One of the tenderest, if not the most tender, story in the New Testament, is that of Jesus' encounter with the woman taken in the act of adultery.
She was brought to Jesus for stoning, because that was the law of the day. It was clearly a test for Jesus. The accusing men who brought the woman put Jesus in a "no-win" dilemma. If He elected to show mercy on the woman and free her, He would clearly be disobeying the Jewish law. If He condemned her, or did not intervene in preventing condemnation, He would be going against everything He had taught about compassion and forgiveness.
The accusers thought they had Him. They made their charge, but they were not prepared for Jesus' response. I'm sure they were speechless, immobilized by Jesus' offer, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."
Then Jesus did a very strange thing. Without saying another word, He bent over and wrote in the sand. We wonder -- was He allowing the people some relief with their engagement with Him in order that they might deal with their own consciences? Or did He write something that probed even more deeply and burned more searingly upon their calloused hearts? We don't know what He wrote; we can only ponder that and use our imagination.
I remember once when my dad and I were talking about this story, he provided an insight I had never heard before. When my dad and I were talking about this, he suggested Jesus might have written in the sand a question -- a simple one. The question might have been this: "How would you feel if this was your sister?"
Powerful and searching, isn't it? What a difference it would make if the accused was a sister. Jesus saw her as a sister, and you know what He did -- whatever He wrote in the sand, and we can only guess at that -- when He rose and looked around, there was no one present to condemn the woman, and Jesus announced to her His forgiveness and call to new life.
That's who Jesus was -- merciful, tender, seeking the best and calling it forth from a person -- "seeking to save the lost." That's who Jesus was, and it was in keeping with everything God came to earth to be and do.
But I wonder -- I wonder if, when He was confronted with those violent men who wanted to stone this wretch of a woman -- I wonder if He remembered Rahab.
Some of you may have never heard her name. For most of us, her name is not one we readily recall among biblical personalities. But Jesus may have called her to mind that day, because, you see, she was one of his great-grandmothers. How far back, as a great-grandmother, I haven't figured out. She is one of four women mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus' family in the first chapter of his gospel.
Tradition has it that she married Solomon, one of the two spies whose life she saved. Their son -- the son of Rahab and her husband -- was Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, and Ruth and Boaz were the grandparents of David. So the family line came on down to Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus.