In the story of The Princess Bride the main character Inigo finally confronts his father’s killer with the words he had waited half his life to say: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Headhunters were pursuing Jesus with increasing intensity as their hatred grew. Even though they had no good reason to hate Him, they were hell-bent to find an excuse to execute Him. According to the Law of Moses, sexual immorality and blasphemy both deserve the death penalty. So the plan was to trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against Him.
When a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, the idea was to kill two birds with one stone: Jesus for saying something that could be (falsely) interpreted as blasphemy, and the woman for the obvious reason of being caught in the act of illegal sex.
Prepared to die?
Here was their loaded question: “This woman committed adultery and deserves to die. What do you think, Jesus?”
And how did He respond? Jesus stooped down to write in the dirt.
Technically, that’s how mankind started out. God stooped down, got His hands dirty and formed the first man out of clay (Genesis 2:7):
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
While it is true that we are made out of clay, dust is not our major component. We come to life through the Spirit of God. That also means that once the Spirit is gone, our life is gone. Only our ashes are left behind when our Spirit returns to God, our Maker (Ecclesiastes 12:7):
“And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
What is true for our physical bodies is also true for the body of law in the Written Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The letter of the law is the mud in God’s hands. Through God’s Spirit the Law of Moses comes alive. However, take the Spirit out of the equation, and the same law kills.
Without God’s Spirit everything is futile, just like dust in the wind. So, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the lifeless dust because no life comes out of accusation and condemnation. The people who brought the adulteress to Jesus were ready to stone her to death. They kept pressuring Him saying: “Now what is the verdict?” The Lord finally got up to face the accusers and stumped them with an unexpected answer (John 8:7):
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
One by one everybody left until Jesus and the adulteress were all alone. After having dispersed the accusers He asked the woman: “Now where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” She shook her head and answered: “No, Lord, nobody accuses me anymore.” And the Lord’s response was: “Neither do I; you are free to go and leave your life of sin.”
All of us are made of dust; we are frail and finite. The letter of the law can kill us because we are prone to make mistakes. The Lord does not condemn us even if people do. He gives us the opportunity to change our ways. We get to start over with a clean slate – and I believe that is priceless.