An Etch-A-Sketch serves as a good metaphor for today’s message. Someone can draw on it, and then simply turn it upside down and shake to make everything magically disappear. We often treat God’s laws the same way. We are prone to turn His laws upside down and shake them off in an effort to make them disappear. Knowing this, God does not write on an Etch-A-Sketch. Find out what He writes on.
The Etch-A-Sketch, invented in the 1950s, remains a very popular toy. It uses aluminum powder to coat the glass. When the knobs are moved the powder is “etched” off the glass resulting in visible lines. Once the toy is tuned over and shaken, the aluminum powder recoats the glass and the drawing disappears.
Today’s reflection is on the story of the woman caught in adultery found in John 8:1-11. All people would be mortified if their sins were made public. Sadly, in our modern culture, publicly pointing out someone’s sins on social media in an attempt to embarrass them has become a national pastime. Today, however, I want to reflect on something else. I want to reflect on what isn’t recorded in the story.
Two different times Jesus bent down and wrote in the dirt with His finger. Why did John give us this detail and what did Jesus write? Christian writers have speculated throughout the years as to what Jesus wrote. Speculate is all we can do because we truly don’t know, but we are given some intriguing ideas to ponder.
One possible explanation might be found in Jeremiah 17:13 where we read, “all who forsake you shall be put to shame.” Some have speculated that Jesus wrote down the names of those who were prepared to stone her, and next to their name He wrote out their sins. Certainly, that would have caused them to walk away.
A second possibility is found in Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10. John knew that in both Exodus and Deuteronomy God wrote the commandments on stone tablets with His finger. In fact, God wrote them twice, because Moses smashed the first tablets when he discovered the people breaking God’s law after coming down from the mountain.
Is it possible that John told us Jesus bent down twice to write in the dirt because he was telling his readers that Jesus and the Father are one? In fact, later in His Gospel, in yet another potential stoning incidence, John reveals that Jesus explicitly says, “The Father and I are one.” The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” (John 10:30-33)
As the Father, God wrote the ten commandments on stone with His finger. Jesus knew that the people had routinely disregarded the commandments written by His Father. Perhaps, Jesus, as the Son, wrote them out again, to say to the scribes and the Pharisees who were trying to trap Him, that He and The Father were the ones who originally gave the law to Moses in the first place.
Just like the Father wrote them twice, Jesus also wrote two times on the ground. Maybe He wrote the commandments out, this time in the dirt, to make the point that they would once again be blown away or trampled underfoot. If in fact, Jesus wrote out the commandments in the dirt, He demonstrated that whether on stone or dirt, the commandments were being turned upside down and shaken just like a modern day Etch-A-Sketch.
So, God implemented another plan. In Hebrews 10:16-17 we read, “This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord: “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds,” he also says: “Their sins and their evildoing I will remember no more.” Unlike an Etch-A-Sketch, Jesus inscribes His laws on our hearts where they cannot be erased.
It seems to be an innate human tendency to keep our own sins a well-guarded secret and yet be quick to condemn someone else when their sins are made public. This is not what Christians are called to do. Love of God and love of neighbor are two of the laws God has etched on our hearts. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor even when they have sinned and broken His laws. He wants us to be forgiving, like He is forgiving. He wants us to be merciful as He is merciful. This is precisely why Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for writing your laws on my heart. Please grant me the strength and courage to honor your laws and to always treat others with compassion and empathy. Lord have mercy on me a sinner. Amen!
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