Dust In The Wind

Death by stoning—the law required it. If Jesus agreed, the woman would die on his word. Then where would be the love Jesus accused them of lacking? If he let her go, they would label Jesus a heretic for disregarding the Law of Moses. Either answer suited the Pharisees just fine. It was the perfect trap.

 “…but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

Victory was near. The Pharisees grew impatient and demanded an answer. So Jesus gave them one–let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.

“Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.”

There are lots of reasons to love this story—the religious way outclassed in a chess match against Jesus; his wisdom in making a way through the middle of a trap; the hypocritical foolishness of the Pharisees exposed; and of course the Grace extended to the woman representing us all.

But another facet of this story teases many Christians—what did Jesus write in the dust? I’ve heard lots of theories. Maybe he was writing one of the commandments. Maybe he was writing the names of the Pharisees guilty of the same sin as the woman they brought before him. Or maybe he was just doodling while giving the Pharisees plenty of time to dig their own hole.

The Bible just doesn’t say, which only adds to the intrigue. And of course I can’t resist the intrigue myself so I’ll offer my own theory.

I’m not sure that what Jesus was writing was as important as what he was doing. We know of another time God touched the dust of the earth with his hands. In Genesis 2, we read where God formed us from dust. Before his breath gave us life, his hands reached into the dust to give us form.

And this frames the entire Pharisee episode against an enormous background. In fact, it’s a background so inconceivably large the Pharisees’ couldn’t wrap their minds around it even though it was staring them right in the face.

They themselves were nothing but containers of dust, living only by the grace of the one they were trying to trap. With them they brought another container of dust, wanting to see her God-given life taken from her. They thought of themselves as so important that they could not only be her judge, but Jesus’ as well.

Then Jesus’ fingers touched the dust—a subtle reminder of who he was and of their relationship to him. His hand had created them from dust similar to the dust he now touched. And soon, the men he created from dust would nail that same hand to a cross so that no one, not even the Pharisees, would need to be condemned.

God was the giver of life. He alone was worthy to judge. And he alone would decide when her breath, or theirs, was required of them.

In these final days leading up to our national election, we’ve seen this same scene played out time and again as Christian values are used to condemn one group while lifting up another. The truth is we are all made from the same dust. We have no right to judge anyone let alone try to use Jesus to do it for us.

Beginning with this election season, instead of using Christ to condemn others let’s allow him to touch the dust of others’ lives through our hands. And instead of trying to be his instrument of judgment, let’s choose to be an instrument of creation—an instrument he can use to re-form dust into his image.

Live The Mission,