The Woman Taken in Adultery

Something I would very much like to understand
Is what it was that Jesus was inscribing in the sand.

It came about one day when he was in the temple teaching
And crowds had come to see him and to listen to him preaching
He was speaking on the topics of forgiveness and repentance
When there came a loud commotion and it stopped him in mid-sentence.
A gang of Pharisees appeared – my god, you should have seen them
They were dragging in a woman who was struggling between them.

They swiftly and methodically explained the situation
And described to him the the nature of their legal accusation:
“This woman here, this sinful wretch that we have hither carried
Was found cavorting with a man to whom she is not married!
We heard suspicious noises coming from an upstairs chamber
Having earlier received a timely tip-off from a neighbour.
We might have stopped it happening if we had got there faster
But decided we should bring her to the one they call ‘The Master’.
According to the law, which we are pretty sure you’ve read,
Adulterers are sentenced to be stoned until they’re dead.
And seeing as you’re such a wise and holy man of god
Should you deny this scripture, some might think it… rather odd.”

They folded then their arms and they awaited his response;
They waited, and were peeved by his apparent nonchalance,
For Jesus was just squatting there, upon the sandy floor
Drawing things or writing things? They couldn’t say for sure.
They reckoned that the way he had descended to her level
Was final proof that he was really working for the devil.
They were pointing at the woman, and showing him the stones
They had brought there with the sole intent of shattering her bones.
But Jesus went on drawing, or writing in the sand
And each man felt the stone he’d brought grow heavy in his hand.

So what on earth was Jesus inscribing on the ground?
Does anybody have some kind of theory to propound?

Perhaps it was an ancient phrase that challenged their concern
Like, “Dust you are and just like her to dust you shall return”.
Or did he draw a circle round the place in which she lay.
And turning round to face them, did he stand with her and say,
“With what you state about the law I cannot disagree,
But if you want to get to her you’ll have to go through me”?

Or did he write a detailed list of names and dates and places?
Perhaps with the addition familiar female faces?
So when he said, “The sinless should be first to cast a stone”,
The pictures gave more impact than the words could do alone.

Who knows? But something happened to their fervent zeal and anger
They dropped their stones and slunk away, the elder then the younger.

I’d like to think he went to where the weeping woman lay
And having given hints on how to keep out of harm’s way,
He listened while she told him of her suffering and shame,
And how it’s always womenfolk who seem to get the blame.

And still today they barge into the temple with their victims
And quote their scripture verses and their sanctimonious dictums:
“Look here’s a boy who loves another boy! Both shock and horror!
It’s even worse than in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah!
And here’s a man who once was John and now is called Joanna
God made him straight, now look at him – as bent as a banana!
For in his Word God calls this sort of thing abomination;
Their sordid lives are calling down His wrath upon our nation.
There’s lesbians and gays and queers and God knows what perversions,
The bible says they’re wrong in both King James and Good News versions.”

But Jesus is still sketching out his circles in the sand,
He’s writing “But I say” through each unreasonable command.
And as the human race awakes, the circle’s getting wider,
Encompassing the godless and the odd and the outsider.
To those who preach forgiveness with their tracts and megaphones
He writes, “You’ll be forgiven when you’ve put away your stones
And your narrow-minded knowledge of your chapters and your verses
And the way you grab the blessings and disseminate the curses;
You think your pointing finger makes your righteousness increase,
But I will not condemn their love – so let them go in peace.”


John 8:1-11