A Woman Caught in Sin
53Everyone else went home,
1but Jesus walked out to the Mount of Olives. 2Then early the next morning he went to the temple. The people came to him, and he sat down and started teaching them.
3The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses brought in a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who wasn't her husband. They made her stand in the middle of the crowd. 4Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught sleeping with a man who isn't her husband. 5 The Law of Moses teaches that a woman like this should be stoned to death! What do you say?”
6They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger.
7 They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally, he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” 8Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. 9The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone.
10Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn't there anyone left to accuse you?”
11“No sir,” the woman answered.
Then Jesus told her, “I am not going to accuse you either. You may go now, but don't sin anymore.”
The Pharisees think that they have Jesus in a Catch 22 situation. If Jesus fails to have the woman caught in adultery stoned he will be disobeying the law, but if he does have her stoned his message of love will be compromised in the eyes of the people. They’re sure they have him. But Jesus does something that turns the tables.
We are told that Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. We are not told what he wrote but here is my best guess. I suggest that he simply wrote the command found in Leviticus 20:10, “If any of you men have sex with another man’s wife, both you and the woman will be put to death.” and then underlined the word “both”.
The Pharisees say she was caught in bed with a man. Where was the man? To cast a stone at the woman would only fulfill half the command which would be equivalent to breaking the command. Here Jesus’ challenge now places them in a Catch 22. If they throw the stone at the women thinking, “I have no sin” they will have just sinned and therefore disqualified themselves from being able to throw.
The truth is that we often act like those same Pharisees, judging people of sin, wanting them punished and failing to recognize that our judging is sinful. When we hurl a stone of judgment at another person the one who is revealed as sinful is ourselves. Thankfully such Catch 22’s are easily escaped. Stop judging others!
God of righteousness,
You alone are the judge of humankind. Teach us to live lives of grace, that your tender compassion towards all people is felt and evidenced through us. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.