1 And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he returned to the temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery. Placing her in the center of the group, 4 they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger.
7 They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote on the ground. 9 Those who heard him went away, one by one, beginning with the elders. Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left in the middle of the crowd.
10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?”
11 She said, “No one, sir.”[a]
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”
It was a trap and Jesus knew it the minute they mockingly called him “Master.” Jesus was teaching in the Temple when legal experts and Pharisees brought a woman “caught in the act of adultery.” The legal experts were setting a trap for Jesus. If he showed mercy and let the woman go, then it would prove he didn’t follow the law and execute justice. If he said they should stone her, then he would appear heartless and unjust. It seemed Jesus was caught in their trap. But Jesus saw through the cruel intent of this drama. This story shows us the consequences of sin and the harm we do when we judge others and it reveals the loving mercy of God through Jesus.
The nameless woman in this story has been completely objectified, it’s as if she’s no longer a person, but has become the personification of her sin. She has already been tried and convicted by her community for her crime. According to the law, both the man and the woman should have been brought to court, not the woman alone. Even the required two witnesses aren.t present to give testimony. It’s a set up by the legal experts who are breaking the law to discredit Jesus.
Jesus’ response to them, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” holds the mirror up to their own faces to show them their guilt. Jesus’ response to the woman, “Go and from now on, don’t sin anymore,” while not minimizing her sin, shows mercy and forgiveness to her. Jesus’ words and actions make us see the contrast between God’s justice and mercy, and human judgement.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Only Jesus, without sin, is entitled to cast the first stone, but instead he paid the price for us. God pours out mercy on all of us who have sinned and ask for forgiveness, We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of judging others. Jesus holds the mirror up to our faces to show us that when we judge others instead of extending them mercy as God has shown us, we are guilty like the Pharisees, Jesus teaches us that as God loves us, and has shown us mercy, so we are called to show love and mercy to others.
What person or groups of people do we judge and not extend the same mercy towards that God has shown us?
Prayer: Merciful God, forgive us for judging others or groups of people, and for not extending them mercy, when you have shown us mercy. Help us to grow in love and follow the example of Jesus. Amen.