by Rachael Stelzer
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But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger (John 8:6b).
I have always been confused by Jesus’ actions in this episode from John’s Gospel. I am not confused by the public spectacle of dragging a woman, perhaps half-covered or completely naked, out into the public area of the temple, in order to get two for the price of one. If Jesus let her off the hook, they could condemn him for his refusal to apply the law. Either way, the religious leaders were ready for a stoning. I love Jesus’ calmness. I love the way he shut down every Pharisee and teacher of the law with a single sentence. Yeah, Jesus! That’ll show ‘em! You can hear the stones thudding on the ground and the footsteps fading in the distance.
But I never understood why Jesus drew on the ground. Twice.
It only hit me about a month ago. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He refused to look at the woman. We are told that even when everyone else left, Jesus straightened up, not that he looked at her.
Jesus would not play the game of adding to the woman’s shame. He deliberately averted his eyes so that all could see him looking away from her. He gave her back the dignity that no-one else felt she deserved. The dignity of being a child of God. The humanity that others had denied her due to her actions, Jesus restored to her with gentle exhortation. He got, as it were, to the ground of the matter.
‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him’ (John 3:17).
How are we going with that? In this world of easy clickbait, where we can find dirt and shame about people effortlessly online, and where rumour mills and chats by the photocopier are too easy to join in, it takes an effort of will for us to bend down and draw on the ground. Can we point to the ground of the matter? Can we restore the dignity of those whom others have condemned? This is where the gospel comes to life in a world full of cancel culture and condemnation.
Lord Jesus, you bent down, restored dignity, and touched the ground of the matter. Grant me the grace and discernment to avert my eyes when someone else’s dignity is on the line. May I straighten up and speak grace and a new start into the lives of those around me. Amen.
Rachael Stelzer is Primary Lay Chaplain at Coomera Anglican College near Brisbane. She is a member of Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Rochedale and teaches primary kids in the Growing Kids group. Rachael loves crafts, reading, and sharing meals, coffee and life with her family and friends.