First of all it should be mentioned that the woman in today’s gospel was caught in the act of committed adultery. We all know it takes two to tango. Where is the man who committed adultery with her? Big question. Maybe he was one of the good old boys, out for a fling. Let him go. We’ll embarrass this woman and her family and demand her as the Law of Moses is observed.
We have no idea what was going on in this woman’s life. Maybe she was burdened by an abusive husband who demanded his meals were on time, the home was tidy and that she was there when he wanted her. Maybe that was the depth of their relationship.
We can imagine that one day a smooth talking sandal salesman came to the door and for the first time in years she treated like a person and she responded in kind and they were caught and she was the one to pay the penalty.
Actually the scribes and Pharisees and the crowd couldn’t stone to death. At that time only the Roman authorities could carry out the death penalty. This whole scene was an attempt, in fact one of many attempts by the authorities to embarrass Jesus. The point of the story is that we should put our brakes on when we are tempted to rush to judgment of another person.
We’ve had so many occasions when politicians, sport and movie stars, religious leaders and just people we’ve looked up to have been found wanting. We feel they disappointed us, let us down, caused us scandal and instinctively we want them to pay. There may be occasions when we take delight in their embarrassment, their being brought down to the level of the rest of us.
There was a song titled ‘No One Knows What Goes On Behind Closed Doors’. None of us know what issues good people are struggling with, trying to cope with. It could be depression, addictions, abusive relationships, financial stress, job security, and resentments over the way their lives have gone, health issues, a conviction that what they say or think or want is really not important to their spouse or family. The list could go on and on.
And we could be so quick to judge their actions and decisions, never seeing, maybe not wanting to see the bigger picture. We take the whole situation as face value.
We don’t know what Jesus knew of this woman the crowd brought to him. What he saw was a shamed, embarrassed and frightened person. He sensed the scribes and Pharisees had their own agenda. He knew they wanted to put him on the spot and they were using this poor woman as bait. He ignored the crowd by doodling in the dirt. And then he made his famous statement, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one they slinked off, hopefully ashamed by what they did to this poor woman.
Jesus turns to the woman and gives her his full attention. There is no one to condemn her and neither will he. They both know she has committed a grave sin. He will not condemn her but encourages her to go on with her life and sin no more. With these words Jesus is not condoning her sin but he is pronouncing the forgiveness of God.
None of us should be stone throwers. We do not what goes on behind the closed doors of other people’s lives. We do not judge, lest we be judged.
Someone wrote, “This scene could refashion the whole earth. If we could each accept our own sinfulness as well as the forgiveness that surrounds it, we would have peace. We would drink in compassion from God, who has been there all along, tracing in the sand.”