Writing in Sand

Bob Bedford

John 8:3-11

We are privileged to live near the Gulf of Mexico. On occasion, we go to the water at sunset and watch the sun drop into the water. As we walk along the water’s edge, we often observe where children have been playing in the sand. Sometimes we see some creative work, maybe an elaborate “castle”. But as the tide comes in, every work of art gives way to the power of the water. As the tide recedes, the surface is smooth and awaits the next group of playful artists.

I get fascinated by the reactions of various people to “sinful” behavior. We have many who are self-appointed “sin cops”. They are on the lookout for someone to condemn. Each one has a short list which includes the sins they don’t practice.

The Pharisees were the “sin cops” of Jesus’ day. Their sins were apparent to everyone but themselves. Not the least of their sins was doing things for show, while secretly devouring others. Jesus was pointed when He exposed them: “because you shut off the Kingdom of heaven from men. (Matt. 23:13)

The Pharisees did not like Jesus’ attitude towards sinners. He spent entirely too much time with them. And while He was with them, he did not spend his time condemning them for their sinful behavior. So the Pharisees tried to force Him into a corner by bringing a woman “caught in adultery, in the very act.” (John 8:4) Their pronouncement was intended to shock the spiritual senses of the Teacher of the law.

If there was so much as a shocked expression, the Scripture does not record it. Jesus responded by stooping down so He could write on the ground. We are left to speculate on what He wrote. My guess is He began writing all the sins that the Pharisees were guilty of. And that list was long contrasted to the one sin the woman had committed. As destructive as the sin of adultery is, grace is sufficient to overcome its devastation. I have seen people transformed more quickly from adultery than from gossiping.

I believe Jesus writes our sins in the sand. As wind or water passes in the night, so each sin is erased by the blood of Christ. While we want our wrongs to be written on the sand, we write other people’s sins in stone. Too many do not believe in full redemption – they want others to carry the stigma of sin – they hang the big “A” around that person’s neck. But Jesus had the right answer – “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on, sin no more.” (John 8:11)