By Fr. Chris Lee OFR
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 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. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. 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. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11 NLT)
Could you even imagine being caught red-handed in the midst of mortal sin by your religious leaders, and then dragged into public, and presented to someone like Billy Graham or Pope Francis? Can you even imagine the utter humiliation and public shame? Well that’s exactly what happened to the woman in this passage of scripture. However, it wasn’t Billy Graham, or Pope Francis, is was the Lord Christ Himself! What is worse, is that the religious leaders weren’t interested in repentance and forgiveness, they were intentionally trying to trap Jesus. You see, the Law of Moses required that anyone caught in the act of adultery was to be publicly executed by throwing stones at the guilty party. (Leviticus 20:10) Isn’t it interesting that they only brought the woman, and not the man? Did they forget about him? Or could it be that the religious leaders were practicing a double double standard standard?
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t challenge their hypocrisy? Instead, he sets a new standard for judging people. He says, and I paraphrase, let the perfect people who have no sin and who have never sinned be the judge. WOW!! I don’t know about you, but that excludes all of the people in this story, and every person that has ever lived since! Only Jesus Christ Himself can fit the qualifications. And that is exactly what He did. He chose NOT to condemn the woman (or the man since He obviously being God knew who it was) and chose to admonish (instruct) her, and forgive her.
This passage always challenges me to take a look at my own life and make sure that I don’t have any double double standard standards in my own life, or my own moral judgments. To be honest, I can’t even read this passage without hearing the other words of our Lord when He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?” (Matthew 7:3 NLT) Perhaps it is because of all Christ has forgiven in my own life. Perhaps it is my constant need for His continued forgiveness. Perhaps it is his command to, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NLT) Or just perhaps it is, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15 NLT)
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen. (BCP 1979)