What was it that Jesus wrote on the ground when the gang of scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Him and told Him that because she had been caught in the act of adultery, the law of Moses commanded that she be stoned to death? How long was He writing before the eldest man in the group walked away? Did He intentionally knock out the eldest man first because he was the leader of the group? Did He write new information after each man left? Those are some of the questions that came to mind when I listened to the Gospel reading last Sunday (the fifth Sunday of Lent). The relevant part of the Gospel is as follows:
But Jesus bowing himself down wrote with his finger on the ground. When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted himself up and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her. And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning with the eldest. (John 8:6-9)
Imagine that your name is Ramose and you’re the eldest man in the gang of scribes and Pharisees who want to stone the woman to death. When Jesus begins writing on the ground, He writes down your name and underlines it. Underneath your name, He writes the name of your mistress. He does this immediately after announcing that the first man who is without sin should cast the first stone.
You are horrified that Jesus knows about your mistress. You become fearful that Jesus will disclose information about your mistress to your wife and the community that holds you in high esteem. In order to avoid such a disclosure, you immediately turn around and leave, hoping that Jesus will refrain from revealing the information about you.
After you walk away, Jesus erases what he wrote with His hand and writes the name of Hunefer, the next eldest man among the scribes and Pharisees. Underneath Hunefer’s name, Jesus writes the word “corrupt” and then the name of a man who bribed Hunefer to overlook a violation of a law that the man had committed. Immediately realizing that he will lose his position of respect and authority among his peers if word gets out about the bribery, he scurries away like a cockroach that has a light shined on it.
Jesus then proceeds to pick off each of the scribes and Pharisees in the same manner. When the last of them departs, he releases the woman and tells her to “sin no more.”
Fast-forward 2,000 years. What if you knew that if you were to reveal personal or sensitive facts about someone (gossip), Jesus would post a message on the Internet that disclosed the most shameful sin you ever committed – the one sin you would never want anyone to know about? Would you reveal what you knew about the other person or would you keep your mouth shut, knowing that anyone would be able to Google your name and see the sin that was revealed by our Lord?
Just as the scribes and Pharisees were eager to stand in judgment against the adulterous woman, we often stand in judgment of others when we reveal personal or sensitive facts about them to other people. Keep that in mind the next time you’re anxious to share some “news” about a family member, friend, or neighbor with another person.