is, in his drunken debauchery in the praise of idols. The fingers of Christ came forth to write upon the plaster of the wall (Daniel 5:5). Daniel interpreted that writing, which was a message of judgment:
“And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” —Daniel 5:25-28, ESV
As Belshazzar was judged, not by the writing upon the wall, but by the word of God spoken through God’s own prophet, also were the scribes and Pharisees judged: not by the Lord’s writing upon the ground, but by the authority of the Christ of God. These scribes and Pharisees committed a far more wicked and despicable sin than the woman (not that the woman’s sin wasn’t wicked at all; it most certainly was). These men, who professed to worship the true and living God, took God’s holy law and defiled it in order to find occasion to condemn a man, Jesus of Nazareth. They perverted justice. They committed adultery. For adultery is, in essence, defiling that which is pure or marring that which is perfect. They knew that what they were doing was wrong and when Jesus stood up and made such a statement, the power of His spoken word cleared them out. They were weighed in the balances of God’s steadfast word and found wanting.
In fact, they were judged by God’s word and cast out of His presence from the eldest to the youngest. Although Chaldean word, PERES, refers to Persia, yet it also means ‘divide.’ The Hebrew word, PERES, means divide or separate. It is the root from which the word, Pharisee, comes. Pharisees (Prushiym) means separated ones, as they thought of themselves as being holy because they were separated from the world.
The Pharisees were judged without mercy as they showed no mercy;— they displayed no mercy for the woman and gave no honor to Christ.
“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” —James 2:13, ESV
And what of the woman? She was commanded to sin no more because her life was a reflection of one redeemed by Christ through saving grace. When Jesus spoke to her, He was not writing upon temple mount stone. He stood up to converse with her. Regeneration took place, as it is written,
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” —Romans 8:1, ESV
And the Lord’s directive to sin no more was not an idle command falling uselessly upon the feeble mind, inept soul, and ill-equipped human condition. The command comes, and although we may fail often, that regenerated soul may trust in God’s faithfulness through the utterance made by the prophet Ezekiel,
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” —Ezekiel 36:27, ESV
O, that we may hide His word in our hearts that we may not sin against God and His Christ; that we may walk after the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh; that we may know without doubt that we are not condemned by God, and therefore, enjoy justification only through Christ and by Christ; and that we may know the joy of God’s mercy in Christ.
“…and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” —James 2:13