What Did Jesus Write In the Sand?

Many people have been shown a picture of Jesus writing in the sand, but does this even happen in the Bible? Yes, it does. In fact, from reading from three different Bibles, you can see that Jesus wrote something four times.

Nobody knows what Jesus wrote in the sand. The Bible does not describe it. The authors of the gospels saw Jesus writing from afar, and they did not know what He had written. However, Jesus wrote in the sand immediately before He forbade sinners from stoning a woman, so it pertains to that.

Here is what he wrote each time:

The first time Jesus wrote in the sand is found at Matthew 8:21-22 – And another of His disciples said to Him, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.

The second time was at Mark 8:23-25 – And He said to them all If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

The third time is found at Luke 9:59-60 – And another said, Lord, I will follow You; but let me first go and bid them goodbye who are at my house. But Jesus said to him, No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

These examples in Matthew and Mark are very similar. The first example in Matthew seems to be more specific about the person wanting to go and bury his father, but it is possible that this man could have been buried by his family already. So maybe both accounts are accurate, but Mark’s account is more general, meaning any dead would do (like burying someone who has died of plague).

The last example in Luke seems to be more specific about where the person was going. Jesus even clarifies that it is to bid farewell to family. However, when this man claims he will follow Jesus but needs to go first, Jesus makes a point of saying that no one can follow Him and keep looking back (mentally or physically).

The last time that Jesus wrote in the sand was at John 8:6-8, where you can read about it here. There are some other examples in Scripture of people writing. For example, when Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews, Esther 3 shows that he even wrote them himself. You can also see in Esther 4:8 and Daniel 5:5 that when messages or letters were written, they would often be written on the king’s behalf by someone else.

I think these examples show why Jesus wrote in the sand at least twice – because, with all of these other examples, messages were typically written but not necessarily by the person who was sending them. However, Jesus does not say that He is writing on behalf of someone else. Instead, he writes the message himself.

Jesus even goes so far as to amend what is written in Matthew 15:26-28 – And He said, ‘If you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’ And when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ – that they might accuse Him.

What did Jesus write on the ground?

Matthew’s gospel tells us that while the religious authorities were pressing Jesus to declare whether he was the Messiah, he bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they continued to question him, he stood up again and said: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

This is the only reference in the Bible to anyone writing on the ground. None of the other gospel writers mention it, but the Church tradition says Jesus wrote down all those who had ever sinned – both men and women – starting with Adam and ending with his sins for which he would be crucified.

From this, we can assume that Jesus had some writing implemented on him (most likely a reed or stick) and could write on the ground.

Various scholars give several answers. Among them, the following three are most popular:

1), “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, And what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3).

2), the names of those who will stand trial before the Son of Man (Luke 21:12).

3) The charge against her accusers. He wrote on the ground when they kept persisting in accusing an adulterous woman, so he would not have to look at them. When they continued in their accusations, he stood up and said: “He who is without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). He probably wrote the sins of those who kept accusing her.

Why did Jesus draw a line in the sand?

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus and his disciples moved to a solitary place for prayer. The disciples began asking him questions about many things, including how they should pray. In his response, Jesus instructed them to go into their ‘prayer closet’ and pray privately – not in public (Matthew 6:5-18). Some Christians believe this passage marks the beginning of silent prayer.

When we pray silently, we use words; when we pray aloud, we express ourselves vocally. However, both modes can be effective depending on our circumstances and proximity to God – whether we’re with others or alone (Matthew 26:40-44). At one point in time, all prayers were spoken aloud because being seen praying would be no different than speaking to oneself. As our culture developed, it became more difficult to distinguish between prayer and ravings – this led us to adopt the practice of silent prayer (Matthew 6:5).

Jesus himself used both modes of prayer, depending on his circumstance. When he was alone with God (Luke 5:16), Jesus prayed vocally; when he was surrounded by others (Mark 1:35) or marching toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-55), Jesus prayed silently. It’s likely that Matthew recorded Jesus’ silence so readers would understand that although praying out loud is customary in some cases, anyone who prays before God will find their needs met regardless of how they pray.

It’s important to note that Jesus drew a line in the sand before praying, presumably to ensure no one interrupted him. What are we to make of this? Was it because he didn’t want anyone to disturb his prayer, or was there another reason? We’re not told. Perhaps Jesus did it because he was aware people might misinterpret what he was doing if they saw him praying in public without drawing a line in the sand first. If so, this is something for us all to ponder in our lives today.

This explanation may have originated with 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon who said: “He [Jesus] withdrew himself from the crowd, and found refuge in solitude; but even when there were none else around Him, He knew how to place some barrier between Himself and the multitude. How often do we find it necessary to withdraw even from good people? Thou hast, perhaps, a secret sin that haunts thee; then draw a line round about thee, and pray God that no one may cross over into this holy ground.”

The term ‘line in the sand’ is also used metaphorically to refer to someone’s decision of what not to do – for example: “I drew my line in the sand when I decided not to go out drinking last night.”

Some commentators believe Jesus drew in the sand to show his disciples how he would pray because when praying for others, you should withdraw to a quiet place where only God can hear you so you won’t be distracted by other people.

Others argue that Jesus drew in the sand simply because it’s what anyone might do when they feel closer to God when they are alone – this is why many Christians go on pilgrimages to mountain tops or secluded places.

Whatever your belief may be, drawing the line was an outward manifestation of Jesus’ inward desire for complete solitude with God. It’s interesting that even though there were no distractions during his prayer time, he still decided to draw a line in the sand. Perhaps it was meant not as a barrier but as a reminder of his need for solitude.

The story of Jesus drawing a line in the sand is recorded in all four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), so it’s certainly one not to be overlooked.

What Bible verse refers to footprints in the sand?

Do you know the meaning behind footprints in the sand? In case you do not, footprints in the sand is a poem about having faith. The footprints in the sand represent the times where we have been led by God and then going our own way. The last footprint is where we die and go to heaven or just when we fall away from God.

The Bible verse that is about this poem is found in Matthew 14:22-32. Here a man was walking along a beach during a very strong storm and noticed Jesus getting ready to pass him by. He called out for Jesus’ help, but before he knew it, Jesus had already passed him by without helping him. Afterward, Peter walked on water to meet Christ, but he began to doubt and sink.

Conclusion

In all four examples, Jesus writes in the sand. The first was to rebuke a man who wanted to bury his father but didn’t want to leave Jesus’ side yet. Then, there were two examples of those who claimed they would follow Jesus but needed a little more time before doing so full-time. Finally, the last example is when Jesus is teaching the Jewish leaders all kinds of parables. Still, they were too focused on catching Jesus in something that would incriminate Him to learn anything. Jesus wants them to know what mercy means and shows them by healing a man’s withered hand even though it was the Sabbath.

Jesus is not writing in the sand (or in the dirt) because He has nothing better to do. He is writing down these people’s true intentions. It’s not that he needs to erase what he wrote because it will be true no matter what happens. Instead, Jesus shows us how merciful and understanding He can be by erasing our wrongs against Him when we seek forgiveness from Him.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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