Sunday, March 25, 2007
While this story appears to be an honest attempt by some of the scribes and Pharisees to pursue justice, it is really the story of yet another trap set by Jesus’ enemies to ensnare him. According to Jewish law, adultery was a capital crime punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). But according to Roman law—which governed occupied Palestine—Jews had no authority to put a man to death. So if Jesus had agreed with the Pharisees, he would be violating the Roman law. But if he disagreed, he would be identified as a false teacher. Jesus’ opponents must have felt very secure about their trap. Today they would surely get the man!
Once again, Jesus’ enemies underestimated him. In his response, Jesus writes in the sand and says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). With that, the whole crowd dispersed. Why did this one sentence have such a dramatic impact on the crowd? Because it became clear that whatever judgment they leveled against this woman would be leveled against them for their own sins. If she were condemned, so would they be as well. There were only two responses: to ask Jesus for forgiveness or to walk away and let the woman live. Since the crowd was not willing to repent, they chose to walk away.
They should have stayed. The woman did, and she received mercy. Jesus showered her with a grace that washed away her sins. Even though the woman was guilty as charged, Jesus issued a decree of divine forgiveness and set her on a new path. Jesus knew that he was the only one qualified to cast a stone at this woman. Still, he chose to die for her instead. He chooses the same for us. May we all come to embrace his mercy, and let it change us dramatically!
meditation: The Word Among Us