There have been speculations about what Jesus wrote in the sand while the crowd awaited his response to the woman accused of adultery. Was it a list of the sins of the elders? Whatever. The time he took also cooled down the charged atmosphere, and created an air of anticipation – making it possible for the response that could be heard and understood by all. Similar pauses are used by orators before making an important point. To the silent and curious gathering Jesus quietly replies, “ Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. The silence must have been palpable. To people expecting a straight forward rebuttal or agreement, this would be perplexing. This oblique parry and thrust were not expected. What could they say? How could they hide their own hypocrisy? In shame they withdraw, led by their elders.
That is the first moral of the story. But, in it there is an allusion to a case in the Old Testament. Remembering how the Old Testament foreshadows things that are more fully revealed in the New Testament, let’s stretch the string to the story in the Book of Daniel, where elders (Judges), accuse and sentence the beautiful Susanna to be stoned. The Judges were the custodians and interpreters of the Lord’s covenant. Yet blinded by lust they seek the death of one of their own daughters. What may have started as a benign diversion, soon took over and clouded rational thinking. From the admiration of a beautiful woman their thoughts drift to covetousness, and deeper to lust and adultery. Then lying and bearing false witness seemed natural. Eventually, they scheme to kill an innocent person. The elders, misused their authority as judges; till they themselves became the judged.
From the nervous isolated woman Jesus adds a further lesson. He places himself, not as a judge but along with those sinners who did not condemn her. Justice had been done. But, Jesus always has more. He goes on to tell her, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again”. Jesus offers unctions not only for the sins committed, but also reassures her that she can be released from from the burden of guilt, if she listens to his word. Holistic curing.