Do you see?

The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. Placing her in the center of the group, they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” They said this to test him, because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.

They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”

She said, “No one, sir.”

Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.” -John 8:3-11


Picture the scene: a group of respectable community leaders (pastors and lawyers and the like) show up in front of Jesus with one sinner in tow. They know she’s a sinner because, well, they caught her in the act. Never mind that if they caught her in the act, they should have shown up with two sinners in tow. But then, we read right there in the story that they were only doing this to test Jesus. It was never about the woman, only ever about how they could use her to get Jesus into trouble.

Jesus defies their expectations by, well, writing in the dirt with his finger. It kind of makes you wish we knew what he was writing. Was it some kind of message to the legal experts and Pharisees? Was it something for the woman to read? Was it a one-person game of tic-tac-toe? Apparently what Jesus writes in the dirt is not all that important. What he says is important: whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone. Then he bends down again. 

I imagine the religious leaders start to make panicked eye contact at this point, thinking to themselves: is he going to throw a stone? Should I throw a stone so they don’t think I’m a sinner, too? What if no one throws a stone? What if we all throw stones at once? Then, the panicked eye contact turns to embarrassment as, one by one, the leaders begin to disperse. 

This doesn’t happen in a moment. Crowds don’t disappear in the blink of an eye. Awkward, uncomfortable minutes pass as the group of men realize that they are in the wrong. They can’t use this woman to trap Jesus. Eventually, no one is left to condemn the woman, and Jesus won’t do it for them.

Too often, our conversations about sin treat people like objects, instead of like people. For that matter, the way we talk about all kinds of issues in our lives or the lives of people around us often sound like we’ve forgotten that real people are on the line, not just ideas. Jesus sees people. 

Jesus sees the woman who has had fingers pointed at her. Jesus sees the teen who’s starting to believe what the bullies say about them. Jesus sees the addict who’s digging to see just how deep rock bottom is. Jesus sees anybody who’s ever been pushed around or overlooked or objectified for someone else’s convenience or satisfaction. Jesus sees them.

Jesus doesn’t stop there, though. Once Jesus sees them, he gets out of the way until everybody else sees them, too. Picture the scene again: when Jesus bends down, the men who brought the woman have no one else to look at but the woman in the center of the crowd and one another. Once they see her, they realize they cannot go through with stoning her. Once they see her, they cannot condemn her.

May God give us all eyes to see one another; and in seeing one another, may we never again seek to condemn one another. Amen.