1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them.
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group
4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?”
11 “No-one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
A woman is caught in adultery. The religious leaders made her stand in shame before the crowd. In the narrative, it is clear that nobody cares or has any sympathy for the woman. They obviously thought that she was deserving of any humiliation she was facing and in fact they thought that she should be stoned to death. But before they condemn her, they figure that they could have some sport with her and even use her to lay a trap for Jesus. They were fed up with this upstart that was making the general people question their authority and position as interpreters of the scripture. If Jesus had always talked about love and compassion, this was an opportunity to expose his empty rhetoric.
As they paraded the woman before Jesus, if Jesus spoke out to release the woman that would clearly show everyone that he had no regard for their religious laws. If instead, he agreed to stone the woman to death, then he was no different than the religious leaders that he was decrying as lacking love and compassion. What would Jesus do? How would he get out of this situation?
I like the way that Jesus made them wait for his answer and when it did come, what a wise answer it was. In one sentence, he protected the woman and convicted the religious leaders of their own guilt. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In this, Jesus recognises the law but reminds us that all mankind are sinful and guilty and therefore have no right to judge others lest we also are judged. At the same time, his words must have been both comforting and liberating for the woman. Even more so when he says”Neither I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus is holy; that is he is sinless – the only man to ever achieve this. Therefore, if anyone there could have righteously condemned the woman, it was Jesus. Yet, this is the comforting message that Jesus has for all of us. Though we are sinful and are enemies in the sight of God, God sent Jesus to earth, not to condemn us but to provide a way for reconciliation. We are not condemned but if we turn from our sinful (Godless) way, then we will be reconciled with Him.
This is also an example for all of us to be more generous and less judgmental to those around us. On a personal note, I am so grateful that Jesus came not to condemn but to save. His message to me and to all of us is the same; “Neither I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This is one of my favorite passages as it reminds me of God’s love, compassion, fairness and wisdom in dealing with us.