THAT NIGHT Jesus spent on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem. At dawn the next day He returned to the city and went into the temple, where He sat down and began to teach.
As He was speaking, a group of Scribes and Pharisees came up, bringing with them a woman who had been caught in adultery. They knew His sympathy for sinners, and with the hope of trapping or embarrassing Him, they brought the woman before Him and said, “Master, this woman has just now been caught in adultery. And in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such persons. What, therefore, dost Thou say?”
Affecting an expression of earnest concern, they stood and waited for His response. But Jesus appeared disinterested in their question. He bent down and began tracing with His finger on the ground. They were perhaps nonplussed by this tactic, but repeated their question, and Jesus sat up and said:
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”
Then He resumed His idle tracing on the ground. And as He wrote, the Scribes and Pharisees began slipping away, the eldest withdrawing first. They were no longer a sober official body but a group of nervous individuals, each terrified lest Jesus expose his sins, each reluctant to assume the responsibility which Jesus referred to, which was imposed by the Mosaic Law: that the principal accuser of a culprit guilty of death should cast the first stone.
When the last of the conscience-stricken hypocrites had gone, Jesus sat back and said to the trembling woman:
“Woman. where are they? Has no one condemned thee?”
Glancing tearfully at this quiet-voiced stranger who had freed her from the hypocritical moralists, she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus concluded:
“Neither will I condemn thee. Go thy way, and from now on sin no more.”
Meditation: The Scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress before Christ while He was teaching the multitudes and accused her in front of the crowd. Their action was despicable on many scores. Certainly, it was cruel to accuse her in public. Even if her sins were known to them, they had no right to reveal them. When we know the sins or faults of another, do we delight in gossiping about them? Or do we guard such information, to protect the reputation of others?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 133-134. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.