John 8: 1-11

While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and, making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

This scripture from John has always pained me. It’s easy to picture one of these men grabbing this woman by an arm and dragging her to Jesus. Her standing there so vulnerable in front of a glaring audience hurts my heart. And what is Jesus writing in the dirt? Is he mindlessly doodling or writing her a secret message? It’s curious. I can also imagine him leaning on one knee and looking up at the men expressionless and saying,

“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Silence. Was that a threat? Would one of these guys pick up a stone and “fake” throw it at her before skulking off? More silence. Jesus knows the answer to his question, but he asks her anyway. He then says the five words that will alter her life, “Neither do I condemn you.” Can you imagine the look he gave her and the tone of his voice? I think it’s a look of divine and merciful love—a true lifeline. Jesus didn’t need to condemn her; in my mind she was probably amending her life in real time as this scene was happening.

“Go your way.” The message is that we can bring the shame and guilt of our lives to Christ Jesus and hear the same words whispered to us, “I do not condemn you.” Like the woman in this passage, Jesus encourages us to move on and forgive ourselves as he has forgiven us so that we are not further diminished by the sin and regret that we allow to eat away at our psyches. As our rite of Reconciliation promises, “The Lord has put away your sins,” (BCP, p. 448).

I want to sign off by asking you to imagine what message Jesus would need to write in the dirt for you to know you are not condemned either. What is it that you’d need to read to be able to let go and let God (as the saying goes). What would set you free to go your way?


Dear God, I surrender to You the week ahead. Fill me with Your Light that my mind might be at one with Yours. Fill me with Your Love that my heart may be Your vessel. And fill me with Your peace that I might give it to those I meet. Amen. (
Marianne Williamson)


The Rev. Canon Dana Colley Corsello

Canon Vicar