One of the most confounding and at the same time consoling passages in the New Testament is that of Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:4 to 11). Some scholars assert that this short portion of the gospel of John was not contained in the original text since it is missing from some of the earliest manuscripts. Others demur. Regardless the episode clearly represents and is consistent with everything Jesus did and taught in his earthly ministry.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
The passage describes a confrontation between Jesus and religious leaders about whether a woman who was “caught in an act of adultery” ought to be publicly stoned, according to Jewish law. Jesus comes to the defense of the helpless woman, turning the tables on her accusers, who ultimately walked away without judgment. His words “let him who is without sin, cast the first stone” and “go, and sin no more” have resounded throughout the ages as fundamentally representing Jesus’ understanding of personal sin.
This dramatic encounter reminds me, rather than assume in I know best how to determine a vulnerable person’s situation, to remember the stones. Jesus told the accusers to throw them at their own peril! The stones you and I throw now will come back upon us. Rather than pelt with rocks that wound and destroy, let us pray to throw gracious, truth-honoring gestures of love.
“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly.” ~ Elizabeth Gaskell