“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” They said this to test him, because they wanted a reason to bring an accusation against him. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” John 8:4-7
This is a familiar passage, because it illustrates several points so well. One is the mercy of Jesus toward a person caught in the act of breaking Jewish law. Another point is that it captures the brilliant response Jesus employed to cut through the improper motives of the accusers. Finally, it illustrates the pervasive nature of sin- it is the common human problem which none of us escape.
The woman who was brought to Jesus and accused of adultery had no defense. She was guilty. Yet she was also simply being used as a prop for the crowd. Her partner in the crime for which she was being accused is nowhere to be found. Clearly, justice was not being served here.
Jesus saw through the plan, and he did not just say to them, “You all are sinners too, and this is not right what you are doing!” They would have reacted defensively and angrily. Jesus carefully and deliberately used a process so that they could see for themselves their own guilt. This is called conviction of the heart, and it was a brilliant strategy.
What he wrote on the ground in the dirt is open to speculation, but whatever he wrote was powerful and convicting. Maybe he named their sins, maybe he wrote their names, or maybe he wrote out another scripture. Whatever he wrote stopped them in their tracks.
Jesus recognized the guilt of the woman. Yet he pardoned her and said essentially, “go and don’t do this sin again”.
The point here is that “casting stones” at others seems like a bad idea- and yes, we all do it figuratively. If we consider our own actions, and the mercy we have received from others, maybe we aren’t so quick to throw stones.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the example you have given us in your son, Jesus. Help us to remember what he taught, Amen.